The Comparison of Education Systems in Czech and Finland | Lauri Vähätalo, Alena Slavikova and Jana Burianova                 

In this article, we will demonstrate the main differences and similarities of Finnish and Czech education systems. Observations made will be expressed parallel as we are pursuing coherent understanding about the core differences between the two education systems. The observation will be conducted on a general level. The main similarity between these two education systems seems to be the nationally funded education. Even though Czech parents have to pay children’s daily meals, books and necessary study materials such as pens and notebooks, the education in itself is free of charge.

Early years and upper secondary school

Compulsory school is organized in the same way in both education systems. It has two stages. The first stage lasts six years in Finland, and in Czech, the same stage includes grades one to five. The second stage in both systems is a secondary school, which lasts four years in Czech and three years in Finland. Contrary to Finnish secondary education, in Czech the second stage of comprehensive school contains mandatory state acceptance exams. They are the same for every ninth grader and they can be considered as entrance exams for grammar school and the four-year vocational school (e. g. Public management, Lyceum of Pedagogy, Social service, etc.).

Czech has a lot more multifaceted possibilities in the upper secondary with some similarities to

  • Vocational course lasts two or three years; ends with a qualification exam and the students receive a vocational certificate.
  • Vocational school with maturita lasts five years; the vocational course lasts three years and the remaining two years of education prepare students for the maturita exam. It also contains a qualification exam.
  • Professional high school lasts four years, ends with the maturita exam and a more advanced qualification exam.
  • Grammar school lasts four, six or eight years (primary education can be finished after 5th grade / eight years or at 7th grade /six years in grammar school); ends with the maturita exam and has no qualification, so the educational background does not matter. The main objective is to prepare the students for further studies. (OECD 2016, 39–41.)
  • Conservatoire lasts six years. Students are able to take courses in singing, dancing and acting or train a specific instrument. Afterwards they are able to apply for Academy of Performing Arts, which will grant them an academic degree.

In Czech, maturita exam consist of two parts, state and school part. The state part is national and the exams are organized by state’s agency, CERMAT. In the school part, students must choose two or three subjects, which they have included into their studies. Maturita is a requirement for university studies and higher professional schools. (OECD 2016, 25, 55.)

Picture 1 The Czech Education system

Unlike shown in picture 1, the last year of pre-primary education is mandatory from the 2017 onwards. So attendance to education is compulsory for 11 years in Czech and it continues from the age of five to the age of 15.

In the Finnish context, there is not much variation in the way that upper secondary education can be completed. There are two main educational routes which are the vocational and the general upper secondary school. Also, some minor pathways exist. One possibility is to complete dual qualification, which means that student carries out both vocational education and the general upper secondary degree (Opetushallituksen palvelukokonaisuus). There is also possibility to receive one extra year of education after leaving comprehensive school, which gives the possibility to improve grades that are evaluated almost in every upper secondary school. (MEC webpages; 1.) The Finnish education system is shown in more detail in picture 2.


Source: MEC webpages

Picture 2 The Finnish Education system

Higher education

The Bologna process is the European Union’s educational reform with an aim to unify all tertiary education in the European region. It started in 1998, and is actively promoted even today (Pyykkö 2014, 10–11). Therefore, tertiary education does not have huge differences in Finland and Czech. In practice, higher education has similar structures, and only the names of educational operators differ.

In the Finnish education system, there are science universities, art universities and universities of applied sciences. The latter refers to a more practical approach (MEC webpages). In Czech, the more practical point of view is represented in high professional schools that educate for example qualified dental hygienist, qualified lab technicians or qualified pharmacy assistants, and these schools can be seen as a natural transition from vocationally oriented upper secondary school (MEYS 2012, 26 – 28).

Big wheels are moving and society is keenly waiting for the outcomes of the changes in the educational systems.

In higher education, the study structure is rather similar and it contains in both countries bachelor’s degree, master’s thesis and doctorate. Notable differences seem to appear only on the governmental level. The most considerable difference is the title “DiS” (in Czech language: diplomovaný specialista; specialist with diploma) (MEYS 2012, 26 – 28). It can be considered equal to Finnish bachelor’s degree (Statistic Finland, webpages). However, the Czech employers are considering the title to be less than a bachelor’s degree, so either higher education does not have the same respect in Czech that it has in Finland or the degree (DiS) in itself differs in some crucial way from the bachelor’s degree.

In Czech after five years of studies in higher education students can continue their education to become Ph.D. People refer to this as a “big doctorate”, because students have to study three or four years. There are also another doctorate where there are no additional studies above the master thesis, but the students merely write another thesis, which they have to present to the committee. In Czech this is referred to as a “small doctorate”. (MEYS 2012, 26 – 28.)

