Curriculum, school subjects and assessment

The curriculum guides the school's activities and instruction. It also describes the goals of learning, the key contents of the school subjects and the assessment criteria.

On this page

Curriculum

The curriculum guides the school's activities and instruction. It describes how the school works and what the school emphasises in its activities. The curricula for schools run by the City of Helsinki are based on the national core curriculum and local emphases in Helsinki.

Learn more about the City of Helsinki's common curricula by viewing or downloading it in PDF file form (link is at the bottom of the page):
Find the Finnish-language schools' common curricula in PDF (go to the eRequirements page)
Find the Swedish-language schools' common curricula in PDF (go to the eRequirements page)

The curriculum for each school can be found on each comprehensive school's own website. Go to page Comprehensive schools in Helsinki

Pupils at our schools study the skills and know-how they will need in the future in accordance with the curriculum. Studies are both independent and cooperative.

Pupils think and act actively and plan and examine things. They start by exercising, and then deepening their skills. Pupils set themselves objectives and assess them.

Oppilaat työskentelevät tablettitietokoneilla, opettajalta voi kysyä neuvoa..
Photo: Jefunne Gimpel

School subjects

Comprehensive school has a total of 20 subjects. In addition to these, pupils study optional subjects. The objectives and key content of the subjects are defined in the curriculum.

  • Subjects that all pupils in the first grade study are mother tongue and literature, A1 language (the first foreign or second national language), mathematics, environmental studies, religion or ethics and arts and practical subjects that are music, visual arts, crafts and physical education. A1 language in the Swedish-language schools is always Finnish.
  • The A2 language begins in grade three. In the Finnish-language schools it is optional, and in the Swedish-language schools it is compulsory.
  • Social studies begin in grade four and history begins in grade five.
  • In the Finnish-language schools, the B1 language begins in grade six
  • Subjects that all pupils in the grade seven start studying are home economics, biology, geography, physics, chemistry and health education. In the Swedish-language schools optional B2 language begins.
  • The optional B2 language begins in grade eight.

More detailed information on subjects

The objectives and key content and assessment criteria of all subjects are defined in the national core curriculum for basic education (available in Finnish) .

In Helsinki, we want all pupils to have the opportunity to learn languages in a versatile and effective manner. That is why our pupils are allowed to study more languages than required by the national number of hours, and the range of languages offered in different schools is broad. Our teachers also make language studies inspiring and motivating.

Languages studies compulsory for everyone

The A1 language begins in grade one and the B1 language begins in grade six.

The A1 language refers to the first foreign language the pupil first starts studying at school. The A1 language begins in grade one and is studied for 2–3 hours a week, depending on the grade. The choice of the first foreign language is important because the pupil's language skills will become particularly strong in that language. The pupil will study the selected language throughout basic education and later in upper secondary education. 

Inform the school of your child’s language choice wishes when enrolling for first grade. The language selection for each school is available on the school's website. More detailed information about language studies and teaching is provided at the schools’ information events and parents’ evenings in pre-primary education.

The B1 language refers to the language beginning in grade six. In Helsinki, B1 languages are studied for two hours a week in grades six to nine.

Optional language studies

Pupils also have the opportunity to study optional languages from the third and eighth grades onwards. Starting studies in the optional language is voluntary, but once the studies start, the choice will be binding and the pupil will study the selected language throughout basic education.

The A2 language begins in grade three and is studied for 1–3 hours a week, depending on the grade. In grades 7–9, teaching is organised in such a way that the pupil's number of hours a week is 1–2 hours higher than for others or that the A2 language is one of the pupil's optional subjects. This means that choosing the A2 language may affect the number of optional subjects in grades 7–9.

The B2 language begins in grade eight in all languages except in Latin. Studies in Latin begins as early as in grade seven, and the pupils to be included in the teaching are selected via a language test. The B2 language is studied according to the school's own lesson plan presented in the school curriculum.

Language options

In our Finnish-language schools

  • A1 language options are English, Spanish, Chinese, Northern Sámi, French, Swedish, German, Russian and Estonian
  • A2 language options are English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Swedish, German and Russian
  • B1 language options are Swedish and English
  • B2 language options are Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Latin, French, German and Russian.

Not all languages listed are available at every school. At the majority of schools, the A1 language can be chosen from at least two alternatives, but at some schools, only English is available. The language selection of each school is available on the school website.

Bilingual basic education

You can also study in bilingual basic education in Helsinki. Learn more about the different options below. Please note that for basic education in English and for bilingual education pupils are selected via a language test.
Basic education in English
Bilingual education
English-enriched education
Swedish-language immersion

Languages studies compulsory for everyone

In our Swedish-language schools, the A1 language is always Finnish, and it starts in the first grade. A pupils can be study either the native-level Finnish syllabus or A1 Finnish syllabus.

A2 language in the Swedish-language schools starts in grade 3. It is studied for 2−3 per week,

Optional language studies

Pupils also have the opportunity to study optional languages. Starting studies in the optional language is voluntary, but once the studies start, the choice will be binding, and the pupil will study the selected language throughout basic education.

