How Homework Works In Finland (Hint: There Isn’t Any)

When we talk about how our education system is failing our students, there are a lot of different options presented on how to ‘fix’ it. Everyone has an answer, a promising new way of thinking, a potential magic bullet. Inevitably, we also examine school systems that are working as a part of investigating what to do or not to do with our own.

And one of those that is working and is almost always mentioned is Finland. Their students regularly top the charts on global education metrics despite a lack of homework and more away-from-the-desk time during the school day. No homework is a pretty drastic measure in most people’s minds, so how does it work?

The handy infographic below takes a look at why homework doesn’t seem to be a necessity given the structure of the rest of the system. Do you think a Finland-esque education system would work here in the US? Why or why not? Weigh in by leaving a comment below, mentioning @Edudemic on Twitter or leaving your thoughts on our Facebook page.

There’s No Homework in Finland

  • Finland boasts a 93% high school graduation rate (78% in Canada and 75% in the US)
  • 2 in 3 students go on to college
  • The mean PISA score in Finland is 20+ points higher than the next highest scoring country (Hong Kong)
  • The ratio of teachers to students is 1:12 (compared with 1:24 in New York city, for example)
  • There are no separate classrooms for accelerated or special education
  • 1 in 3 students receives some sort of special assistance in school
  • Standardized testing is minimized: only one test is taken at age 16
  • Students get about 75 minutes of recess per day
  • Homework is rarely given until students are teenagers
  • All teachers have a Master’s degree, which is subsidized by the state
  • Only the top 10% of students are accepted into teaching programs
  • Teachers are held in the same esteem as doctors and lawyers




  1. Niels

    July 27, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    How are the suicide rates in Finland again? Grades and test results isn’t everything. Stop using Finland and Singapore as examples of good school systems, please. Education is more than PISA.

    • steffen

      August 2, 2014 at 4:29 am

      What information do you have, that makes the talk of suicide rates relevant, to an article about homework?

      Could there be other reasons for the high rates?

  2. Kelly A. Serrano

    July 27, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    I am so glad to be reading this. I wrote a post on my blog about my views on homework and how they have developed over time. One thing though – I am really curious about the demographics in Finland and socio-economical status of the majority of the families. I feel poverty really affects and challenges our educational system. Putting money on tests is NOT going to change things.

    “I have battled over the concept and purpose of homework for years. When I started teaching, I had a very firm belief – homework was extremely important. If children were to be successful at school, then homework was not an option, it was a necessity.

    I clearly remember running copies of thick packets of homework for students to take home every Monday and return it every Friday. It felt great. The more, the better…They are practicing. They are getting better with each page they complete I thought.”


  3. Maria Byman

    July 28, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    There are some crucial mistakes in that article
    1) pupils are given homework from the first grade. The homework is essential for learnimg.
    2) classes consist normally over 20 pupils. There is normally one teacher in the class, sometimes a school assistant in some lessons if there are several children who need assistant
    3) There are classes for children who have behavioral or learning difficulties.

    So the arguments given in article do not explain why Finnish students achieve high points in PISA. I wonder if the writer has confuced Finland to some other European country

    Maria Byman
    Theacher for children of special needs.

  4. Reason IL

    July 28, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    This graphic leaves out the substantial commitment to the welfare state in Finland. The government evens the playing field by, for the most part, eliminating poverty and making sure kids have health care, enough to eat, etc.

  5. Thad Moren

    July 29, 2014 at 3:01 am

    Do you think the fact that you had to make an infographic for stuff I just read, might be part of the problem?

  6. pshircliff

    August 1, 2014 at 8:45 am

    “Homework is rarely given until students are teenagers”…then what?
    Your “facts” don’t really explain the absence of homework and how it works.

  7. psuikka

    August 11, 2014 at 4:55 am

    As a Finn and father of now 3rd grader: Yes there is homework. Even in first year of school there was some homework, every day. Where do you get these “facts”?