No exams until 18 in Finland! That caught my attention!

One of the things people unfamiliar with unschooling are most shocked about is the fact that kids don’t have to do exams unless and until they want to gain acceptance into a University/College (and not all Universities, I think, demand exam results). I in turn was shocked to read that the famously successful Finnish education system also doesn’t require kids to take ANY exams until 18 – also to gain entry into higher education. Wow! If the Finns believe exams are unnecessary until then, surely you unbelievers, you scoffers, can now believe that unschoolers don’t need them either!

This is a really interesting article because it also shows some fears around the Finnish system – that as good as it is, perhaps it’s not future-proof. The interviewee, Pasi Sahlberg, Finland’s ‘Education Ambassador’ says, “We don’t have many ideas about how to renew our system. We need less formal, class-based teaching, more personalised learning, more focus on developing social and team skills. We are not talking about these things at all.” Mmmmm, that’s something that unschooling DOES do well – “less formal”, “personalised learning” – well many kinds of homeschooling does this well actually. Something like the Khan Academy or Coursera free online lessons/courses would be something the Finnish would do well to look at including in their system. These kinds of courses are the future for sure. It would be great to offer all these kinds of online offering in many, many different languages and in due course I’m sure this will happen. But for now, at the higher age levels, many people could at least have a crack at them in English. I’ve done Coursera courses with people from all around the world who certainly don’t have English as a first or even second language but they seem to get a lot from these courses anyway.

I’ve always been really interested in the Finnish system and I like the fact that despite it’s fame and success, Finland still allows homeschooling (unlike neighbouring  Sweden where it’s seriously illegal, with terrible penalties for some families – shocking). Although since it’s system is so good, only a very few people homeschool – in the low hundreds according to wikipedia –

As the article says, I WISH the UK and so many other countries did seriously think about the Finnish model. I think it would be worth trying instead of what’s being offered, despite cultural differences between countries. I can’t believe it can be worse than most other systems in the world – apart from homeschooling of course (well, homeschooling that isn’t ‘school at home’ at least!)


About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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2 Responses to No exams until 18 in Finland! That caught my attention!

  1. janisib says:

    Thank you for the interesting post. We moved to UK from Finland a year ago with our children (3 and 2 years of age) and making decisions concerning their education have been a more time consuming effort we ever could have imagined. Unlike in Finland, where every child attend the nearest state school, we found ourselves amidst a jungle of public schools and state schools, some that cost a fortune and others that I would not be comfortable putting my children into. Waiting lists and entrance examinations. We were rather shocked to find that most of the good public schools held ‘entrance examinations’ already at the young age of 5, which as a finnish person, I found to be much too early, as like mentioned in the article, we have our first ‘big’ exams at the age of 18. Children also start school later in Finland (at the age of 7) so I find it hard to imagine taking my son to an entrance examination at an age when his peers are still climbing trees and building sandcastles at the playground in Finland.
    Our son attends a Montessori school at the moment, but I am growing keener on the idea of homeschooling/unschooling both of our children. I also really appreciate the idea of advancing at the child’s pace, supporting their natural curiosity and love for learning, not to mention staying at home with them throughout their childhoods.

    • Hi, I am so sorry to hear this but not at all surprised.It’s a awful situation to go through and I can sympathize from similar experiences.

      We faced this when we moved to Bahrain – government school is not an option so your kids had to go to a private school and the competition was intense, even at age 4!! And very expensive of course. Thank goodness I saw the light and started homeschooling when my eldest was 7 and my youngest may never go to school. We are so happy. One of the main reasons being because, as you say, I get to see almost every moment of their childhood which I adore!
      It depends where you are in the UK, but there are so many wonderful, free museums and galleries. Lots of resources which I don’t have here in Dubai. I’m sure you’d be GREAT! Good luck and keep in touch.

      Thanks so much for your very important comment – great to here from a Finn and to hear you are considering homeschooling/unschooling as the best alternative to your wonderful Finnish system 🙂

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