Educational Travel – For Teachers

Conferences – Study Tours and School/Kindergarten Visits


The Nordic Trailblazer mission is to promote the good practices of Nordic education offering cost-effective solutions for education professionals from around the world who are interested in benchmarking Scandinavian schools and the Nordic Education System. We organize school visits, study tours, educational conferences in Denmark, Iceland and Finland and training programs worldwide to inspire teachers, principals and local authorities.
Nordic Trailblazers. was founded in 2018 by education professionals with a track record of organizing successful events, study tours, and school visits in other organizations.

Scheduled or Customized Visits

The most cost-effective solution depends on your goals and learning objectives. Want to have a look at Scandinavian schools and talk with Nordic teachers or get a deeper understanding of the Nordic education? In either case, we are here to help you and our pedagogical experts can suggest the most convenient solution that matches your budget.

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Educational Travelling

The Nordic Countries are known and noted for its learning system and modern curriculum, which have led to our countries having a substantial status in the global PISA rankings. This success has attracted a new type of both Nordic as well as an international traveller to Scandinavia: One who travels here to learn about the Nordic education system. Such travellers include education professionals; government and municipal education officials; education company representatives; principals and teachers; and even school children coming for an educational camp to try the different Nordic education style for themselves. The interest is often focused on a specific strength identified as something that differentiates the Nordic system; such as phenomenal and experimental learning, and utilising nature as a learning environment. Educational travel differs from leisure travel, in particular, because it requires collaboration from both public and private sector participants. Although the Nordic educational style is in many ways similar, it varies a lot too. Therefore many Nordic educational professionals seek new knowledge and travel to other Nordic countries to learn new approaches. 

The Nordic Trailblazers education travel packages typically combine a multidisciplinary team of professionals in order to provide the experience expected by the travellers. To support this multidisciplinary collaboration, our staff and collaborators hope to offer some perspectives, tools, and tried and tested best practices.

Nordic Education System in general


“Elsewhere the focus is more on memorising information rather than providing children with the means to understand various phenomena.” 

Given their cultural similarities and their shared commitment towards public investments in the realm of welfare and education, the Nordic countries have often been grouped together to encompass the “Nordic model.” Yet, beyond the surface, each Nordic country is unique in its own right, and this is reflected in the governance and organisation of their respective national education systems.

Nordic educational systems are one of the best among European countries and other nations around the world. One of its main characteristics is that education is free. The great majority of schools, high schools and universities are funded by the State. Even the private ones receive funds from the government.




The education system in Denmark


In Denmark, most education is tax-financed and free of charge for the student. Education is important for Danes: even people who have obtained a degree sign up for extra classes to boost their professional skills or pursue a hobby. 


From daycare to primary schools: An emphasis on social skills

Danish children begin public daycare as early as 9 months, and by age 3 98 % of children in Denmark are attending public kindergartens. Staffed by professionals with training in early childhood education, these institutions teach basic academic concepts like letters and numbers, as well as social rules like taking turns and helping others. Most of the day is spent on “free play” and activities outdoors. At age 6, Danish children begin their formal schooling. The educational approach in Denmark avoids class rankings and formal tests; instead, children work in groups and are taught to challenge the established way of doing things. Teachers are called by their first names. The emphasis is on problem-solving, not memorisation. All children in Denmark have access to tuition-free government folkeskole (people’s school) until they are 16 years old. Some parents choose private schools because they are smaller, or because they have a particular educational approach. Others choose private schools for religious reasons: Denmark is home to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim schools. English-language international schools and French and German-language schools are also available on a paid-for basis. All schools are required to follow the national government’s basic requirements for primary education. 


Choosing a secondary education: Academic or trade school?

Near the end of their time in primary school, Danish children take a nationwide test to help them choose the next step in their education. Pupils with strong academic abilities often select a gymnasium for their secondary education, where they can focus on languages, sciences, math or similar subjects to prepare them for university. More practically-oriented pupils often prefer a trade school that can train them in high-paying skills like metalworking, electrical technology, or mechanics, or a business school where they can learn about accounting or software development. Other pupils delay the decision for a year, choosing an efterskole  (after school) where they live away from home and study topics of interest like theatre or sports alongside their academic requirements.


Universities and “getting paid to go to school”

Once they have completed their secondary education, Danes can choose from a variety of tertiary options, including a standard university that grants bachelors, masters’, and PhD degrees; a university college that awards bachelors degrees in hands-on subjects such as social work; or a public arts and architecture academy, like The Royal Academy of Music. Full-time students in Denmark are eligible for Statens Uddannelsestøtte, or SU (limited income support) from the government alongside other work they do to help pay their expenses while studying. It is common for Danes to begin working in their future job roles while they are still in the process of education, either as a paid praktikant (intern) or apprentice.


