OECD PISA survey
PISA (The Programme for International Student Assessment) is a joint survey of the OECD member
countries and a number of other countries.
The tests are administered in schools every three years to 15-year-olds in the domains of mathematics, science, reading literacy and problem-solving skills.
The survey will assess how 15-year-olds master the essential knowledge and skills necessary for work and the quality of life in future society. The survey will not directly assess how well students master the actual contents of the curricula.
Finland’s success in the PISA survey
The skills of Finnish students were among the best in all domains assessed in PISA surveys. The uniformity of students’ performance is a special forte in Finland. The differences between the strongest and weakest results in Finland are among the smallest in the survey. Differences between schools and regions are also remarkably small in Finland. Differences in performance were very slight between various language groups in Finland, and the socio-economic back-ground has a lower impact on students' performance here than in the other PISA countries. A significant implication is that high performance can be achieved with relatively low differences in performance between students.
Finnish students spend less time per week studying than their counterparts in the OECD coun-tries on average and the annual expenditure on education is the OECD average . The reason for Finland’s success is therefore not due to these factors.
Background to Finland’s success
The Finnish education system offers everybody equal opportunities for education, irrespective of domicile, sex, economic situation or linguistic and cultural background. The school network is regionally extensive, and there are no sex-specific school services. Basic education is completely free of charge (including instruction, school materials, school meals, health care, dental care, commuting, special needs education and remedial teaching).
Comprehensiveness of education
Basic education encompasses nine years and caters for all those between 7 and 16 years. Schools do not select their students but every student can go to the school of his or her own school district. Students are neither channelled to different schools nor streamed.
On all school levels, teachers are highly qualified and committed. They require Master’s
degrees, and teacher education includes teaching practice. As the teaching profession is very
popular in Finland, universities can select the most motivated and talented applicants. Teachers
work independently and have strong autonomy towards their work.
Student counselling and special needs education
Individual support for the learning and welfare of pupils is well accommodated, and the national
core curriculum contains guidelines for the purpose. Special needs education is integrated into
regular education as far as possible. Guidance counsellors help upper grade students in their
choice of further education and studying methods.
The evaluation of the learning outcomes of schools and students is encouraging and supportive by
nature. The aim is to produce information that helps both schools and students develop. There are
no national testing of learning outcomes, school ranking lists or inspection systems.
Significance of education in society
Finnish society strongly favours education and the population is highly educated by
international standards. Education is appreciated and there is a broad political consensus on
A flexible system based on empowerment
The education system is flexible and the admini-stration is strongly based on delegation and
support. Centralised steering is conducted through the aims set by laws and decrees as well as by
the national core curriculum. Municipalities are responsible for the organisation of education and
the implementation of the aims. Schools and teachers have a lot of independent autonomy in the
provision and contents of education.
Interaction and building of partnerships is sought at all levels of activity. There is
co-operation for the development of schools between various levels of administration, between
schools and between other social actors and schools. Education authorities work in co-operation
with teachers’ organisations, subject associations and school leadership organisations. This has
provided strong support for development activities.
A student-oriented, active conception of learning
The organisation of schoolwork and education is based on a conception of learning that focuses
on students' activity and interaction with the teacher, other students and the learning