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Inside Classrooms: Finland


Lucy is a teacher on an educational mission to give some insights on education in top performing systems from a teacher's perspective. Over the next 9 months, she will work in schools in 8 systems that do well in the international PISA rankings and blog about it at This series of blogs for edapt presents some of her findings as 'A day in the life of a teacher'.

Finland is frequently touted as the "best education system in the world", but what is it really like to be a teacher in their education system?  Is it really that different?

finland_map Net teaching time per year  677 hrs (primary)
592 hrs (lower secondary)
Estimated average class size  14.1
(initial/after 15 yrs)
£19,200/£23,800 (primary)
£20,700/£25,700 (lower secondary)

Salary: A teacher's salary covers 24 lessons (18hrs a week) for a primary teacher, and fewer for certain secondary subject teachers, depending on the amount of marking associated with the subject (Finnish literature teachers only teach 18 lessons). Any additional lessons on top of this minimum are compensated in their salary.

Class Sizes: Schools are encouraged to keep their classes small, as the government gives them extra money if they keep them below a certain number. A common practice is to split a single class into two for a session or two a week so that individual students get more attention.

Pay progression is based on the number of years in the profession, the number of lessons you teach, and the qualifications you have (all teachers have a masters degree, but if you then get further qualifications in special education, you get paid accordingly.)

A day in the life of a teacher

6.30 Wake up. Have yogurt and berries for breakfast (picked from the forest at the weekend). Get the kids up and dressed.

7.30 Drop off the kids. The youngest goes to day care, and the oldest (age 6) is in pre-school, so will be starting at school next year.

7.55 Get to school. Catch up with another form teacher about his student's problems in my class - he is increasingly restless, so I ask if this is the case in other classes, and we discuss how we can handle this.


8.00 Biology lesson 8B. They have a test about plants which I wrote in conjunction with the other Biology teacher, and then an exercise involving reading an article and finding the key points (because this skill requires a lot of practice.)

8.45 Break. Mark the plant tests and give them a grade out of 10 (which forms part of their continuous assessment over the term) and read messages on Wilma - an online system with which we communicate with parents and other teachers about students' progress and behaviour.

9.00 Biology lesson 8B (part 2) We are studying vegetation zones, so look at pictures and discuss what’s happening in the lake during different seasons.

9.45 Break. Supervise students who were late to the first lesson while they do the plant test, have a cup of tea and send an email to the principal.

10.00 Biology lesson 8C. Teach the same lesson as I taught to 8B (all groups are mixed ability, so the lesson includes differentiated activities and doesn't need to be changed much for each class). Fifteen minute break in the middle (this follows almost all 45min sessions).

11.35 Break duty. Have to sort out a disagreement between two girls who've fallen out. Refer them to Verso - a peer counselling programme that we use for less serious issues.

11.50 Lunch break. Sit with the other teachers and eat reindeer and mashed potato. Photocopy resources and prepare for the next lesson.


12.15 Biology lesson 9A. Teach about genes and chromosomes. I put them in groups so that the students who pick it up quickly can help those that find it more difficult.

13.40 Mark tests. Realise that a few students will need to retake it. Drink coffee.

14.00 Meeting with special teacher. Discuss a student in my form whose results are poor to see how we can arrange his studies to help him. The special teacher agrees take him out of the lesson for a few sessions to help him catch up with the work.

14.15 Admin. Print information about my students in preparation for the OHR meeting next week (a termly meeting with the principal, school psychologist, special teacher and social worker in which we discuss each student's learning and needs). Call parents about some students who got into a fight. Respond to emails.

15.00 Meeting with principal. This meeting is to discuss the new materials I've bought and the new curriculum I've designed. There is a national curriculum, but this is very broad (just a few sentences per subject), so there is a lot of room for teacher input.

15.30 Parents meeting. Met with one of my students and his parents to discuss how he's doing at school. We meet each family once a year for fifteen minutes at a time that is mutually convenient, although we often see them at other events too, and arrange extra meetings if there are problems that need discussing.

15.50 Go home! I'll have to do some planning this evening, but I usually try and get most of it done before I leave school so I can spend time with the children.


Editor's note: This is not a real day in the life of a teacher, but a mixture of a few teachers' days, with some added notes for clarification! It is more busy than a typical day - teachers often leave school earlier than this. 

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Add your comments below:


Barnett B. on 12-11-2013

Tim. Thanks so much to you and Lucy. When I visited Finland I never saw teachers working at a frenetic pace. I saw deliberate and thoughtful teachers who were not stressed by the system, because of the focus on children (who they believe should not be stressed).

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