Daycare and schools in Helsinki are among the best in the world. This is because Finland believes strongly in high-quality education from a young age. The country has been ranked highly in many international student assessments.
Our School journey timeline shows the different stages of the Finnish education system. Public education is free at all levels to permanent residents of the country.
School journey timeline
Early childhood education (varhaiskasvatus)
Childcare at a public or private daycare centre, family daycare or group family daycare. See our Daycare in Helsinki section for more information on services for children aged five and under.
Also known as a preschool, playschool, preK or nursery in other languages.
Pre-primary education (esiopetus)
A compulsory year of schooling for children who turn six in that year. The half-day of instruction focuses on preparing the children for primary school. Pre-primary education normally takes place in a daycare centre or primary school.
Roughly equivalent to US kindergarten or UK reception.
Primary school (alakoulu, ala-aste)
Grades 1-6 of basic education. The school days are very short during grades 1 and 2. Many children attend guided afternoon activities after school during these first two years.
See our Schools for children section for more information on education for children aged seven to fifteen.
Roughly equivalent to US elementary school or UK grammar school.
Lower secondary school (yläkoulu or yläaste)
Grades 7-9 of basic education. In some neighbourhoods, primary and lower secondary schools are in the same building, while in others they are separate.
Roughly equivalent to US middle school.
Upper secondary education (lukio or amis)
In the year they turn 16, students choose to continue their studies in one of Finland’s high school-level study paths: general upper secondary school (lukio) or vocational school (ammattikoulu or, more familiarly, amis). This part of schooling is now compulsory in Finland.
For a better explanation, see our Education for teens and adults section.
Higher education (yliopisto or ammattikorkeakoulu)
Once young adults finish lukio or amis, they can apply to study in a university (yliopisto) or a university of applied sciences with a vocational emphasis (ammattikorkeakoulu).