Finland is a Nordic welfare state providing free education for all citizens from a voluntary one-year pre-school at age six to the highest university degrees. The Finnish education system is a mixture of state and municipal governance. The general objectives of education and the distribution of lesson hours are stipulate by law and a subsequent act. Under the Ministry of Education, the National Board of Education compiles the national core curriculum which lays out the concrete objectives and core contents of instruction in the different subjects and provides standards for student assessment. Local authorities (generally municipalities) are responsible for the practical arrangement of schooling and for composing the municipal curriculum based on the national core curriculum.
The core of Finnish education is a nine-year comprehensive school which children enter the year of their seventh birthday. Schooling itself is not compulsory, but compulsory education lasts until age 16 or the completion of the comprehensive school. Accordingly, the municipal provider of education has the responsibility to secure that also home-schooled children get an education corresponding to the requirements of the core curriculum for basic education. Finland has a mixed system of free school choice with parents having a right to choose the school for their children but schools having an obligation to receive all children form their catchment area.
Upper secondary education is voluntary but attended by over 90% of the age cohort. It is mainly divided to two tracks even if programmes combining the two are also available. Vocational schools offer three year programmes in different fields while general upper secondary schools follow a more academic curriculum directed toward tertiary education. Unlike in most other countries, however, students with a vocational school diploma can enter tertiary education through the same entrance exams as matriculates of general upper secondary schools.Education is provided across all levels in Finnish and in Swedish, with pre-primary and comprehensive education also provided in Sámi, Romani or sign language when needed.