Many educational fields in Finland are differentiated, in other words, segregated according to gender. This segregation continues throughout the levels of education all the way to the labour market. There are also gender-based differences in learning outcomes and students’ experiences. For example, a significant proportion of young trans persons have experienced inappropriate treatment and harassment at school.

Gender segregation in education

Boys complete more elective studies in mathematics and natural sciences during the upper grades of comprehensive school, while girls study more and a greater variety of foreign languages than boys.

Gender-based differences are also evident in subject choices in upper secondary school. In vocational upper secondary education and training, the proportion of women was highest in health and welfare fields (85%) while men’s share was largest in information and communication technologies (87%). 

In university of applied science education in 2022, women accounted for 84 percent of students in the health and welfare field, and men for 78 percent in the technology field.

In 2022, the proportion of women in university was highest in education (84%) while the highest proportion of men was found among information and communication technologies (ICT) students (75%).

On average, women in Finland are more educated than men. The proportion of women of working age who completed a higher education degree began to increase significantly faster than men in the early 1990s. 

According to Statistics Finland's 2022 educational structure statistics for the population aged 15 or over:

  • 76% of women and 73% of men had completed a qualification after basic education
  • 37% of women and 43% of men had completed an upper secondary qualification
  • 39% of women and 29% of men had completed a higher education degree.

Women were more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree and both bachelor’s and master’s degrees than men. About one percent of men and women had completed a doctoral degree, and this was slightly more common among men than women.

A total of 27 percent of men and 24 percent of women had completed only basic education.

Learning outcomes and gender

Competence differences between girls and boys are small at the beginning of basic education. However, girls perform better than boys in the PISA study measuring the skills of 15-year-olds.

According to the 2018 PISA assessment:

  • Girls outperformed boys in literacy and natural sciences, and the difference between girls and boys in Finland is the largest in the OECD countries.
  • Girls fared better in mathematics than boys. There was no difference between girls and boys in the 2012 assessment, and before that boys had performed slightly better than girls in mathematics.
  • There was no statistically significant difference in the financial literacy of boys and girls.

Based on the comparison, the majority of girls and boys perform equally well in school. However, there is more variation in boys’ proficiency.

One reason for gender differences is the fact that girls have better literacy than boys. It has also been observed that attitudes that support learning are stronger among girls while attitudes that hinder learning are stronger among boys.