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All Points North #62: How English-ready is the Finnish school system?

This week our APN podcast explores what could be done to better serve families who want an English-language education.

Audio: Yle

Steve El-Sharawy, a British father in Finland, said there is a huge demand for English language schooling not just among native English speakers, but from Finnish speakers, too, as well as from a growing number of multicultural families who speak English at home.

A limited number of spots in English-language schools can make competition fierce, raising issues regarding the fairness of the entrance exam system, which assesses kids' English-language skills.

This week's All Points North explores how the Finnish school system accommodates multicultural, multilingual families, particularly in terms of English-language education, which is highly sought-after in Finland.

Falling through the cracks

"Some foreign kids end up in the Finnish system against their will, with the kids just knowing a few words. This can cause the kids to tune out and zone out," El-Sharawy said.

Meanwhile, speaking on condition of anonymity, one teacher in the Finnish public education system told Yle News that Finland doesn't just need more English-language schools — it also needs more specialised training for Finnish educators working in English.

"My son who's a native English speaker has to sit in beginners' English. He could be doing something more constructive with his time instead of studying colours," El-Sharawy explained.

Touching on the topic of school shopping by parents, Anu Halvari from the Finnish National Agency for Education said local schools in areas with a perceived poor reputation are "Finland's best kept secret," with parents probably avoiding them because of "prejudice."

Join the conversation

If you have any questions, or would like to share something on your mind, just contact us via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter accounts, or at

The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed.

This week's show was presented by Zena Iovino and Egan Richardson. Our producer was Priya Ramachandran D’souza and our audio engineer was Pekka Nisu.

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