Questions and answers related to compulsory education
This page provides answers to frequently asked questions on the extension of compulsory education.
The objective of extending compulsory education is to raise the level of education and competence at all levels of education, to bridge learning gaps, to improve equality and non-discrimination in education and to enhance the wellbeing of children and young people.
The aim is for every young person to complete upper secondary education. As requirements for skills, knowledge and competence increase, jobseekers are expected to hold at least an upper secondary qualification.
The extension of compulsory education enters into force in 2021 in a staggered way, one age group at a time. In practice, the obligation to apply for and study in upper secondary education affects those young people who are in year 9 of comprehensive school education in spring 2021 (born in 2005). From this age group onwards, the extension of compulsory education applies to all young people transitioning from comprehensive school education to upper secondary education.
The extension of compulsory education applies to those learners who are in compulsory education and who are participating in the basic education syllabus on or after 1 January 2021. Students who complete compulsory education, as governed in the Basic Education Act, before 1 January 2021, are not within the scope of the extension of compulsory education.
If a student completes the basic education syllabus in spring 2021 before the end of the spring term, for example in non-year-class education, his or her compulsory education will continue with effect from 1 August 2021. Such students must apply for upper secondary education in the course of the spring via the joint application procedure or by other means. Since the Act on Compulsory Education enters into force on 1 August 2021, the obligation to complete upper secondary education and the provision of upper secondary education free of charge will only begin at this point. If student starts upper secondary education already in spring 2021, the education becomes free of charge from 1 August 2021.
Compulsory education ends when the student reaches the age of 18 or when they complete an upper secondary qualification (a general upper secondary qualification or a vocational qualification) or an equivalent qualification is gained abroad.
The extension of compulsory education applies to post-comprehensive school education. Provisions on completing compulsory education after comprehensive school education are laid down in sections 4 and 5 of the Compulsory Education Act.
Compulsory education after comprehensive school education is mainly completed in general upper secondary education or in vocational education and training. In general upper secondary education, compulsory education can be carried out by completing the general upper secondary school syllabus intended for young people or adults. Vocational training allows you to complete an initial vocational qualification or a further vocational qualification. Participation in the matriculation examination is also considered to be one way of completing compulsory education.
It can also be completed in education provided for the transition phase between comprehensive school education and upper secondary education. Currently, education provided at transition points includes voluntary additional basic education (also known as year 10), preparatory education for general upper secondary education (LUVA) and preparatory education and training for vocational education and training (VALMA). These programmes will be combined from autumn 2022 to form preparatory education for programmes leading to an upper secondary qualification (TUVA).
Compulsory education may also be completed in folk high school programmes intended for students who are required to attend compulsory education.
Students in need of intensive special needs support can complete their compulsory education in preparatory education and training for work and independent living.
Saami people within the scope of compulsory education may also complete their compulsory education in the Saami language and culture programme provided by the Sámi Education Institute over a period of at least one academic term.
Students who have not completed their comprehensive school education syllabus by the end of the school year in the calendar year in which they reach the age of 17 may complete their compulsory education by participating in basic education for adults. It is also possible to attend compulsory education in the other programmes mentioned above if the student who has not completed the comprehensive school education syllabus has been admitted to one of the programmes.
Students with a migrant background whose proficiency in Finnish or Swedish is insufficient for education beyond comprehensive school education may complete their compulsory education by attending comprehensive school education or programmes designed for immigrants provided by folk high schools.
Before the end of the final year of comprehensive school education (basic education), students need to apply for upper secondary education, transition phase education or other education within the scope of compulsory education. Those in compulsory education may apply for studies through the national application procedures (joint application) or by other means. If the applicant is not granted a student place through the joint application procedure, the obligation to apply will continue until the applicant receives a place to study. Section 10 of the Compulsory Education Act lays down provisions on the obligation to apply.
Under section 7 of the Compulsory Education Act, students, or their parent or guardian, may apply for permission to put on hold the students’ compulsory education for a temporary stay abroad that is at least one month in duration. This can be done on condition the students take part in education equivalent to compulsory education abroad or otherwise can be considered to be attending compulsory education during their stay abroad. This means students may take part in student exchanges and apply for permission to put their compulsory education on hold for a fixed period, for example.
If a learner in compulsory education moves abroad temporarily because of the work of the parents, the learner may, during his or her stay abroad, attend a local school, an international school, a Finnish school operating abroad or a European school, for example. Alternatively, instead of attending school, the learner may study independently at home, in which case the learner's parent or guardian supervises the learning during the temporary stay abroad.
Students attending secondary education may also make arrangements with the education provider to study independently or participate in online studies, for example.
