Educational system in Finland

The Finnish education system consists of different educational levels that are:

  • Early childhood education and care
  • Pre-primary education
  • Nine-year compulsory basic education (comprehensive school)
  • Upper secondary education (either general upper secondary education or vocational education and training)
  • Higher education (universities and universities of applied sciences)
  • Adult education (available at many levels)

In Finland, education is free of charge from pre-primary education up to higher education and teachers at all levels are highly educated. Please read more about the Finnish education system on the website of the Ministry of Education and Culture. For information about education for immigrants, please visit the StudyInfo website.

Early childhood education and care

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is meant for children under school age. ECEC combines education, teaching and care in a systematic and goal-oriented way to promote the development, health and wellbeing of children, as well as improve children’s learning opportunities. Please visit the InfoFinland website for information about ECEC in Finland.

In Finland, municipalities are responsible for providing ECEC for children under school age. The municipal ECEC is subject to a client fee that is determined on the basis of the family’s income and size, as well as the family’s needs for ECEC services. Find out more about the municipal ECEC in Lahti on the city's website.

In addition to municipal ECEC service providers, there are also private operators, and parents have the option of choosing a private service provider as an alternative to the municipal option. Private ECEC places can be applied for directly from the desired unit. The fees for private ECEC can be partly financed with the help of a private day care allowance granted by Kela or a municipal service voucher. For information about private ECEC, please visit the City of Lahti website (in Finnish).

To read more about ECEC in other municipalities in Päijät-Häme, please visit their websites:

In Päijät-Häme, there are also three English-language day care centres: Lahti English Kindergarten, The Teddybear Daycare (in Finnish) and The English Playschool of Asikkala (in Finnish).

Pre-primary education

All children permanently residing in Finland are entitled to pre-primary education (pre-school) starting one year before the children begin their compulsory comprehensive school. The purpose of pre-school is to prepare the child for comprehensive school. The pre-primary education is offered by day care centres or schools, and it is free of charge. Please read more about pre-primary education on the InfoFinland website.

Municipalities oversee the organisation of pre-primary education. To find out more about pre-primary education in Päijät-Häme municipalities, please visit the websites listed below:

Comprehensive school

Comprehensive school education (basic education) in Finland is compulsory for all children residing permanently in the country. Comprehensive school consists of school years 1 to 9 and generally starts the year in which the child turns seven. Comprehensive school education is free of charge.

Comprehensive schools are maintained by the municipalities and other education providers, however, most pupils in Finland go to a municipal comprehensive school.

At the end of comprehensive school, each young person must apply for post-comprehensive school education. Compulsory education ends when the person reaches the age of 18 or when they complete an upper secondary qualification.

For information about basic education in Lahti, please visit the city's website. To read more about basic school in other Päijät-Häme municipalities, please see Alipi's material.(Alipi - Children and Youngsters)

Upper secondary education

After finishing comprehensive school, students apply for upper secondary level education, choosing between general and vocational education usually lasting three years. Upon graduation, students are eligible to apply for higher-level studies at universities and universities of applied sciences. Upper secondary education is also available for adults.

General upper secondary education

General upper secondary education (lukio in Finnish) focuses on general education and does not qualify students for any specific occupation. The studies are more theoretical in nature compared to vocational studies. Some upper secondary schools offer special study programmes or a weighted curriculum. For example, in Päijät-Häme it is possible to apply for general upper secondary schools with a weighted curriculum in mathematics, sports, art, music and aviation.

At the end of general upper secondary school, students take a national examination known as the Finnish matriculation examination. If the examination is passed, the students are eligible to apply for further studies. Please read more about general upper secondary education on the InfoFinland website.

Please refer to Alipi's materials to see a list of general upper secondary schools in all Päijät-Häme municipalities. (Alipi - Children and Youngsters)

If you want to read more about the general upper secondary education in each Päijät-Häme municipality, please visit the websites listed below:

Vocational education and training

Vocational education and training (VET) provides the basic skills required in the specific occupational field. The studies are practical compared to general upper secondary education. In Finland, vocational education and training can lead to an upper secondary qualification or it can be completed as additional training needed in different stages of a person’s career. VET is not only for young people who have just completed  comprehensive school, but for adults as well. Please visit the InfoFinland website for information about vocational education and training.

The institutions offering vocational education and training in Päijät-Häme are:

For information about vocational education in Lahti, please visit the city’s website (in Finnish).

Higher education

In Finland, there are two types of higher education institutions: universities and universities of applied sciences. It is possible to apply for a higher education institution after completing a vocational education qualification or a matriculation examination of a general upper secondary education.

Before applying for a university or a university of applied sciences, there is a possibility to attend voluntary higher education preparatory training for immigrants. The purpose of the preparatory training is to prepare immigrants for higher education studies, to study the Finnish language and to improve the chances of completing a Finnish-language higher degree. Please read more about higher education preparatory training in Alipi's materials. (Alipi - Study)

Universities of Applied Sciences

Universities of applied sciences provide professionally oriented higher education at Bachelor’s and Master’s level. The studies at universities of applied sciences have strong ties with working life and regional development.

LAB University of Applied Sciences operates in Päijät-Häme and offers an extensive list of different degree programmes from nursing to engineering. For more information about LAB, please visit their website.

In addition to LAB, the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences offers a degree programme in Sports Coaching and Management at their Vierumäki campus in Heinola. For more information, please visit the Haaga-Helia website.


