The education system in Nordic countries like Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway is regarded amongst the finest in the world. This article will examine the features of these education systems and suggest some features of these systems that can be implemented in India as well. While these countries are grouped together as Nordic countries, each country’s system is unique and designed to suit the country’s needs.

In Sweden, the education system is segregated, with schools having the freedom to design course curriculum. However, they do have to meet certain objectives set out by the local governments. This decentralization allows schools to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of the society and ensure that the students’ needs are met.[1] The curiosity to learn from other European countries and what they do well is a key feature of the Swedish policy making. The National Qualifications Framework introduced in 2015 has helped students and teachers to realize and compare degrees/qualifications awarded in different countries[2].

The Norwegian education system is also praised for its inclusiveness and quality of education. One of the major features is the stress on vocational education. This education may not lead to financial gain, but the lessons learnt through these skills stay with the students for life and enable them to be more self-dependent.[3] Earlier, if you had a degree in vocational education in Norway, you would have had to restart high school. However, the 1994 reforms (also known as Reforms 94) streamlined vocational education and made the study of vocational education much more attractive.[4]

Finland, the world’s happiest country[5] , has been appreciated across the world over for the quality of the country’s education and there are various reasons to support this appreciation. Free education is something that isn’t exactly unique to Finland, but this has undoubtedly led to reduction in classism in the society due to equal access to education. Also, the highly subsidized cost of education isn’t possible without the society believing into the importance of access to education for all. Providing the best research and the best teachers (all teachers are required to have a master’s degree) goes a long way in adding to the quality of education[6]. In this country, all the factors requiring the success of an educational system are seen. Public confidence in the education system is clearly visible. A teacher is very respected in Finland and the success of the reforms in the 1960’s  can be attributed to making teachers a key part of the policymaking process. That brings us to the next point: stakeholder engagement. When Finland’s educational policy was being drafted, educational experts from different fields and different ideologies were selected. This led to the best practices of different sectors being taken up and it ultimately led to the success of the policy. Political commitment towards education has been remarkable. The coalition in Finland that ultimately implemented the education policies was very committed to giving Finnish citizens the best quality education. There are various other factors that come into play as well. However, this can be the starting point towards having a successful educational system and Finland has recognized this.[7]

Iceland is another member of the Nordic family which is well recognized for its investments on education. Its spending on education is amongst the highest in Europe. According to the EACEA Mobility Scoreboard[8],  Iceland is said to fulfill all the elements of foreign language preparation and portability of student support which more established countries like Austria and Portugal have been unable to do.

Denmark’s education system is also worth mentioning. The focus on learning different languages and cultures is very interesting. In the OECD report[9] on Denmark’s education, the reviewers observed an AVU-English course and observed the following; Students are required to make a presentation by researching about the United States’ history and making an oral presentation. There were two teachers and their methodologies were different. One teacher’s aim was to correct the students’ grammar and pronunciation whereas the other teacher’s aim was to encourage the students to debate and draw their own conclusions on the subject (The given topic was how to master anxiety while speaking in public.)

All these systems are very fundamentally sound and can be looked at while attempting to overhaul the education system in a country. Nevertheless, there exists logistical problems that have to be looked at. The individual attention that can be given to a child in a country like Finland cannot be given to a child in a country like India. However, certain aspects like increased political commitment and giving stakeholder importance cannot be ignored. Our system does have apparent flaws and taking some of the best practices of Nordic countries will definitely help in reforming the education system.


[1] Grayson Cox,’8 FACTS ABOUT EDUCATION IN SWEDEN’(2019), https://borgenproject.org/8-facts-about-education-in-sweden/, Accessed on 10th January,2021

[2] Sweden: ‘Lifelong learning strategy’, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/lifelong-learning-strategy-80_en, Accessed on 10th January ,2021

[3] ‘Norway Overview’, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/norway_en, Accessed on 10th January , 2021

[4] Marianne Bertrand, Magne Mogstad and Jack Mountjoy, “Improving educational pathways to social mobility’(2019), https://www.ssb.no/en/forskning/discussion-papers/_attachment/398878, Accessed on 10th January ,2021

[5] John F. Helliwell ,Richard Layard, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Jan- Emmanuel De Neve ,World Happiness Report 2020,  https://happiness-report.s3.amazonaws.com/2020/WHR20.pdf, Accessed on 10th January , 2021

[6] Kevin Dickinson, ‘How does Finland’s top-ranking education system work’, https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/how-finlands-education-system-works

Accessed on 10th January ,2021

[7] Ella Jordan,’ Education reform in Finland and the Comprehensive school system’, https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/case-study/education-policy-in-finland/

Accessed on 10th January,2021

[8] Scoreboard Indicators in Higher Education, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/en/mobility-scoreboard/scoreboard-indicators-higher-education-0

Accessed on 10th January,2021

[9] Danielle Colardyn and Kirsten Baltzer, Teaching, Learning and Assessment for Adults Improving Foundation Skills Case Study: Denmark, https://www.oecd.org/denmark/40046645.pdf

Accessed on 10th January,2021

Written By:

Sridhar Srinivasan

Sridhar is a First year law student at Symbiosis Law School, Noida

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *