International comparisons of learning outcome are not without problems. Every education system reflects the culture and history of the country concerned, and good practices cannot be transferred as such from one country to another.
Finland's success is largely explained by
- the education system (uniform basic education for the whole age group)
- highly competent teachers
- and the autonomy given to schools.
Other notable features that go towards explaining the success are:
Finnish society is positivistic with regard to education. Nearly three in four Finns aged 25–64 have at least an upper secondary school certificate (matriculation examination or vocational qualification) and one in three has a higher education degree. The completion of basic (compulsory) education is a requirement for further studies. Only approximately one per cent of each age group leave basic education without a certificate, and over half of those complete their education in one way or another at a later stage.
Only the core curricula are designed for nationwide application. They leave freedom for local education authorities to arrange teaching in the best way suited to local circumstances. This decentralisation is based on the locally designed and implemented curricula, in which it is possible to cater for pupils' individual needs. The local curriculum design commits the local teaching staff to the development of education and also gives them wide pedagogic responsibility in teaching.
In Finnish schools, a great deal of attention is accorded to individual support for learning and well-being. The relevant guidelines are recorded in the core curriculum. School work and teaching arrangements are guided by a conception of learning that stresses the importance of the pupils' own activity and their interaction with their teacher and other pupils and with the learning environment. The principle of high-quality special education and early diagnosing guarantees that no one is left behind.
Schools are developed in multi-professional cooperation involving different levels of administration, among schools, and between schools and society at large. In Finland school authorities cooperate actively with teacher, subject and school principal organisations. This enlists strong support for development action.
Finland has a high-quality and efficient library system of a very high quality. For the most part, libraries provide their services free of charge. Finns are avid library users who figure at the top of international library use statistics. Solid, virtually 100 per cent literacy underpins success in school curricula and in the various stages of education.