The following are free of charge for students:
instruction (already free of charge)
daily school meal (already free of charge)
textbooks and other learning materials required in instruction
tools, clothing, ingredients and other materials required in instruction
the 5 tests required for completing the matriculation examination at the end of the general upper secondary syllabus and, in the case of these tests, retake of rejected tests
school journeys of seven kilometres or more
in some special cases, accommodation and travel costs.
In education programmes where personal equipment, such as musical instruments and sports equipment are used, and which are also used by the students outside instruction, the expenses are still incurred by the student (Section 17, subsection 1 of the Compulsory Education Act).
The right to upper secondary education free of charge applies to students who enrol in autumn 2021 and who are required to attend compulsory education. The right to upper secondary education free of charge lasts until the end of the calendar year in which the student reaches the age of 20. As a rule, when students transition from comprehensive school education at the age of 16 to upper secondary education, they would have a right to free education for 4½ years. Within this time period, this right would apply to education leading to a qualification as well as to various types of education and training provided at transition points.
Education free of charge does not apply to students who are not within the scope of extended compulsory education. Students completing additional basic education, preparatory education for general upper secondary education or preparatory education and training for vocational education and training in spring 2021 are not entitled to education free of charge. Other students starting their studies in autumn 2021 who do not fall within the scope of the Compulsory Education Act are not entitled to education free of charge either.
Under the provisions in force, students in upper secondary education who live in the halls of residence of an educational institution do not pay for their accommodation. No changes are being made to these provisions, but the legislation will be amended so that if the educational institution takes boarders, the places should be offered primarily to students in compulsory education and to other students within the scope of education provided free of charge.
Students in comprehensive school education will continue to have the right to a free school meal, in line with the current situation. Existing provisions stipulate that students in general upper secondary education and vocational education and training have the right to one daily meal during the school day. In certain cases in vocational education and training, students also have the right to have several meals on the basis of the length of the school day. In boarding schools, students are entitled to full board. Making upper secondary education free of charge does not change these principles.
With upper secondary education becoming free of charge, the limit for school commute entitling the student to a subsidy for school journeys will be lowered from 10 km to 7 km. In addition, the threshold of EUR 54 for the minimum monthly travel costs will be abolished. In upper secondary education, free travel to and from school is compensated through the school transport subsidy paid by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela).
A young person attending compulsory education may participate in the rehabilitation services provided by Kela. These services serve to support the completion of compulsory education.
Those within the scope of compulsory education must have a student place in an educational institution. However, workshops may serve as a learning environment where education can be completed. In other words, compulsory education can also be completed in workshops if the education provider, the student and the workshop agree to it.
Compulsory education may also be completed in education and training provided at transition points.
The current programmes include voluntary additional basic education, also known as year 10, preparatory education and training for vocational education and training, and preparatory education for general upper secondary education for migrants.
These programmes at transition points will be merged from autumn 2022 to form a single preparatory education for programmes leading to an upper secondary qualification. This consists of units that can be flexibly combined to meet each student’s needs, promoting the student’s transition to upper secondary education leading to a qualification.
The preparatory education and training for work and independent living will remain a separate educational option.
Compulsory education will be free of charge until the student has completed a qualification. After the reform, all textbooks and other learning materials, as well as tools, clothing, ingredients and materials needed in instruction, become free of charge for students attending compulsory education. The obligation to provide education free of charge also covers the necessary school transport, sufficient daily meals and, in some cases, student accommodation. For more information, see the question related to education free of charge.
Studies and qualifications under the scope of compulsory education must progress according to the student's personal study plan (Section 6 of the Compulsory Education Act). The student's individual objectives and capabilities are therefore taken into account when attending and completing compulsory education.
Under the Act on General Upper Secondary Education, the syllabus for general upper secondary education must be completed within four years, unless the education provider grants the student additional time to complete the studies due to illness, disability or some other special reason. Based on the Act on Vocational Education and Training, a personal competence development plan must be drawn up for each student in such a way that the duration of the vocational qualification studies specified in the plan do not exceed four years.
Students have a right to apply for a student place freely and according to their own preferences. The place can be located anywhere in Finland. The subsidy for school journeys is paid for daily journeys that are longer than 7 kilometres from the student’s home to the educational institution or the workplace. In addition, students may be entitled to a general housing allowance if they live independently.
The following financial resources have been reserved in the General Government Fiscal Plan to cover the costs of extending compulsory education and to make upper secondary education free of charge:
Altogether EUR 26.75 million in 2021;
Altogether EUR 65 million in 2022;
Altogether EUR 103.25 million in 2023;
Altogether EUR 129 million in 2024.