In our Swedish-language schools, pupils can study optional B2 language form the seventh grade onwards. The B2 language starts a year earlier than in the Finnish-language schools. In Helsinki, B2 language is studied for two hours more than what is the national minimum.

Language options

In our Swedish-language schools

  • A1 language options are Finnish and native-level Finnish.
  • A2 language options are English, French and German.
  • B2 language options are English, French, German and Spanish.

Not all the A2 and B2 languages above are available in every school.

Mother tongue or home language studies support multilingual pupils in maintaining and developing their language skills. In Helsinki, a total of roughly 50 different languages are taught as a mother tongue. Out of these, pupils can only participate in the teaching of one language. The language studies supplement basic education, and the pupil will receive a separate assessment for these studies. 

The lessons are held once a week in the morning or afternoon, when the pupil has no other classes. The largest language groups may be taught at the pupil’s own school, but often pupils have to travel to another school for lessons. If necessary, you can apply for a student travel card for these journeys.

Who can apply for the studies?
  • multilingual pupils whose mother tongue is not Finnish or Swedish
  • pupils who speak Romani or whose families speak Romani
  • pupils who speak a Sámi language or whose families speak a Sámi language
  • pupils returning to Finland from another country in which they have learned a foreign language.

Mother tongue instruction is only organised for pupils in schools maintained by the City of Helsinki and other schools that are part of the City's local school network.

How do you enrol your child in mother tongue instruction?

Enrol your child in to mother tongue instruction upon enrolling the child to grade one and seven. At other times, enrol your child in Wilma under ‘Ilmoittautuminen oman äidinkielen opetukseen’ (enrolment in mother tongue instruction).

If you are unable to use Wilma, enrol your child using a PDF form below. Return the completed form to the school secretary of the pupil’s school.

Forms

After enrolment, you may request information on the time and place of lessons from your child's own school. Groups for new languages are formed based on the number of enrolled pupils.

Pupils can participate in the instruction after enrolment. The enrolment will be valid until the guardian notifies the school of an interruption or when the pupil moves on to grade seven, in which case the enrolment must be repeated.

Participation in mother tongue studies is optional; however, once the pupil has enrolled in the studies, the pupil is  required to attend the lessons regularly.

Finnish or Swedish as a second language and literature is a way of completing the mother tongue and literature subject studies. 

Finnish as a second language and literature (S2) is intended for pupils: 

  • whose mother tongue is not Finnish, Swedish or a Sámi language or who have a multilingual background, and
  • whose Finnish language skills are not sufficient for them to study Finnish as a mother tongue (Finnish language and literature studies, S1), or 
  • whose language proficiency is clearly lacking in a certain language competence area, such as understanding speech, speaking, writing and understanding text.

Similarly, our Swedish-language schools offer Swedish as a second language and literature (S2) studies. 

S2 instruction improves the ability of the pupil to speak Finnish or Swedish so that they can work and study in Finnish or Swedish with others. 

Teachers assess the pupil's language skills in different language areas and, on this basis, recommend Finnish or Swedish as a second language and literature (S2) or Finnish or Swedish and literature (S1) studies for the pupil. Ultimately, the decision is up to the guardian. 

S2 studies can be provided either in S2 classes or in joint language and literature studies for S2 and S1 pupils. S2 studies do not increase the pupils' weekly hours. 

Pupils can study according to S2 objectives until their skills are sufficient for Finnish language and literature studies (or in Swedish-language schools for studies in Swedish language and literature).

More information about Finnish as a second language (S2) studies (PDF) in the following languages: Finnish, Swedish, English, Albanian, Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, Nepalese, French, Sorani, Somali, Tagalog, Turkish, Ukrainian, Russian, Vietnamese and Estonian.

in Finnish , in Swedish , in English,  in Albanian , in Arabic in Farsi , in Chinese , in Nepalese , in French , in Sorani , in Somali , in Tagalog , in Turkish ,in Ukranian , in Russian , in Vietnamese ja in Estonian

One of the common subjects of basic education is religion or ethics. The teaching of religion is politically neutral and religiously non-denominational.

The responsibility for a child's religious education belongs to the home.

Below you will find a description of which religion studies the pupil can or should participate in. Religion or ethics instruction in school depends on which religious community the pupil belongs or does not belong to.
 
Pupil who is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church

  • always participates in the Evangelical Lutheran religion instruction.

Pupil who is a member of the Orthodox Church 

  • participates in the Orthodox religion instruction, or 
  • can participate in the instruction for the majority, i.e. the Evangelical Lutheran religion, after the guardian has notified the school.

Pupils belonging to one of these religious communities registered in Finland: the Buddhist community, Islam, Krishna and the Catholic Church

  • may, at the request of their guardian, participate in the instruction of their own religion (in Swedish-language school this applies to Islam and Catholic church only), or
  • can participate in the instruction for the majority, i.e. the Evangelical Lutheran religion, after the guardian has notified the school or
  • may, at the request of their guardian, participate in ethics teaching, or
  • may, at the request of their guardian, participate in the teaching of Orthodox religion, if the teaching, on the basis of the pupils' educational and cultural background, appears to correspond to their religious beliefs.

