All teachers in Finland - from primary school staff to university lecturers - are graduates. They need only their degrees and experience to make career progress.
At all levels, they tend to be passionate about further professional development. But as funds are limited, many end up paying for training themselves.
By law, teachers must attend at least two training days a year as part of their contract. These so-called VESO-days, paid for by the municipality for which the teachers work, are held outside normal school hours to avoid paying supply staff. The training deals with a new curriculum or subject-related topics and aims to keep teachers up to speed.
But compulsory, across-the-board training is required in IT and communication, mainly for teachers who qualified before 2001. According to the targets set by the National Board of Education (NBE), by 2004 all teachers must have a working knowledge of IT. At least half of them must have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge to incorporate IT into their teaching practice, while one in 10 must have a deeper, specialist knowledge. These courses are run and financed jointly by the state and the local education authorities.
The public sector also finances other courses that last from one to three study weeks. A wide range of topics is on offer, such as curriculum development, IT and communication, languages, culture and international education, production of learning materials, and leadership and management.
Shorter courses - usually lasting two to three days - focus on specific aspects of a subject.
About 15,000 teachers - some 13 per cent of the workforce - are eligible for training grants totalling 6.7 million euros, given by the NBE for courses lasting from three to five weeks.
But many teachers choose to continue their professional development at their own expense at various training institutes or universities. The problem is to agree on time off, which must be arranged with the individual school and the municipality.
Teachers with at least 10 years' experience who have been in their posts for at least a year are entitled to take a sabbatical lasting from 90 to 359 days. Then every five years they qualify for another one.