Last modified 15.3.2011 at 13:24
Text: Anni Jyrinki Photo: Oulu University of Applied Sciences
Going as an exchange student to a foreign country is more than common. The world is open for all students. Before arriving to a new country, it is not only interesting, but also useful to know at least something about the education system.
A semester abroad – that’s something that gives you a new perspective to your studies and offers a great chance to have unforgettable experiences. Every year at least a couple of hundred students from Oulu University of Applied Sciences have this possibility, and at the same time, dozens and dozens of foreign students begin their studies here.
Studying in another country can be surprisingly different compared to what you are accustomed to. There are some differences because of the various education systems in different countries.
Around the Europe quite the same
Most of the exchange years that students from Oulu UAS wish to take are directed to some European country. In most cases, countries that belong to the European Union have almost identical education systems and studying possibilities.
France, for example, has compulsory education like in Finland. Children in France go to school at the age of six, and their primary school, ècole maternelle, lasts for five years. After that begins middle school, collège, which lasts for four years. Together these two schools are much like the comprehensive school in Finland. In both countries, compulsory education ends when a child turns sixteen.
Higher middle school concludes the French pupil’s road. In France, you are able to choose between a high school that gives general education, and a vocational high school. The first one takes three years and gives you the right to take part in academic studies. The vocational high school will only last two years. After finishing occupational studies, it is possible to take part in the so-called vocational matriculation examination. After the examination, the universities are also open for students from vocational schools. Also in Finland, students can choose between a high school and a vocational school, but they both last for three years. Nowadays, you may also mix these two schools together and study a so-called dual qualification.
In France, there are 90 public universities and few private ones. Usually, there is no entrance examinations to these institutes. Otherwise, studying in a French university is not as free form as it is in Finland, because the studies proceed in a certain order. So, it might be easier to get into a university in France than it is in Finland, but it is also more difficult to stay there.
In addition to universities, Finland also has universities of applied sciences, such as Oulu UAS. Studying in a UAS is not as scientific as it is in a university. It is more practical and working life oriented.
What about the Asian education?
In Oulu UAS we have several students from China every year, but only few from Oulu UAS have so far spent their exchange year in Asia. However, differences between the Finnish education system and the comparable system in China are more notable than between Finland and any European country.
The last fifteen years have changed the Chinese school system significantly. For example, in 1949, only 20 per cent of children went to school. The communistic revolution improved the situation, and now about 92 per cent are able to go to school. However, opportunities to education still vary between different parts of the country.
Tuition in a comprehensive school is free of charge. However, books, food and school busses are not. The biggest reason, why Chinese children will not go to school, is poverty. In total, the comprehensive school lasts for nine years.
Thereafter, the students, who pass the appropriate entrance examinations, go on to senior middle schools or middle-level vocational schools. After these schools, students may take the national college entrance exam, which gives access to academic education.
There are literally hundreds of universities and colleges in China, but the quality of education varies enormously. Most universities offer four-year courses that lead to a bachelor’s degree. If students have the time and the money, they can also continue to the master and doctorate level.
In addition to the universities, there are colleges, offering two or three year diploma courses in various vocational subjects.
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