When a child is born in Finland, the parents can choose for themselves which language is officially registered as the child’s mother tongue. Bilingual families often register their children as Swedish-speaking and later put them in Swedish-language school. The reason for this is partly strategic and the choice is made to strengthen the child’s future language skills. Since Finnish generally dominates in society, it is in many ways an easier language for children to maintain and develop knowledge in, even when schooling takes place in Swedish.
Schooling in Finland is similar to other Nordic countries: compulsory schooling applies to low and high school studies, and most teenagers continue in high school or vocational school after ninth grade. All tuition is free, including university studies. In elementary school, teaching materials, meals and in some cases school transport are also free of charge.
The compulsory school curriculum is prepared by the State Board of Education, and the Swedish-language teaching is identical to the Finnish one. The only significant difference is the reverse language studies: Finnish Swedes learn Finnish from first or third grade and Finnish-speaking pupils have lessons in Swedish from fifth or sixth grade. The language lessons are compulsory, which is criticized by Finns living in entirely Finnish-speaking areas. Pakkoruotsi (“compulsory Swedish”) is debated at regular intervals in the Parliament, but language teaching is still part of the curriculum, mainly due to the Swedish status as a national language. The autonomous Åland is the only exception to the rule – thanks to the island group’s autonomy, Finnish is an elective school subject.
All teaching from children’s pedagogy to university studies is available in Swedish in Finland. In addition to Finnish, the same conditions apply partly to English, which is the language of instruction in a number of private day care centers and schools. In addition, some of the master’s degree programs at Finnish universities are entirely in English, mainly because of the number of foreign students.
There is a wide range of Swedish-language teaching in Finland, but schools are not evenly distributed across the country, but are naturally concentrated mainly in places with Swedish-speaking populations, mainly along the coast.