History of Education in Finland

Literacy is a key part of Lutheranism, the state and majority religion of Finland, as Christians are supposed to be able to read the Bible in their native language. Bishop Mikael Agricola studied under Martin Luther and translated the New Testament to Finnish in 1548. Literacy reached over 50% in the late 18th century and 80-90% in the mid-19th century. Wherein there were no schools in the municipality, reading was taught in traveling schools (kiertokoulu). Confirmation, a rite of transition to adulthood, is only permissible to the literate, and enables e.g. entrance into marriage. Official statistics are available since 1880, when literacy was 97.6%. The early system under the Swedish rule was in Swedish and consisted of a basic "pedagogio" for teaching reading and writing, a trivial school teaching grammar, Latin, Greek, rhetoric and dialectics, a gymnasium preparing for university, and the university. In the 19th century, the system evolved into what was later known as kansakoulu ("people's school") and oppikoulu ("learning school"), including gymnasium (lukio), followed by university. In mid-19th century, Finnish became an official language, and gradually replaced Swedish as the schooling language. In 1898, everyone was given the right to attend kansakoulu. Attendance reached 50% in 1911 and became mandatory in 1921; municipalities were obliged to provide the schooling. Free school lunches became mandatory in 1948. Oppikoulu, entered at the age of 10, was still optional and entrance was competitive. Since it was the only way to university education and entrance was heavily affected by the status and choices of parents, it severely limited the opportunities of the less-well off. Working-class people would often complete only the kansakoulu and enter the workforce. This system was phased out in 1972-1977, in favor of the modern system where grades 1-9 are mandatory. After the age of 15, the system bifurcates into academic (lukio) and vocational tracks (ammattikoulu) both at the secondary and tertiary levels. Recently, it became formally possible to enter tertiary education with a vocational degree, although this is practically difficult as the vocational study plan does not prepare the student for the university entrance exams.