Professional study tour to Finland and Sweden


The Finnish and Swedish education systems are often looked to as inspiration for our own. SecEd is running a specialist cultural and professional tour to the two countries in August designed especially for UK educators.

SecEd and our sister company Master Travel are delighted to announce a brand new professional study tour which will present teachers and other school education professionals with a unique opportunity to travel to Finland and Sweden to learn about the practices, policies, educational systems, parent and teacher associations, professional training for teachers and educational reforms from two of the most successful educational systems in the world. 

School education in Finland

This tiny Nordic nation has a staggering record of education success, a phenomenon that has inspired many foreign educators. 

Finland has vastly improved reading, mathematics and science literacy over the past decade, largely because its teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around. 

“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku. 

Professionals are selected from the top 10 per cent of the nation’s graduates to study for a required Master’s degree in education, which is fully subsidised. Finnish teachers are given the same status as doctors and lawyers. Each teacher spends only four hours a day in the classroom, and they dedicate two hours per week to professional development.

The school system in Finland is 100 per cent state-funded, and everyone is educated in their local comprehensive. Finnish children don’t start school until they are seven and they rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens, instead parents are encouraged to organise extra-curricular activities or after-school assignments for their children.

The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education and there is only one mandatory standardised test in Finland, taken when children are 16. The national Finnish curriculum has only broad guidelines, allowing individual schools and teachers more control over their teaching.

All children are taught in the same classrooms, and if a teacher sees a student falling behind or marching too far ahead, they are trained to tailor their teaching plans according to those individual needs. This means that the difference between the weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the world.

Many schools are small enough that teachers know every student and they are able to give students extra help if needed. In fact, around 30 per cent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school. Science classes are capped at 16 students, so that they may perform practical experiments in every class.

The Finnish welfare society is built on education, culture and knowledge. The country sees education as a key factor in enhancing its competitiveness. The top aims of the Finnish educational policy are quality, efficiency, equality and internationalisation.

School education in Sweden

In Sweden, where equality, democracy and children’s rights are cherished, schooling is always a hot topic. From pre-school onwards, Swedes are encouraged to think independently. The teaching model applied in Sweden is based on the motto “freedom with responsibility”.

Most of the responsibility for school education rests with local municipalities. The majority of the education budget is financed by local taxes, and approximately half of the municipal budget is spent on education. Sweden is one of the few countries that still provides a free lunch for pupils.

In recent years there have been many changes to the curriculum and the way Swedish schools are organised, but the basic premise of free education for all remains. Education is compulsory for all children aged seven to 15/16, although nearly all start at age six.

The Independent School Reform of 1992 made it possible for families to send their children to any school – state-run or independent – without having to pay fees. The law states that children have equal rights to education regardless of gender, ethnic or political background, and economic status of their families.

Several checks are in place to ensure equal conditions for private and public schools throughout the country. The independent schools often have a specific focus such as art, music or sport, and they are spreading rapidly. Independent schools in Sweden can open as long as they meet the nationwide educational requirements. Once accepted by the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket), the schools receive government funding and must in return not charge any student fees; they are, however, allowed to accept private donations.

Some people have voiced concerns that it will lead to unfair competition between independent schools and more traditional municipal schools, and that some municipal schools may face the threat of closing as a result. Certainly, the new system is sure to gradually open the traditional Swedish model to new alternative methods of teaching.

The tour

Our specialist cultural and professional study tour takes place between August 17 and 28, 2014. Organisations and schools you will visit include:

  • Swedish School Authorities. 

  • Free Schools Association of Sweden.

  • Uppsala University in Sweden.

  • Pre-primary education in Finland.

  • Meeting with the PTA board in Finland.

  • Visit to the Turun Public School.

  • Haltia’s Nature School. 

  • The Inari Comprehensive School in Lapland.

  • The Sámi Education Institute. 

Learning objectives and anticipated outcomes from the tour are:

  • To learn about the differences and similarities between Finnish, Swedish and the UK educational systems.

  • To learn about the role of the Parent and Teacher Association (PTA) in Finland, their role in promoting health, welfare, safety and education of children.

  • To learn about teacher training systems for the primary, secondary and upper secondary schools in Finland.

  • To learn about changes in Swedish and Finnish educational policies and their impact on education.

  • To appreciate and learn about the flexibility of the Swedish and Finnish curriculum and analyse classroom teaching methods in these countries.

  • To learn how Nature Schools in Finland provide pupils with the opportunity to learn, experience and be inspired by nature to advance their education, as well as the unique curriculum of trail excursions, guided tours and camp activities for children.

  • To learn about Finnish vocational training in remote areas above the Arctic Circle.

Your cultural experience

In addition to its professional focus, the tour offers you the chance to explore the rich cultural heritage of Finland and Sweden. 

You will enjoy beautiful Scandinavian landscapes, learn about the Sámi culture and meet with the indigenous people of Lapland, experience a top class overnight cruise across the Baltic Sea, explore the delights of Helsinki and Stockholm, as well as Medieval castles and historical sites of these special countries. You will travel around Finland and Sweden with a group of fellow teachers and school education professionals. 

The tour will start in Stockholm in Sweden, followed by the Botkyrka City, Turku (Finland), Helsinki, Espoo, Ivalo and Inari in Lapland, before returning to Helsinki for your homeward flight. 

Your group will be accompanied by the British tour leader and editor of SecEd and the primary leadership magazine Headteacher Update Pete Henshaw, and an experienced local guide at each location, who will assure close personal care and attention throughout the tour.

Further information
For more information or to receive a copy of the tour brochure, contact on 020 7501 6741, email


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