In the future, all students who graduate from comprehensive school will be required to apply for upper secondary education via the joint application (the nationwide upper secondary school and vocational school application). Students who graduated from comprehensive school and applied with the joint application in spring 2021 were the first to have free upper secondary education and their compulsory education extended to the age of 18.

The Compulsory Education Act came into effect at the beginning of August 2021, but the regulations about the need to apply came into effect at the beginning of January the same year. Compulsory education will now end when a student reaches the age of 18 or completes an upper secondary qualification, either a matriculation examination or a vocational qualification.

The Need to Apply for Upper Secondary Education

After basic education (which ends at 9th grade), compulsory education usually continues in upper secondary school or vocational school. Alternatively, if the student has not yet decided what they wish to study or if they lack the the studying skills needed for upper secondary education, they can attend one of the following before going to upper secondary education:

  • studies that prepare students for upper secondary education: tenth grade, VALMA, and LUVA. (These three will become one system, TUVA, from August 2022)
  • basic adult education (for 17-year-olds who have not completed a basic education curriculum or immigrants with a lower level of language skills)
  • some other form of education that is part of compulsory education

After completing basic education, students of compulsory education age need to apply for secondary education either via the joint application or in another way. When a student receives a study place and begins their studies, they no longer need to apply. If a student does not receive a study place with the joint application, they need to continue to apply until they are successful.

When the student’s basic education ends, the provider of this basic education needs to guide and supervise the student's application for upper secondary education, especially during the last year of basic education. If necessary, in addition to student guidance in accordance with the curriculum, students have the right to receive personal student guidance suitable for their own needs.

Free Upper Secondary Education

As compulsory education expands, the study materials, tools, clothing, and all other resources required for studying, as well as the exams for the matriculation examination completed at the end of upper secondary school, will be free of charge for students.

If a student lives at least seven kilometres away from the school, transport to school will also be free of charge for those students. Free transport to school is taken care of by the school transport system. The right to free school transport is applied for from and granted by Kela; the municipality or the education provider is not responsible for granting the right to school transport.

The aim is that every student who finishes basic education can complete an upper secondary qualification completely free of charge.

  • If a student completes two qualifications at the same time, education is free until the student has completed both a vocational degree and a matriculation examination
  • The right to free upper secondary education lasts until the end of the calendar year in which the student reaches the age of 20, unless the student completes a degree before that
  • The first students to receive free upper secondary education are those who finished basic education in the spring of 2021 (students born in 2005). Free upper secondary education will come into effect one age group at a time
  • Students who, according to the Compulsory Education Act, are not of compulsory education age and students who have started their upper secondary studies after the age of 20 do not receive free upper secondary education