Finland leads the way in vocational education

Vocational schools are not always the first choice for young people as they are usually seen as inferior to academic-focussed institutions. In the 1990s Finland decided to improve the reputation of vocational education. They first looked at the curriculum in vocational schools. It was adjusted to closer meet the standards used by academic high schools and students attending vocational school are now able to access general subjects.

Vocational courses were also embedded into workplaces. This enabled students to learn the knowledge and skills they would need in their future jobs in the field. Both vocational and academic high schools were required to design and provide instruction that allowed students more flexibility and choice.

These initiatives have led to an increasing number of double diplomas when vocational school students also matriculate from academic high school and thereby earn a license to apply to academic universities. Finally, newly established non-university higher education systems opened doors to vocational school graduates.

Career guidance also plays an important role in Finnish basic school (grades 1 to 9). In the upper grades all students have weekly lesson time with qualified career counsellors. Students spend two weeks in the workplace learning about the world of work and testing their own perceptions of different occupations.

Vocational programs are now highly sought out in Finland. Nearly 45 percent of Finnish 16-year-olds choose to study in vocational upper secondary schools and 50 percent in academic high schools. Much of the negative stigma that vocational schools had in Finland 20 years ago is gone.  
For more information, contact:

Gen-Ling Chang
Director, Research & Equity
647 252 3581