Universities focus on scientific research, and education concentrates on the sciences. Universities offer Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral (PhD) level programmes.

LUT University has a campus in Lahti offering Master’s degree programmes in economics and technology. Please visit their website (in Finnish) to read more about the programmes offered at the Lahti campus.

From autumn 2021, it is also possible to study in Bachelor’s degree programmes in technology at the Lahti campus. The new Bachelor’s programmes are international double degree programmes developed in co-operation with Hebei University of Technology (HEBUT) in China. Please visit LUT’s website (in Finnish) for information about the Bachelor’s programmes offered at the Lahti campus (in Finnish).

English-taught education options in the Lahti region

There are some English-taught education options in the Lahti region at different education levels.

Early childhood education

In Lahti, there are three English-language day care operators:

All of these are private operators and available spots for your child can be inquired directly from the day care centres. Contact information can be found on their websites

Pre-school and basic education

The English Classes of Lahti in Tiirismaa school offer bilingual education (Finnish/English) from pre-school to ninth grade. From pre-school to sixth grade around 70 per cent of the classes are taught in English while from seventh to ninth grade around half of the classes are in English.

The application period for the English Classes of Lahti takes place every January and there are 25 available spots for each study year. Please visit the City of Lahti website (in Finnish) for instructions on how to apply to the English Classes of Lahti.

Upper secondary education

The IB programme of Kannas Upper Secondary School is an academically challenging and balanced programme of education with final examinations that prepares students, aged 16 to 19, for higher education and life beyond. In Finnish schools, the studies are divided into two parts: The Preparatory Year and the two academic years, IB1 and IB2. During the preparatory year, students take upper secondary school courses in accordance with the Finnish national system. The language of the programme is English. For more information about the IB programme in Lahti and instructions on how to apply, please visit the Kannas Upper Secondary School website.

Higher education

To see a list of all the English-taught study programmes offered by the University of Applied Sciences in the Lahti region, please visit the Studyinfo website.

To see a list of all the English-taught university study programmes in the Lahti region, please visit the Studyinfo website.

Open studies

Open studies are courses offered by higher education institutions according to their own syllabus. Open studies are available for everyone regardless of their previous educational background and age. It is possible to study individual courses or larger study modules. Open studies are not full-time and therefore do not lead to a qualification or a degree. Open studies are subject to a charge.

You may be interested in open studies if you wish to improve the know-how that you require in your working life, plan on applying for a higher education institution, or wish to improve your general knowledge on topics that you are interested in. More information about open studies can be found from each higher education institution’s own website. Please read more about open studies on the Studyinfo website.

Studies tailored for immigrants

To read more about study options at different educational levels specifically tailored for immigrants, please rerfer to Alipi's material. (Alipi - Study).

Preparatory education and training  

Preparatory education might be a good option for you, for example, if you wish to apply for Finnish-taught study programmes but need to improve your Finnish language skills. The preparatory programmes usually last for one year. Different preparatory education options are:

  • Voluntary additional basic education, grade 10 (kymppiluokka in Finnish). In the Lahti region, grade 10 is available at Salpaus school. Please read more on the city of Lahti website (in Finnish).

  • LUVA, preparatory education for general upper secondary education. In the Lahti region, it is possible to study in a LUVA programme at Lahden Yhteiskoulu. Please read more on their website (in Finnish).

  • Preparatory training for higher education. In the Lahti region, the preparatory programme for higher education is organised by LAB University of Applied Sciences.

Please refer to Alipi’s material to read more about the preparatory education options. (Alipi - Study)

Liberal adult education

In Finland, there are many possibilities for lifelong learning. Liberal adult education supporting personal and professional development can be provided by adult education centres, folk high schools, community colleges, learning centres, sport institutes and summer universities. For information about liberal adult education in Finland, please visit the Ministry of Education and Culture website. Examples of educational institutions offering liberal adult education in Päijät-Häme are listed below.

Päijät-Häme Summer University is located in Lahti and organises diverse and high-quality training and education for professionals, students and enthusiasts in various fields throughout the year. The institution offers open higher education studies, additional vocational training, language training, general upper secondary courses and other general education courses. Please read more about the offered courses on their website (in Finnish).

Wellamo Community College offers low-cost adult education for self-development in Lahti, Asikkala, Hollola, Kärkölä, Orimattila and Padasjoki. There are classes in languages, information technology, literature, history, and much more. For more information, please visit the Wellamo Community College website.

Harjula Adult Education Centre is based in Lahti and operated by the Harjula Settlement Association. The institution offers classes, for example, in languages, information technology, psychology, and literature. For more information, please visit the website of Harjula Adult Education Centre (in Finnish).

Heinola Community College is operated by the Jyränkölä Settlement Association. In Heinola Community College, it is possible to join courses, for example, in languages, information technology, and literature. For more information, please visit the Heinola Community College website (in Finnish).

East Häme Adult Education Centre operates in Hartola and Sysmä. The courses offered, for example, include languages, history, and information technology. For more information, please visit the website of East-Häme Adult Education Centre (in Finnish).

Finnish language studies

To find out more about the possibilities to study Finnish in Päijät-Häme, please refer to Alipi's material. (Alipi - Study)

Recognition and international comparability of qualifications

If you have completed a qualification abroad, it is possible to apply for a decision on recognition of your qualifications. Please read more about recognition of qualifications on the Finnish National Agency for Education website.