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Extension of compulsory education

Compulsory education was extended in 2021 so that from now on, all ninth-graders have to apply to upper secondary education. The aim of the reform is to secure all young people with the education and skills that they need in their lives in the future.

Compulsory education ends when the student turns 18 or when student graduates from upper secondary level before the age of 18.

The extension of compulsory education is also a promise of free upper secondary education. Free upper secondary education ends by the end of the calendar year the student turns 20, or if a student graduates from upper secondary level before that.

Why was compulsory education extended?

By extending the compulsory education age, all young people will get the education and the skills that you need in the working life in the future. The purpose of this reform is to increase education and competence at all levels of education, to reduce the differences in learning results, and to increase educational equality and the well-being of all young people.

The aim is that every young person completes secondary education, which means graduating from general upper secondary school or from a vocational institution. 

Where can I get help in choosing a study place?

You should apply for upper secondary education in the national joint application that takes place every spring. Your own school’s guidance counsellor will give you guidance and tutors you about the different study options.

You can also apply to Stadin AO the Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute throughout the year. Please note that most of the study programmes require good or some skills in Finnish.

If you are not enrolled to any school or educational institution, Ohjaamo Helsinki can guide you in finding a study place.

Learn more about the options that the City of Helsinki has to offer in upper secondary education on the General Upper Secondary studies page and on Stadin AO’s website for vocational studies.

What if I don’t get a study place?

The aim is that every young person will be secured a suitable place to study. It is the basic education provider’s (comprehensive school's) responsibility to oversee and guide the admissions. If you do not get a place in the joint application in the spring, the comprehensive school’s guidance counsellor guides you until the summer, or until you manage to secure a study place. If you have not found a study place by autumn, contact Ohjaamo Helsinki for guidance.

You can also complete compulsory education studies in the so-called the transition phase between basic education and secondary education. The transition phase means the time when you move on from the ninth grade to the next level of the school system, which is upper secondary education.

The currently available transition phase study programmes are Voluntary additional basic education (also known as the 10th grade), Preparatory training for general upper secondary education (LUVA), and Preparatory education for vocational training (VALMA).

Apply to these programmes via  All eligible applicants will be admitted to the voluntary additional basic education (10th grade) programme. Applications to VALMA are accepted on a monthly basis. Learn more about applying to VALMA, page in Finnish.

Learn more:

TUVA - New transition phase programme in 2022

You can also advance your compulsory education studies in so-called transition phase education, which means the interim phase between basic education and upper secondary education. As of autumn 2022, the previous transition phase programmes (LUVA, VALMA and the 10th grade) will be replaced by TUVA, which is a new preparatory programme towards a qualification. TUVA is aimed at students who have not yet gained a qualification in upper secondary education, and would like to:

  • improve their abilities to apply to general upper secondary school or vocational education and training
  • clarify their plans, hopes and goals for further studies and work life
  • improve their skills to study and complete a Finnish matriculation examination or a vocational qualification

The length of the TUVA programme is up to one school year (38 week).

TUVA aims at providing you with the study skills and competencies that help you get a place in a general upper secondary education or in vocational education and training and manage your studies. The study skills and competencies can mean, for example, good conduct of the language of instruction, examination or degree, appropriate study skills and life-management skills. You can also raise your basic education grades in the TUVA programme, if it is necessary for getting a study place you want. You can also complete studies of general upper secondary education or vocational education. Each student will have a personal study plan and if necessary, a plan for special support.

In case you need intensive special needs support, you can complete compulsory education studies in the TELMA programme, which is organised by vocational special educational institutions and prepares students for the work life and independent life.

Special support and compulsory education

In all transition phase programmes and in upper secondary education, the student has the right to get support for learning. You can get more information on organising special support from your own school’s special education teacher.

Learn more:

Free of charge upper secondary education

All students will get their upper secondary education free of charge. Free of charge upper secondary education continues beyond the compulsory school age of 18; studies in upper secondary education are free until a student graduates from an upper secondary school, or until the end of the calendar year a student turns 20.

What will be covered free of charge?

Following will be free of charge to all upper secondary students:

  • instruction
  • daily school meal
  • textbooks and other learning materials required in instruction
  • equipment, outfits and other materials required in instruction
  • a computer
  • the 5 tests required for completing the matriculation examination at the end of the general upper secondary syllabus and, in the case of these tests, retake of failed tests
  • school journeys of seven kilometres or more (via Kela’s school transport subsidy)
  • in some special cases, accommodation and travel expenses.

What will not be covered?

In education programmes where personal equipment, such as musical instruments and sports equipment are used, and which are also used by the students outside instruction, the expenses are still incurred by the student.

Compulsory education students may be charged fees for voluntary study trips, excursions, events and other similar activities supplementing studies. The education provider can also offer applied special courses and study periods, which may include fees that are not part of the instruction.

Suspending your studies in upper secondary education

Putting upper secondary education studies on hold is regulated by the Act on Compulsory Education. In most cases, studies can suspended for a fixed period, which is the estimated duration of the circumstances that hinder the completion of compulsory education.

Reasons for suspending compulsory education are:

  • A long-term illness or an injury that hinder the completion of compulsory education
  • Maternity, paternity or parental leave (in practice for the duration of receiving parental allowance)
  • Living abroad temporarily (as an exchange student, or moving abroad with the family)
  • Other weighty reason related to life situation preventing the completion of compulsory education

Compulsory education can be suspended only if the long-term illness or an injury that hinder the completion of compulsory education is permanent.

The decision of suspending compulsory education is made based on the guardian’s application. If the suspension is applied due to an illness or an injury, a medical statement or an expert statement is required as an attachment.

The organiser of the education or training decides on the suspension of compulsory education. If the young person does not have a study place, the young person’s home municipality makes the decision on suspending compulsory education. For more information, get in touch with the pupil’s own school or educational institution.

Learn more about the extension of compulsory education

22.06.2022 09:43