Pupils belonging to another religious community registered in Finland (which is not one of the religious communities listed above)

  • can participate in the instruction of their own religious community instead of the religion classes at school after the guardian has notified the school. In this event, the guardian must submit to the school a statement of the pupil’s membership of the religious community in question and their participation in instruction provided outside of school. This education will not be graded on the pupil’s report card. Or
  • can participate in the instruction for the majority, i.e. the Evangelical Lutheran religion, after the guardian has notified the school or 
  • may, at the request of their guardian, participate in ethics instruction, or
  • may, at the request of their guardian, participate in the Orthodox religion instruction or their own religion, if the teaching, on the basis of the pupil’s educational and cultural background, appears to correspond to their religious beliefs, or
  • does not participate in any religion or ethics instruction. In this event, the school will organise other instruction or guided activities as substitute activities.

Pupils not belonging to a religious community

  • participate in ethics instruction, or
  • can participate in the instruction for the majority, i.e. the Evangelical Lutheran religion, after the guardian has notified the school or
  • may, at the request of their guardian, participate in the Orthodox religion instruction or their own religion, if the instruction, on the basis of the pupil’s educational and cultural background, appears to correspond to their religious beliefs.

Religious events at school

More detailed information about the ethics instruction and applying for instruction of the pupil’s own religion is provided by the pupil’s school. At the start of the school year, the school informs the guardians about religious events held at the school. The guardians decide whether the pupil will attend these events. Alternative activities are always provided for religious events.

Optional studies deepen learning, expand studies and strengthen the pupils’ readiness for further education. They provide pupils with the opportunity to develop their competence in the subjects they choose.

Optional studies include optional classes in artistic and practical subjects, optional subjects and optional syllabi in foreign languages.

The selection of optional studies is available in the curriculum of each school. The content of optional subjects and their availability in different grades are decided by the schools themselves. The selection of optional syllabi in foreign languages varies between schools, but the lesson distribution is the same throughout Helsinki.

Optional subjects are evaluated either in numerical grades or in writing. Optional classes in artistic and practical subjects are part of the compulsory syllabi in these subjects. They will be assessed as part of these subjects and the optional subjects will not be assessed separately. Optional syllabi in foreign languages are assessed in numerical grades starting in grade four.

Weighted-curriculum education and basic education in different languages

Did you know that more than half of the Finnish-language schools in the City of Helsinki offer weighted-curriculum education or basic education in a language other than Finnish partly or in full? Learn more about the different options:

Weighted-curriculum education
Basic education in different languages

Guidance counselling

The aim of guidance counselling is that pupils identify their strengths and interests. Guidance counselling increases the student's knowledge of employment, learning skills and the ability to make choices.

Guidance counselling consists of group classes and personal guidance. The most important task of the guidance counsellor is to discuss the study options after comprehensive school with the pupil. The counsellor will not make choices on behalf of the young person, but will help clarify the pupil's thoughts and provide information on different opportunities. Pupils who needs a lot of personal guidance may receive enhanced personal guidance starting from the eighth grade.

Assessment of learning and skills

The curriculum defines the objectives of learning, skills and education. The assessment criteria are based on the objectives of the subjects.

Assessment guides and encourages pupils in their studies and develops the pupils' ability to assess their own learning and skills.

The national assessment criteria, i.e. the common assessment criteria of Finnish schools, reinforce equality in the annual assessment at the end of the sixth grade and the final assessment of comprehensive school at the end of the ninth grade.

The pupils receive daily assessments during the school year as a part of teaching and schoolwork. The feedback is qualitative and descriptive, and its objective is to support each pupil’s objectives.

The pupils will understand and see the practical grounds for assessment and the different assessment methods, as well as the ways in which they can influence their own learning and progress.

Pupils receive an annual report at the end of the school year. The report assesses, descriptively or numerically, the pupil’s achievement of their objectives in different subjects. 

  • Only descriptive assessments are provided for subjects studied in grades 1–3.
  • Numerical assessments are provided for grades 4–9.
  • If the pupil's mother tongue is not a language used in teaching, the assessment may be descriptive or numerical, with the exception of the final assessment.
  • The assessment of individual syllabi of a pupil in extended compulsory education can be both descriptive and numerical. 

At the end of grade six, the criteria for marks 5, 7, 8 and 9 in each subject have been defined. These criteria will be used for the annual assessment at the end of sixth grade in the academic year 2023–2024. In spring 2023, the annual assessment will use the criteria set out for the mark 8 in the subjects.

At the end of comprehensive school, or at the end of ninth grade, pupils will receive a certificate for basic education.

The final assessment is not based on the average values of previous annual certificates, and instead has its own criteria. The criteria for marks 5, 7, 8 and 9 in each subject have been defined for the final assessment.

Grade-independent studies

Grade-independent studies  enable individual advancement in studies. They can be used to support talent or to prevent a pupil dropping out of studies.

Grade-independent arrangements can be used to organise studies for the entire school, certain grades or individual pupils.

Photo: Jefunne Gimpel