The change will affect one age group at a time, which means that the need for additional appropriations will gradually increase. The average duration of studies in general upper secondary education and vocational education is approximately three years, which means that the need for additional appropriations will be fully met in 2024.
The responsibility for completing compulsory education rests with both the students and their parents, guardians or other legal representatives. If parents or other guardians intentionally or by gross negligence neglect their duty to supervise that their child completes compulsory education, they may be sentenced to a fine.
What is the responsibility of schools and educational institutions? Providers of comprehensive school education, general upper secondary education and vocational education and training, alongside other providers of compulsory education and, ultimately, the municipality of residence, have a duty to guide and supervise students in their compulsory education studies. This way we can make sure that students receive enough support and guidance throughout their studies.
Once learners have completed their comprehensive school studies, the providers of comprehensive school education remain responsible for guiding, supporting and supervising the learners’ compulsory education studies until they begin their studies in after comprehensive school education. The municipality of residence of learners within the scope of compulsory education who are not awarded a student place in post-comprehensive school education in the joint application procedure becomes responsible for the guidance and supervision of these learners.
The providers of comprehensive school education may assist students in their transition to the upper secondary level. If a student who is completing comprehensive school education fails to secure a new student place, the comprehensive school provider is obliged to notify the local authorities in the student's municipality of residence, who then take the young person under their wing.
When a student starts in upper secondary education, the provider of the general upper secondary education or vocational education and training becomes responsible for guiding, supporting and supervising the student.
If a student wishes to switch from one educational institution or field to another, the education providers guide and support the student until the student has secured a new student place. If necessary, students can be referred to services (healthcare or social services, youth services etc.) that provide support for the students in their life situation and enable them to continue their studies.
Based on a notification made by the provider of comprehensive school education, the municipality of residence is responsible for monitoring the situation of those young people who have completed their comprehensive school studies in the spring but who have not secured a student place by the autumn. They are given guidance on how to apply for upper secondary education. If necessary, they are also guided to seek access to other services, such as healthcare and social services and rehabilitation. If, despite guidance and cooperation, a suitable student place cannot be found for the learner within the scope of compulsory education, and the person is deemed fit for studying, the municipality has a duty to provide the learner with a student place in relevant transition-point education.
Similarly, it is the duty of the municipality of residence to guide learners who have have put on hold their upper secondary education and who have not found a new student place.
The providers of comprehensive school education are responsible for guiding and supervising that students in year 9 of comprehensive school apply for post-comprehensive school studies. If a learner within the scope of compulsory education fails to secure a student place in the joint application procedure, the provider of comprehensive school education will continue to give guidance beyond the end of the spring term so that the learner can apply for a student place in the rolling application procedure after the joint application procedure has ended. If a learner within the scope of compulsory education still has not secured a student place after the summer or has dropped out of school, the municipality where the learner resides becomes responsible for guidance and supervision.
No sanctions are imposed on learners themselves for neglecting their compulsory education studies.
The parents, guardians or other legal representatives must make sure that their children complete their compulsory education studies. If parents or other guardians intentionally or by gross negligence neglect their duty to supervise that their child completes compulsory education, they may be sentenced to a fine for failing to supervise their child.
It is possible to complete compulsory education by means of apprenticeship training, which means that the student can work during compulsory education. Any other employment alongside studies is at the student’s own discretion.
A provision on the allocation of working hours of young people attending compulsory education will be added to the Young Workers’ Act. According to the provision, the working time of an employee attending compulsory education must be arranged in such a way that it does not preclude participation in education in accordance with the curriculum or other education plan. The employee must inform the employer well in advance of any compulsory study attendance required of them. The employee has the right to refuse a shift that prevents them from attending instruction.
According to the Act on General Upper Secondary Education, students draw up a personal study plan for themselves. The teaching staff help draw up plan when the students start their studies and it is updated regularly as the studies progress.
The Act on Vocational Education and Training stipulates that education providers are obliged to prepare a personal competence development plan for each student together with the student.
Under the provisions currently in force, education providers must guide students who are at risk of dropping out. Under the Act on General Upper Secondary Education, students who have informed the education provider of their intention to discontinue studies have the right to receive guidance on applying for other studies. Under the Act on Vocational Education and Training, it is also the duty of the education provider, together with the students, to find qualification studies or a programme that is more suitable for them and, if necessary, guide the students on applying for another education provider’s programme or some other appropriate service.
Provisions on putting on hold compulsory education are laid down in section 7 of the Compulsory Education Act. A learner attending compulsory education may put on hold their studies for a fixed term or until further notice.
