Finnish-Swedish Schools in Finland

One can see as a main task for the Swedish School History Association in Finland to document the Swedish-language schools in Finland. This has also been deservedly done in many issues of the School History Archive, where the history of individual schools has been related. Through these documents, the concrete reality in the schools has been described. It is the basis for more general descriptions of the development of teaching and education. On the other hand, in the general descriptions, such tragic and empty ones are more rarely noted. Traumatic circumstances such as the fact that primary school students in the 19th century could come from homes so poor that in order to reach school they had to come barefoot, walk many kilometers through wastelands with wolves and bears, arrive as early as five in the morning to light the classrooms. Find that the water tank still had ice crust when the teaching began. That many talented men have become teachers when they due. illness has not been capable of more physically demanding tasks. From such concrete stories it appears that schoolmates or the teacher have died of disease, by drowning on the way to school, murdered or fallen at the front. In several cases, the school has burned down. That the school has had to take turns when not all students were accommodated at the same time. In modern times, it has happened that the school’s indoor air has become so bad that not all teachers and students have been able to stay there.

There have been major events that have unfortunately often been rationalized away as the information has been generalized. In recent times, events have diminished as they are nowadays perceived as so obvious that they cannot be questioned at all. When it did, however, they were considered epoch-making. Such events were, among other things. that the schoolhouse in the early 1900s got electric lighting, running water, central heating, that they started serving school food, got school health care, school counselor and psychologist and now in the 2000s a set of computers or tablets for all teachers and students in the school. Even at the end of the 20th century, the new computers the municipality had provided for the school could for a long time be forgotten in a cupboard as a “shelf heater” because none of the teachers could use them.

In the earliest schools until sometime in the 17th century, the language of instruction was Latin, because the schools mainly prepared the students for the clergy and the educated society of the time, where Latin was the only language that was viable as an educated language. Pierre de la Ramée, who in 1547 became professor of eloquence at the University of Paris, turned against Aristotelian neoclassicism and Melanchthon’s teaching methods. He also wanted to include Greek in the schools’ curriculum because the education at that time had its roots in Greece. He also sought to make teaching more practical-inductive. Therefore, he emphasized that in teaching, students’ mother tongues should be used more often and that real subjects should be included in the teaching (Hanho: Suomen oppikoululaitoksen historia I, 1943, 20).

It can thus be expected that the schools in Sweden-Finland also increasingly used the mother tongue as a language of instruction from the beginning of the 17th century. The new school system in 1693 was first drafted in Swedish, which means that it can be assumed that schools from the 18th century onwards generally had Swedish as their language of instruction. Finland did not come into being until the 19th century, when Finland had become a Grand Duchy connected to Russia. The lack of Finnish-speaking teachers and teaching materials probably also contributed to Finnish becoming the language of instruction so late. This collection of schools is therefore concentrated on the Swedish-speaking as they constitute the oldest schools in the country and also constitute such a limited number that it is relatively convenient to treat. In addition, the collection is limited to permanent schools so that ambulatory schools and schools without their own house are not taken into account. Admittedly, many schools initially operated in rented spaces, but that meant that they still had a fixed point of activity. Many civic and workers’ institutes, summer universities and among others. The University of Ostrobothnia has been omitted for that reason. As this collection is limited to schools with Swedish as the language of instruction, the language of instruction often constitutes a factor of uncertainty. The language of instruction has not always been clear or the teaching has in some cases taken place in two or more languages. The German-language schools in Viborg have also been omitted.

One motive for such a survey is that during its activities, the school has been visited by teachers, pupils / students for whom the school building has served as their work or learning environment for a shorter or longer period of time. In this way, the schoolhouse has become an important gathering place and a place where they have stayed for a relatively long time. It has given rise to experiences and memories. It is in the environment that teachers, school staff and peers have met and therefore these experiences and memories are linked to that particular school and that school building. Although in generalizing representations one can see similarities in the development of the schools, each school has its own individual history. Colleges and universities are not included in this database.

According to statistics compiled on 21 February 2020, this School Database would comprise 857 schools. However, the definition of school has not been unambiguous, as the school may have operated even before the municipality was merged with another and thereby been counted as two separate schools. Another reason for double counting is that the name of the school may have changed. Although I have tried to take this into account by often entering both the school’s previous and later names (including nicknames), it has hardly succeeded in any case. Then there are schools that are mentioned in a source, but more detailed information is missing because it may have seemed temporary or itinerant in rented spaces. The total number of schools should therefore only be seen as indicative.

The school assignments constitute a very rich research material, which should be used by many researchers. For the schools where information has been obtained, the name has been linked to an information sheet. About 325 of these schools, I was able to provide more detailed information at the above-mentioned time, which can thus be searched via the link in the school’s name. It can be compared with the school database that exists on Wikipedia which on April 30, 2121 included 52 educational institutions apart from the universities, but there is a lack of, among other things. the elementary schools. There is a separate list of primary and lower secondary schools in Finland on the Internet, but it is not unambiguous regarding the school’s language of instruction. There is also an extensive list of private educational institutions on the internet. There is a separate list of educational institutions in Helsinki.

