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Frequently asked questions

Here you can find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about education in different languages in Helsinki. If you still need help, please contact the Education Coordinator by email at or contact the Education Division Advisory Services by telephone on +358 9 310 44986, Mon–Fri 10 am–12 noon and 1–3 pm, or visit us at Töysänkatu 2 D on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you would like to meet us at any other time, please call and book an appointment.

See also Starting school in Helsinki - Frequently asked questions, PDF

What options for basic education are there for children who don’t know Finnish or Swedish?

Children with no or limited Finnish or Swedish skills are offered so-called preparatory education for basic education. The aim of preparatory education is to acquire basic Finnish or Swedish skills in order to continue studying in a regular Finnish or Swedish-speaking classroom. Preparatory education takes place either in a regular classroom together with Finnish or Swedish-speaking pupils (for grades 1 and 2) or in a separate group (for grades 3 to 9). In preparatory education, pupils focus on developing basic Finnish or Swedish skills, but they also study other subjects all along, learning the language through the subject content. They also study together with Finnish or Swedish-speaking classes in certain subjects as soon as their developing language skills allow it. For more information on preparatory education, see Preparatory education.

There are a few other options for studying in a language other than Finnish or Swedish. The City of Helsinki has some schools that offer basic education in English, and some private schools in Helsinki area do that as well. In addition to that, there are several schools offering bilingual education in different languages, but studying in bilingual classes requires at least basic knowledge of Finnish. For private schools, see the list of schools at the bottom of this page. For English-medium and bilingual classes offered by the City of Helsinki, see Basic education in English and Bilingual education.

I want my children to get their education in English. What are my options?

In the schools run by the City of Helsinki, your child can study entirely in English, attend a bilingual Finnish-English class, or attend so-called English-enriched basic education. The amount of English and the admission requirements vary between these three options. See the Options in English page for more information on each alternative.

There are some private schools offering English-medium basic education in Helsinki area, and the neighbouring cities Espoo and Vantaa have their own international schools. See the list of links at the end of this page for more information about the private options and options in other cities. Please note that private schools may charge fees.

Why is there a language test to basic education in English and bilingual classes?

Studying in basic education in English requires native or near-native skills of English, as all teaching is in English. That is why the applicant’s English skills need to be tested. The test is designed so that it measures the applicant’s ability to succeed in an English-language classroom, and it has a minimum passing score, which the applicant must get in order to be accepted. The aim of the language test is, among other things, to find out the applicants’ level of English grammar and vocabulary, and their ability to follow instructions in English.

For basic education entirely in English, Finnish skills are normally not required. However, when applying to 8th and 9th grade on the English-medium classes at Ressu Comprehensive School, some basic spoken Finnish skills are required (level A1 on the Common European Framework of Languages). This is because the Finnish national curriculum for basic education requires a certain amount of studies in the Finnish language, and it is not possible to complete those studies in one or two years with no prior knowledge of the language.

As for bilingual classes, an applicant should know either Finnish or the target language when applying to 1st grade. The idea of bilingual education is to offer the pupils the possibility to acquire another language without any prior knowledge, and that is why the language test for 1st grade in bilingual classes only measures general linguistic skills and abilities. It can be taken in either language. Towards the upper grades, the applicants are expected to have an increasing fluency in both languages, and that is why knowledge of both languages is tested in the language test from 2nd grade upwards.

What is the language test for basic education in English like? Can I prepare my child to it somehow?

The language test measures the applicant’s ability to succeed in an English-language classroom, and it has a minimum passing score that the applicant must attain in order to be accepted. The test is not only about English vocabulary and grammar, but also about the ability to follow instructions in English. When applying to 1st grade, the applicant does not have to know how to read and write. When applying to 2nd grade and upwards, the expectations for the applicant’s listening, reading and writing skills in English gradually increase.

When applying to 1st or 2nd grade the language test consists of a written part and a short interview. For 1st grade, the written part does not include actual reading or writing, but performing certain tasks on paper according to the teacher’s instructions. For other grades, the language test consists of a written part only, but it does include some listening comprehension tasks.

There is no need to prepare the child to the language test, except for encouraging them to do their best and follow the instructions of the teacher who runs the test.

We are moving to Helsinki from another country. Can we apply from abroad?

Yes, you can. You can send your application from abroad, but please note that you have to be present in the language test on the given date. It is not possible to take the language test online. Also, please note that you must have an address of residence in Helsinki when the principal makes the official admission decision (this will happen very soon after the language test).

We live in Espoo. Can we apply to a school in Helsinki?

Yes, residents of other cities can apply to schools run by the City of Helsinki. However, Helsinki residents are given priority in the admissions, and residents of other cities can be accepted only if there are free places after Helsinki residents have been considered. However, this does not apply in the continuous admission for English medium (grades 2-9), which is only for new residents of Helsinki.

Are there other options for basic education in different languages than schools run by the City of Helsinki?

Yes, there are. In addition to municipal schools run by the City of Helsinki, there is a wide range of private and state-owned comprehensive schools that offer basic education in another language such as English, French, German and Russian. The neighbouring cities Espoo and Vantaa have some options, too. See the following links for more information, and contact the schools directly to learn more about their admissions. Please note that some private schools may charge school fees.




19.12.2022 12:49