The grounds for doing so include: 1) long-term illness or disability that prevents participation in compulsory education; 2) maternity, paternity or parental leave; 3) temporary stay abroad (e.g. student exchange, family move temporarily abroad); 4) other weighty reason related to the student’s life situation that prevents participation in compulsory education.
It is possible to put on hold compulsory education on application both during comprehensive school education and in post-comprehensive school compulsory education. The student, the student’s parent, guardian or other legal representative may decide to apply for the student to put his or her compulsory education on hold. The decision to put compulsory education on hold is made by the education provider or, if the learner does not have a student place, their municipality of residence.
As a rule, the decision to put compulsory education on hold is made for a fixed period, i.e. for the estimated duration of the condition that prevents the completion of compulsory education. Compulsory education may be put on hold until further notice only if the illness or disability that prevents participation in compulsory education is of a permanent nature.
For the duration of a temporary stay abroad, compulsory education may be put on hold only if the student is abroad attending education that corresponds to the completion of compulsory education or if he or she can be considered to be otherwise attending compulsory education during his or her stay abroad.
If the reason for applying for putting compulsory education on hold is due to an illness or disability or a difficult life situation, before making a decision, the decision-maker must establish whether it is possible to participate in compulsory education by means of individual choices, personalisation of studies, necessary support measures or reasonable adjustments.
If a learner within the scope of compulsory education is planning to put his or her studies on old, the education provider, together with the learner and his or her parent or other guardian, must explore what options the student might have of studying in another learning environment or of applying for other studies. If necessary, the alternatives can be explored together with another provider of education or training. In addition, the education provider must examine the adequacy of the support measures the student has received and, if necessary, instruct the student to seek access to other appropriate services.
If a learner within the scope of compulsory education notifies that he or she intends to discontinue studying in the educational institution, i.e. that he or she intends to drop out, such a decision cannot be made until the learner has shown that he or she has secured a new student place. If a learner is about to lose their right to study due to many absences, the education provider must look into the student’s situation before making a decision to forfeit the student’s right to study. Before a student can be considered to have dropped out, the education provider shall inform the learner and his or her patents, guardian and other legal representative that the learner may be considered have dropped out if he or she is absent from instruction for no justifiable reason.
If the education provider does not receive information that the learner has started studying at another educational institution, a notification should be made to the local authorities of the municipality where the learner resides.
It is the duty of the comprehensive school education provider to guide and supervise learners in compulsory education during their comprehensive school education and the joint application procedure. As part of this guidance, the provider assesses, together with the learner and their parent or other guardian, which education would be most suitable for the learner, taking into account any special support needs.
Students have the right to receive support for learning and school attendance as soon as such a need arises.
It is the duty of the comprehensive school education provider to guide and supervise leaners to apply for post-comprehensive school education at the end of comprehensive school education, especially during the last year of comprehensive school. Learners who are completing a comprehensive school syllabus and who need support in applying for post-comprehensive school studies have the right to receive, besides the student guidance provided in the curriculum, also individual student guidance based on their personal needs. The obligation refers to the obligation for comprehensive school education providers to offer intensified personal guidance for students who are identified as needing support related to applying for post-comprehensive school studies in years 8 and 9 of comprehensive school.
With regard to compulsory education, the education provider’s responsibility for providing guidance and supervision ends when the students turn 18, in other words, when they complete compulsory education. However, even after the students have completed their compulsory education, the education provider must guide students in accordance with the general principles set out in the Act on Vocational Education and Training and in the Act on General Upper Secondary Education.
Those who have completed the general upper secondary education syllabus but have not secured a place in further studies for a qualification or degree, have the right to guidance related to applying for studies and for careers advice during the year following the year in which the syllabus was completed. The educational institution where the student completed the syllabus is responsible for providing the guidance. A corresponding obligation for vocational education and training to provide guidance for further studies enters into force on 1 August 2021. A person who has completed an initial vocational qualification and whose purpose is to apply for further studies but who has not received a student place in studies leading to a qualification has, during the year following the year in which the qualification was completed, the right to receive guidance in applying for further studies and for career plans related to further studies.
Yhteystiedot - Yhteystietonosto
Mika Tammilehto, Director General Ministry of Education and Culture, Lukiokoulutuksen ja ammatillisen koulutuksen osasto (LAMOS), Ylijohtaja Telephone:0295330308[email protected]
Eeva-Riitta Pirhonen, Director General Ministry of Education and Culture, Varhaiskasvatuksen, perusopetuksen ja vapaan sivistystyön osasto ( VAPOS ), Ylijohtaja Telephone:0295330258[email protected]