I have sought to obtain as much essential information as possible in the present School Database, but the information is extremely diversified and highly dependent on the source of information, which in some cases can be a by-product in an irrelevant context, while in other cases it is a very rich material where I have tried to sift out what I have experienced as most important. The information about the schools is mainly taken from public sources such as the Internet, but also from articles in magazines or books. There is also information based on my own knowledge from the time as an inspector for the education system in Southern Finland. Additional public information can be searched in the archives of the National Board of Education, the National Board of Antiquities, the county administrative boards, the municipalities and the individual schools, and at some point from the memoirs of different people. More volatile information can be obtained from previous principals, teachers and students as long as they are with us, however, with the proviso that the information may be colored by the informant’s later experiences.

The school database’s statistical data 21.2.2021

schools linked%
Uusimaa 362 123 33%
Åboland and Åland 181 80 44%
Ostrobothnia 275 135 49%
Other Finland 39 24 62%
Total 857 362 42%
In the database, I always try to include a representative picture / photograph of the school, often of the entrance. There can be several pictures as the school has operated in different buildings, but I have not always managed to find a picture of the school building. Schoolhouses were built with a specific school in mind to meet a specific need and to provide the best possible learning environment. The schoolhouse should never be seen as an empty shell in which various activities have existed. The architecture of the house has in many respects influenced the activities that have taken place there. It is the schoolhouse that many students and teachers remember. The cramped or spacious classrooms where the air might run out or there was room for various group work. Many hours were spent in gymnasiums, handicrafts or handicraft halls and other special spaces that were more or less functional. The schoolyard and its equipment or lack thereof is also an integral part of the learning environment.

The database includes images and data that have been retrieved from various sources. It is quite possible that the copyright could have prevented me from publishing some of the images, but as it has not been clear, I have seen it as in the public interest to view them. In principle, I have always tried to state the source of the image or information, but since the image only says Photo or Photo MG, it means that it is an image that I myself have taken in place. Often the picture has been taken in summer or such a time that no people are visible. It makes them more boring, but at least it does not violate anyone’s privacy. Photo with the specified source means that I have not had the opportunity to copy or scan the image and therefore photographed it in the said source. In those cases, I have, if necessary, to some extent treated it to make it clearer. My aim has been, as far as possible, to give interested people as good a picture of reality as I have been able to.

This has been a purely non-profit work without a grant for the acquisition of sources or for travel and I have not expected any compensation for the expenses. That there is an interest in such information pleases me and is shown, among other things. of Project Fredrika, which has taken over the educational institutions in Helsinki.

Later, the school system or the school’s needs may have changed and then the school building has been changed or added to. In many cases, the old school has disappeared or the schoolhouse has been taken into use by another school or has had to serve another purpose, for example. as a meeting room, private home or restaurant. If possible, I have included information about the school building’s further history.

In this database, of course, I can only provide limited information about school staff and students. Therefore, the source references are important for those who want deeper knowledge about the individual school. Unfortunately, public sources often lack detailed information about the activities in the school, but they are usually limited to the school’s foundation and perhaps withdrawal. What has happened in between is more obscure, perhaps because it has been an important for those involved but for an outside uninteresting everyday school work performed by teachers and other school staff.

The database can be seen as both temporary and sensitive. By temporary I mean that for most tasks there is a date when they have been entered, which means that at least any later ones are missing. The fact that the database is sensitive means that it can be deleted in whole or in part by a simple click by mistake or on purpose, although it may be possible for a skilled data archaeologist to recreate lost data. To reduce this risk, I have started to introduce a backup function by gradually storing the information in a separate folder as a word file (should perhaps be in pdf format) and at times print these as larger wholes.


The schools have been built and operated during different periods and in different school systems. You can perhaps count on five stages of school development:

Stage In Cathedral schools, pedagogies and trivial schools. From the 14th century to the beginning of the 19th century, but then with Latin as the language of instruction until the 17th and 18th centuries.

Stage II Elementary schools, educational institutions and ladies’ schools. From the beginning of the 19th century until 1866 when the Public Education Act was enacted.

Stage III Primary schools, auxiliary schools, vocational schools, educational institutions and schools in free education 1866 – 1970s.

Stage IV Primary schools, second stage schools and schools in free education. From the 1970s when primary school was introduced.

Stage V Primary schools, second-stage schools and schools in free education are still active in the 2020s.

In the attached list of schools, the schools in the municipality where they operated were listed. If the school still exists in some form, the school is stated in the current municipality, but otherwise only in the original one, even though the municipality may have been merged with other municipalities. This time division probably still needs to be improved in an appropriate way and has not yet been entered in the database per school, which can create a slightly confusing impression.

The database also includes schools from the areas that Finland lost after its wars. They were schools that at the time seemed completely equal to other schools in the country.

Information is still missing about some schools and often about when the school has ceased operations. In principle, I imagine that the information about the school would indicate:

a picture of the schoolhouse,
the school’s operating period,
principals, teachers,
maximum number of elevators,
any features,
the school’s possible predecessors and successors.
the sources of this information. I assume that pictures from the school’s activities can be found in the specified sources, insofar as such are available. The database is continuously supplemented as new information emerges.
The database

Here, the schools can be searched in the database by province and municipality in the five collections:

Uusimaa Åboland Åland Ostrobothnia Rest of Finland

Author Martin Gripenberg