Finland’s culture of trust enables the schools to have almost complete autonomy, and the system relies on the proficiency of teachers in their efforts to meet educational objectives. While the Finnish National Board of Education determines the national core curriculum, specific school guidelines are established by the local educational agency and are largely school-centered.
Everything from annual plans, budget, and the recruitment of teachers to decisions on group forming, daily work, and other practices are all made at the local school to be sensitive to local jurisdictions. In fact, central approval for textbook and other materials was abolished in 1993. The system is characterized by pedagogical autonomy of teachers, even to the point of voluntary participation in national development programs.
The Finnish system does not even regulate class size. Groups may consist of pupils of the same age; however, where appropriate, pupils of different ages may be taught together—particularly in small schools.
To quickly review, Finland’s autonomy of its schools is based on the country’s characteristics:
- Young people are taught responsibility—in contrast to being taught obedience—at very young ages
- Trust is pervasive
- Teachers are hired from the top of their universities’ graduating classes
- Social skills—rather than academics—are emphasized in pre-school and kindergarten as school entry begins at seven (7) years of age
- Leadership is localized