Sweden’s education system used to attract the most attention from UK educators but the ground has shifted as Sweden’s relative performance has failed to improve significantly in recent years. Sweden also espouses ‘free schools’ which many on the left reject out of hand. Finland though is different. In Pisa tables, Finland rates highly on both performance and equity metrics. It also administers a comprehensive school system, (ie no selection) with teaching,  demonstrably, a high status profession.

And, interestingly, it accepts just how important careers advice and guidance is.   Careers guidance and counselling is, in fact, part of the curriculum in every school. In principle, pupils have three options after compulsory schooling (Lower Secondary). Continue to upper secondary schooling (51%). Go the upper secondary vocational route (42%), or find employment. High quality careers guidance quickly became a cornerstone of lower and upper secondary school. Pasi Sahlberg, the well- known commentator on Finland’s education system, says that good careers guidance and counselling in schools ‘have been an important factor in explaining  low grade repetition  and drop-out rates in Finland’. Sahlberg adds that ‘Careers guidance has also acted as an important bridge between formal education and the world of work. As part of the overall career guidance curriculum each student in peruskolou spends at least two weeks in a selected work place’


Do we have anything to learn from Finland’s system? I think so.


In the Finnish school system Persuskolou is the 9-year period spent in comprehensive school. starting aged 7 years.



  1. Do any of these blogs in relation to the importance of good quality careers guidance (and there have been some excellent ones recently )and the destructive policies undertaken by the Coalition, ever find their way to relevant politicians? It would be good to know if so.

    I note that Tristram Hunt posted a shocked reaction to the critical Ofsted report recently on Twitter, but I have seen no follow up, which is sad……it is certainly one way the opposition could begin to develop education policies which would make them distinct from the current Government’s.

    • I think that the government has got the message. Will anything change between now and the election? Probably not. Hunt is on board so too by the way is the Tory chairman of the Select Committee who recently said that DFE should be ashamed of itself given the lack of money invested in careers guidance. The current policy is unsustainable over the medium term
      Gove isnt interested, and preoccupied now with curriculum exams and accountability reforms. Interestingly Milburn in the latests Social Mobility report again called for more investment in careers guidance (ie accepting that this is crucial to aid mobility)

  2. Many thanks for this update. It’s all rather sad…..up to a whole generation of young people in the process of being let down…and knowingly from what you say. That the bit which makes hard to swallow.

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