Did you know

  • Denmark has eight universities, nine art and performance institutions including the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and eight university colleges that award professional bachelor degrees in areas like nursing. That is pretty impressive for a country with only 5.7 million people!
  • Education in Denmark does not stop with graduation; at any given time, one out of three Danish adults age 25-64 is taking some kind of continuing education course. 
  • Many Danish workplaces pay for their employees’ additional training, and there are also public and private providers of classes that help build business and professional skills. Unemployed people in Denmark are often required to take courses that will prepare them to return to the job market.
  • Denmark’s public and private investment in the development of new qualifications and skills is one of the highest in Europe. The idea is to maintain a highly-qualified and well-educated workforce that can succeed in a global knowledge economy.

Of course, not all education is for professional reasons. Many adults in Denmark take classes in cooking, painting, foreign languages, music, or dance just for fun. A lot of these classes are publicly funded and offered for a minimal fee. 


“Folk high schools”: A fundamental part of Danish culture

Adult education is nothing new in Denmark: since 1844, folkehøjskoler or højskoler (folk high schools) around Denmark have helped ordinary people develop the skills they needed to thrive as citizens. The schools were inspired by the influential Danish educational leader Niels Grundtvig (1783-1872), who believed that offering higher education to rural people was as important as cultivating the urban intellectual elite. Grundtvig’s ideas were widely copied in other Scandinavian countries. These days, there are 70 højskoler around Denmark, many specialising in subjects like film, design, sports, theatre, and politics.  The schools are voluntary and require no grades or exams. Many offer “live-in courses” for a week or more, and while they are not tuition-free, prices are low and the cost of attending includes room and board.


The education system in Finland

In short, the education system in Finland consists of early childhood education and care, pre-primary education, basic education, upper secondary education, and higher education. Moreover, adult education is available at all education levels. International guests are interested in all levels of education. Therefore, when planning an educational trip the best practice is to do what we preach; by taking into account the diverse profiles of the guests and hosts, and to plan the visits and discussions in a way that will serve the interests of every participant. In effect, when you know the existing level of understanding and consequent expectations of your guests, it is easier to plan and implement an interesting programme. Furthermore, for those of us who have experienced the Finnish system, it is also important to update our own knowledge, since the system has evolved significantly over the past few decades, and continues to do so. The particularities of the Finnish education system are driven by values such as trust, continuous development of the quality of learning, and when it comes to the development of the curriculum, consideration of the specific needs of each individual student, as well as every school. The autonomy of teachers and the reinforcement of the self-direction of students are seen as key features for the success of the Finnish education system.


Early Childhood Education and Pre-primary Education 

Early childhood education and care (ECEC), and pre-primary education, consist of the teaching and care provided for children prior to the start of basic school education. Primarily, such education is organised in daycare centres and family care. The Finnish ECEC is based on an integrated approach to care, education and teaching, the so-called “Educare” model, and it has developed towards an increasingly goal-oriented direction. The National Curriculum Guidelines on Early Childhood Education and Care in Finland, approved by the Finnish National Agency for Education, guide the planning and implementation of the contents of ECEC and function as the basis for drawing up the local ECEC curricula. Each child receives an individual ECEC plan, designed in cooperation between the daycare centre, parents, and the local parental clinic. Learning through play is considered an essential part of the Finnish ECEC. Pre-primary education is provided for children in the year preceding the start of compulsory basic education. The aim is towards a unified continuum stretching from early childhood education and care to basic education. Pre-primary education is provided free of charge, and since 2015, it has been compulsory for all children in Finland. Pre-primary education is designed to support the development and learning abilities of each child while reinforcing their social skills and self-confidence through play and positive learning experiences. Another main goal is to detect any developmental disorders and, consequently, provide possibilities for early intervention, in order to prevent later difficulties in the child’s development and learning. The Finnish emphasis on creativity and play intrigues international education experts: Elsewhere the focus is more on memorising information rather than providing children with the means to understand various phenomena. Similarly, the smaller class sizes, the utilisation of nature and other learning environments, and the importance attached to time spent outdoors are considered interesting.


The Basic Education Syllabus Is Completed During Compulsory Education

The nine-year basic education, or comprehensive school, is compulsory for all children. Basic education, including books and other learning material, is provided free of charge to every child aged between 7 and 16. This egalitarian and non-selective nature of Finnish basic education is remarkable, and therefore thought-provoking, for international guests. In developing countries, in particular, even having the opportunity of an education is highly dependent on the social status, profession, and income level of the child’s parents. Furthermore, the wide range of related services that are also offered free of charge, such as daily school meals, transportation to and from school, childhood health care, and not least the right of those with disabilities to receive the equipment and support they need for learning free of charge, continue to astonish guests from other countries. Basic education assumes both an educative role, as well as a role in upbringing; a task conducted in cooperation with parents. Consequently, the broader objective of basic education is to support a pupils’ development as a person and into an ethical responsible member of society and to equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary for life. This emphasis on the child’s membership in society and multiplicity of skills differs significantly from many other countries, where the focus remains on teaching knowledge and facts. Moreover, the recent trend towards catering for personal development becomes manifest in schools in the form of individual learning plans, and in the shift from a teacher-centred to a pupil-centred teaching and learning style. Over time, Finnish children of all ages take on more and more personal responsibility for their own learning. Recent reforms of the curriculum have taken into account many aspects of development at the local and societal level. The organisers of education are advised to adjust the curriculum to match the local and national strategic development trends, while teachers are encouraged to develop the values and principles guiding their work environment based on their existing strengths. In practice, prioritising and organising the learning content, for example, according to the phenomenon-based approach, provides possibilities for more leisured learning experiences, which facilitate the pupils’ concentration. Additionally, increased focus has been placed on the meaningfulness of the learning experience for the pupil, on supporting parents in the task of upbringing, and on the sustainable development of society. Currently, there are about 2,500 schools providing basic education in Finland. Local municipalities organise most of the schools, and less than two per cent of comprehensive school pupils study in a private or state-organised school.


