In Finland most private schools are government-dependent, that is, they have a licence to provide education, they are publicly funded and under public supervision. Therefore, they follow the national core curricula and the qualification requirements confirmed by the Finnish National Agency for Education. The private education provider must fulfil requirements set out in legislation in order to be licensed. Generally, the requirements for the licences are similar despite of the level of education.
The primary requirements are the following:
• There must be an educational or cultural need for the provision.
• The applicant is required to have the professional and financial prerequisites for arranging the education appropriately.
• Education may not be provided in pursuit of financial gain.
• In basic education an agreement between the education provider and the local authority in whose area the education is provided is needed.
If a private provider is not licensed, the private school can be established but it will remain outside public supervision and thus is not entitled to public funding. Moreover, certificates awarded by such schools are not considered sufficient proof of completion of the stage of education in question. Consequently, there are very few such schools.
Publicly supervised private schools generally receive government subsidy according to the same principles as other schools. The form of ownership has no bearing on the funding, because funding is granted on the basis of the field of education.
Early childhood education and care
Early childhood education and care differs from other school forms in several ways. In this case, private providers are allowed to gain profit and they are only required to make a notification prior starting to operate. Provided education and care, however, has to meet the criteria set out for early childhood education and care providers. The Early Childhood Education Act (540/2018) and the national core curriculum bind also private service providers.
Municipalities have a statutory duty to offer ECEC according to the local demand. Municipalities can supplement their own supply by offering service vouchers or purchasing ECEC services from a private provider. In addition, families can opt for private ECEC and get support from state for covering part of the costs.
Even if most children participate in municipal ECEC, an increasing share of children attend private ECEC settings. In 2019, 1 % of children aged 1-6 attended private ECEC settings. The overall enrolment rate was 77%.
The Finnish Government may license a registered association or a foundation to provide basic education. The requirements are defined in the Basic Education Act.
In basic education some 3% of the schools were government-funded private schools in 2018. In comparison, a little over 95% of the schools were provided by a municipality. The rest are provided by the central government or a joint municipal authority.
Upper secondary education
The Ministry of Education and Culture may grant licences for private educational institutions to provide upper secondary education. The requirements are set out in the Act on General Upper Secondary Education and the Act on Vocational Education and Training.
The percentage of private general upper secondary schools was 9% in 2018. There are more private institutions in vocational education and training. In 2018 some 54% of vocational institutions, special needs institutions and vocational adult education centres were private.
Universities of applied sciences
Universities of applied sciences are run by a private or municipality-driven company or foundation receive public funding based on the same criteria as public institutions. The universities of applied sciences always require the operating licence granted by the Government. The requirements for the licence are set out in the Act on the Universities of Applied Sciences.
There are 23 universities of applied sciences in the Ministry of Education and Culture sector. The State is the primary financier of the universities of applied sciences. In addition, there is Åland University of Applied Sciences in the self-governing Province of Åland and a Police College subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior.
The Universities Act that came into force in 2010 provides the universities with greater financial autonomy than earlier. The Universities Act reformed the legal status of all the Finnish universities and under the new legislation universities were separated from the State. Due to their unique legal status, the universities differ from other education providers and previously presented primary requirements for operating licences do not concern them.
There are 14 universities in the Ministry of Education and Culture sector. Two of them are foundation universities and the rest are public corporations. The universities in the Ministry of Education and Culture sector are named in the Universities Act. Higher education in the military field is provided by the National Defence College operating within the Ministry of Defence.