Culture differences inside the educational systems

In Czech, teachers are seen more as an authority to students than equals. At universities, students have to address the teachers with their titles (e.g. mister professor, missis master). In Finland, this kind of formal communication between students and teachers does not really exist. Even though one could argue that in comprehensive school teachers are more like an authority.

Teachers have a low social status in the Czech society, which can also be seen in their salary (OEDC 2014, 2). However, the appreciation of Czech teachers was about to get better, since the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport considered beginning to evaluate teachers’ competence individually. In short, teachers’ pay would have been based on competences rather than be dictated on a national level in future. Unfortunately, during the writing process of this article, the Czech parliament stopped the process of the salary reform.

Teachers do not face serious lack of appreciation in Finland, even though their position seems to have slightly decreased over time (f.ex. Lindén 76–77). Still, it can be said that teachers’ work is highly respected, even though salary is not that high if compared to other professions that require academic education. In general discussion, the long holidays seem to compensate the minor deficit in salary.

In Czech, there is discussion about teachers not deserving the long 40 days of holiday, and teachers are even being accused that they are only motivated to teach because of the long holidays. This kind of pejorative talk easily leads to a misunderstanding that anybody could teach. Because of the low general opinion of teachers, many of the students who apply for pedagogical studies and even complete the master’s degree does not begin to teach.

In Finland, the continuous cuts in funding (Finnish government announcement 2016) are positioning teachers into rather difficult situations where their expertise is constantly being tested and new innovative ways of teaching are being demanded. When evaluated on a national level, it is quite difficult to say whether lack of appreciation or lack of funding is bigger and more complicated problem.


This review has shown some similarities and quite a few drastic differences in the appreciation of teacher’s. The structure of the education system is partly different between Czech and Finland. Children start school earlier in Czech and they seem to have, at least on the governmental level, more possible ways to carry out their education path, than in the Finnish education system.

Despite the differences in the education structures, there are also distinctive similarities. First of all, the comprehensive school has biphasic structure in both countries. It is performed as a two stage schooling where the first five (Czech) and six (Finland) years are mainly taught by a single teacher. The remaining four (Czech) and three (Finland) years of comprehensive school are taught by multiple teachers and are by nature more like an upper secondary school.

Upper secondary education systems is the part of the education systems that differ most. Czech’s vocational education provides various alternatives, many more than the Finnish vocational education. The general upper secondary school is in both systems a place for students to prepare themselves for the future studies, whether it will be a science, art or a practically oriented university.

Tertiary education does not have that many differences, and overall the differences that are noticeable are minor and mostly have something to do with the lengths or structures of studies. Therefore, international students’ exchange inside higher education seems fairly easy to arrange between Finland and Czech.

The biggest differences between these two education systems are based on the society itself and in the way teachers and teaching are being regarded. Czech has had some major difficulties with the appreciation of teachers and also teachers’ salary has aroused some worries. Even though in Finland there have not been this kind of troubles with the respect of teachers, it is still notable that both education systems are in the midst of great changes; Czech has withdrawn from the attempt to improve teachers’ appreciation, whereas Finland is having some serious debates about the new way of teaching and the outcomes of the vocational education reform. Big wheels are moving and society is keenly waiting for the outcomes of the changes in the educational systems.


Finnish Government. (2017, April 5) Hallitus sopi julkisen talouden suunnitelmasta vuosille 2017–2020. Anouncements, 135/2017. Retrieved July 5, 2017, form

Lindén, J. 2010. Kutsumuksesta palkkatyöhön – Perusasteen opettajan työn muuttunut luonne ja logiikka. Tampereen yliopisto. Departument of Education. Doctoral Thesis. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from

Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), webpage.  Read July 5, 2017.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of Czech Republic (MEYS), 2012. The Education System of Czech Republic. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from

OECD 2014. Country Note: Education at a Glance 2014. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from

Opetushallituksen palvelukokonaisuus. Ammatillisen koulutuksen rakenne, tutkinnot ja arviointi, webpage. Read September 19, 2017.

Pyykkö, R. 2014. Suomi osana Euroopan korkeakoulutusaluetta. In title: Kullaslahti, J. & Yli-Kauppila, A. (edit.) Osaamisperustaisuudesta tekoihin. Turku university Brahea-center. Pages 10–18. Retrieved July 5, 2017 from

Shewbridge, C. Herczyński, J. Radinger, T. & Sonnemann, J 2016. OECD Reviews of School resources: Czech Republic 2016. OECD, Paris. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from OECDiLibrary.

Statistic Finland, webpage.  Read July 5, 2017., webpage (1).  Read July 5, 2017., webpage (2).  Read July 5, 2017.


Lauri Vähätalo, Educational Designer, Vocational Teacher Education, Tampere University of Applied Sciences

Alena Slavikova, Trainee, Vocational Teacher Education, Tampere University of Applied Sciences

Jana Burianova, Trainee,  Vocational Teacher Education, Tampere University of Applied Sciences