Concepts and definitions

Completers of comprehensive school

In the statistics on comprehensive school education and on entrance to education completers of comprehensive education refer to pupils who have satisfactorily completed the full comprehensive school syllabus and received a school-leaving certificate from comprehensive school. The full comprehensive school syllabus can be completed in comprehensive schools, upper secondary general schools and folk high schools.


Education refers here to education leading to a qualification or degree.

Education leading to a qualification or degree (qualification or degree-oriented education) refers to education leading to the completion of the full syllabus of comprehensive school (school-leaving certificate), completion of the full syllabus of upper secondary general school (matriculation examination certificate), International Baccalaureate certificate, Reifeprüfung certificate, European Baccalaureate certificate, Gymnasieexamen certificate, initial vocational qualification, basic vocational qualification, specialist vocational qualification, university of applied sciences degree, higher university of applied sciences degree or university degree.

Education leading to a qualification or degree is classified by the classification of education.

Educational system

The Finnish educational system is comprised of the following:

Pre-primary education is provided in Finland to 6-year-old children, usually at children's day care homes. Some 6-year-old children receive pre-primary education in comprehensive schools. Attendance of pre-primary education has been compulsory since 2015.

Comprehensive school education is general knowledge education provided for entire age cohorts. All children permanently resident in Finland must attend compulsory education. Compulsory education starts in the year of the child's seventh birthday.

Compulsory education finishes when the syllabus of comprehensives school education has been completed (9-year comprehensive school), or 10 years from the start of compulsory education. In exceptional cases compulsory education may start already at the age of six and last 11 years due to a disability or illness. A student who has received a leaving certificate from comprehensive school in the same year or in the year before it may continue to attend optional additional education (10th grade).

Post-comprehensive school education, or upper secondary general education and vocational education represent secondary level of education. Upper secondary general school education is education leading to a matriculation examination. Its scope is three years and it gives general eligibility to further education. Vocational education can be either educational institution-based or apprenticeship training. In apprenticeship training, most of the studying is comprised of learning through practical work tasks at a workplace. The qualifications are initial vocational qualifications attained in three years, which also give general eligibility to further polytechnic or university studies.

Further and specialist vocational qualifications represent further vocational education. They, as well as initial vocational qualifications can be attained in a skills examination that can be taken irrespective of the way of acquisition of professional skills, and in which skills can be proven on the basis of preparatory education for a skills examination or work experience.

Attainment of university of applied sciences degrees takes 3.5 to 4.5 years and higher university of applied sciences degrees requiring work practice 1-1.5 years. Attainment of lower university degrees takes three years while higher university degrees take two years longer. Attainers of higher level university degrees may continue their studies to licentiate and doctorate level degrees.

Main type of activity

The concept of main type of activity describes the nature of a person's economic activity. The population is divided into people in the labour force and those outside the labour force. These categories can further be divided into subgroups. The classification is based on data on a person's main type of activity during the last week of the year.

The following classification is used:

Labour force

  • employed labour force
  • unemployed

Persons outside the labour force

  • 0-14-year-olds
  • students, pupils
  • pensioners
  • conscripts, conscientious objectors
  • others outside the labour force.

Information on the main type of activity is based on data obtained from various registers. Where the data conflict as to whether a person is in the labour force or outside it, priority is given to the former. If, within the labour force, the data conflict as to whether a person is unemployed or employed, priority is given to the former.

The group "others outside the labour force" consists of persons who are not in the labour force and do not belong to the following groups: 0-14-year-olds, students, conscripts, conscientous objectors or pensioners.

Matriculation examination

Matriculation examination refers to a final examination of upper secondary general school which is set by the matriculation examination board and which a student studying the full upper secondary general school syllabus can take. Satisfactory pass of the matriculation examination leads to a matriculation examination certificate.

New student

In the statistics on entrants to education and progress of studies new students in upper secondary general education and university of applied sciences education refer to the students studying on 20 September who had registered into certain studies in the educational institution concerned between 1 January and 20 September. New students in vocational education refer to students who became registered in the educational institution during the calendar year studying in curriculum-based vocational education and attending education preparing for a skills examination, as well as students who have made an apprenticeship training agreement during the calendar year. Before 2013, new students in curriculum-based vocational education were those registered between 1 January and 20 September. From 2010 onwards, new students in university education refer to students having started studies leading to the current university degree at the university concerned and studying on 20 September. Previously, new students referred to students that had enrolled at the university concerned for the first time to study for a lower or upper university degree in any field of education and studying on 20 September.

The number of new students is lower than in other statistics by sector of education because it only includes students with a correct Finnish personal ID number and because a new student is only included once in the number of students by sector of education, level of education or some other variable, such as educational institute.

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Entrance to education [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-4527. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 19.10.2021].
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