Educational aspects of Finland
Don’t be thinking that Finland’s just about Santa and snow in winter, lakes and light nights in summer. While those ingredients are undeniably great, Finland’s epic geography, its egalitarianism and its unique approach to life, the universe and everything can prove an exciting lesson for visiting kids. From meeting Europe’s only indigenous people, to tapping into some trademark Finnish sisu, children in Finland get way more than just a holiday while on holiday.
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Finland feels culturally and linguistically unique – neither Scandinavian, Russian nor Baltic – so it’s slightly surprising to discover that it only gained independence from Russia a century ago, in 1917. Before that, from the 13th century to 1809, the Swedes ruled the roost, establishing Swedish law and social systems. They could never rub out the essential Finnishness of this region, though. Swedish was the dominant language until the start of the 20th century, but only one in seven Finns spoke it and during the 19th century, as an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia, Finnish nationalism began to blossom. With that came signs of the inspiring, egalitarian nation that now exists. Finnish women were the first in Europe to gain the right to vote in parliamentary elections, back in 1906. A year later, the first female members of parliament in the world were elected in Finland. Since then, Finland has relied on creativity, ingenuity and solidarity to compete in the global economy, with no room for inequality or segregation.
Finland’s not lacking when it comes to open spaces. It’s 70 percent forest, with 40 national parks and 187,888 lakes. Epic stretches of unspoiled wilderness are only rivalled in downright awesomeness by the winter Aurora that twitches across the dark northern skies. The country features distinct geographical regions: the Arctic reaches of northern Lapland, the central pine forests, the Wild Taiga terrain to the east near the Russian border, the Lakeland region in the southeast, and the expansive archipelagos of the southwest.
Finnish Lapland lies so far north that summer days are endless and winter a time of eerie but magical darkness, but Finns don’t let sub zero temperatures or disorientating daylight prevent them from enjoying all this rich geography. Finnish families often visit Lapland around Easter, and babies will be tucked into covered toboggans and pulled behind their cross country skiing parents. Finnish kids learn to ice fish and ski from the age of two. In summer, the bliss of endless days sees families binning the bedtime regime in favour of midnight hikes and lakeside picnics. Screen obsessed teens and fairweather tots can learn a lesson while here from their hardy Finnish counterparts.
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Society, economy & cultural identity
Society, economy & cultural identity
Google “Finland” and “happy” and some impressive stats pop up. The country has topped the European Happiness Equality Index compiled by think tank the Happiness Research Institute, and Helsinki regularly rates as one of the safest cities in the world, with some of the happiest residents. The country’s excellent standard of education, social support and healthcare, all financed by the state, and the quality of the environment feed into this positivity. It has one of the lowest child poverty rates in Europe and also places second on the global Good Country Index, published for the first time in June 2014, which tries to measure how much each country on earth contributes to the planet and to the human race. It’s impressive stuff, all backed up by the concept of sisu – guts and resilience – which is the backbone of the Finnish identity (and probably explains how they cope with 120-day winters).
Any parent who’s ever questioned the value of teaching to the test, streaming or SATs, will go moist eyed when they hear about the Finnish education system, with its emphasis on laying down a creative, early years foundation based on learning through play. Finland’s stellar educational ranking in the world is well publicised, and chatting to Finnish families and having your kids share playtime with theirs is a great way to learn more about this nation’s inspiring approach to education.
It all starts late in Finland, with no formal education until the age of seven. At preschool, the emphasis is simply on building happy and responsible children; it’s where kids develop good social habits and communication, enjoying at least 90 minutes of outdoor play a day. It’s also open to all. Every child has a legal right to high quality preschool care, because the idea that equality is vital to economic success and societal wellbeing runs through Finland’s education system. There’s no school selection, formal examinations (until the age of 18) or streaming; holidays are long and school hours short. The result is not only high achieving kids but happy ones, too, markedly less stressed than their British contemporaries. Finland, we salute you.
More about Finland family
School holidays and Finland go together well, with deep winter and August two of the best times to travel for a memorable family escape.
Finland is growing in popularity as a family holiday destination and we’re not surprised, with its unique regions offering different treats and activities for families of all ages, throughout the year.
Our Finland family map and highlights page takes a close look at the national parks, super chilled cities and remote winter destinations that are worth including in a family holiday – just click on the blue dots to find out more.
Finland family holiday activities vary with the seasons, from winter breaks that offer a pick and mix of exciting outdoor activities, to self drive summer holidays, exploring forests, lakes and family attractions.
Finland’s high standard of living, relaxed and safe cities and quiet roads make it a welcoming and approachable destination for a family holiday, but any parent planning a trip here will still have questions.
Our Finland family travel advice includes recommendations and insights from our specialist Finland holiday companies, plus tips from travellers who have already taken their kids there.