General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education as Alternatives after Basic Education

After completing their basic education, young people can choose to continue their educational path either in general upper secondary education (“lukio” in Finnish) or in vocational education and training. Both paths can lead to higher education. As its name suggests, general upper secondary education provides general education without qualifying the students for any particular occupation. At the end of the general upper secondary education, the students take a national matriculation examination. Those who pass the matriculation examination are eligible to apply for further studies at universities, universities of applied sciences and vocational institutions. International guests are particularly interested in certain aspects of education, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), entrepreneurship and work-life skills, or international education, as well as possibilities for friendship school cooperation. Students who have gained a vocational upper secondary qualification have the basic vocational skills in a particular field and the required professional competence to begin their practical work life. After gaining a vocational upper secondary qualification, it is possible to study for further and specialist vocational qualifications. Instruction in vocational institutions is very practical and designed to satisfy the needs of the labour market. On-the-job training at workplaces is an essential part of the studies. The current reform of the Finnish vocational education system reflects the general features of the Finnish education system, such as the design and implementation of individual study plans for every student. At present, the transformation in society is placing new demands on the skills of the workforce, and this reform is designed to dynamically anticipate and respond to those demands while acknowledging the need for structural changes throughout the system and at the different levels. This resonates with the thinking of international experts since the apparent necessity for reform of vocational education unites educational decisionmakers all over the world. Furthermore, the management and organisation of schools is interesting. Therefore, it is important to schedule a time for such discussions during the visits, to provide opportunities for the hosts to learn as well and, consequently, the meetings make up a coordinated, interactive whole. 


The Finnish Higher Education System 

The mission of universities is to conduct scientific research and provide education based on it. Universities of applied sciences (UAS) provide more practical education that aims to respond to the needs of the labour market. Universities, offering higher scientific and artistic education, award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees as well as postgraduate degrees, i.e. licentiate and doctoral degrees. Universities of applied sciences award UAS Bachelor’s degrees and UAS Master’s degrees. The target completion time for a Bachelor’s degree at a university is three years and for a Master’s degree two years on top of that. The completion of a UAS degree usually takes between 3.5 and 4.5 years. The requirement to study a Master’s degree at a university of applied sciences is a UAS Bachelors’ degree or another suitable degree and at least three years’ work experience since the completion of the previous degree. In general, many Finnish universities are perceived to be of a higher quality than their official international ranking suggests. Foreign universities are typically interested in a deep level of cooperation consisting of exchange programmes for both professors and students, and even joint degree study programmes


Adult Education and Training in the Spirit of Lifelong Learning

Adult education and training encompass education leading to a qualification, degree studies, training preparing for competence-based qualifications, apprenticeship training, further and continuing education, updating and extending professional skills, studies in subjects relating to citizenship skills, working life skills and society, and studies in different crafts as well as subjects with a recreational basis. Education and training are provided by educational institutions, which mainly provide education for young people, as well as by educational institutions providing only adult education, and even private companies, and workplaces (staff-development). This multifaceted quality of adult education and the idea of lifelong learning also resonate with an international audience. Moreover, they continue to echo the thinking at the heart of the Finnish education system, which suggests that the fast-paced transformation in a society constantly shifts the demands of working life so rapidly that education and training obtained at a young age may not equip a person with all the skills and competencies demanded of them during the entire length of their working life. Awareness of this is becoming more and more common around the globe.

The education system in Iceland

The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture are responsible for the implementation of legislation pertaining to all school levels from pre-primary and compulsory education through the upper secondary and higher education levels, as well as continuing and adult education. This includes the tasks of creating curriculum guides for pre-primary, compulsory and upper secondary schools, issuing regulations and planning educational reforms. The Minister of Education, Science and Culture grants accreditation to Higher Education Institutions that fulfil the criteria laid down in national legislation as well as internationally accepted criteria. The Quality Board for Icelandic higher education has issued a handbook on the Quality Enhancement Framework (QEF2) that includes elements on reviews at institutional and subject levels as well as continuing and additional accreditation of HEIs.

While pre-primary and compulsory education is the responsibility of municipalities, central government is responsible for the operation of upper secondary schools and higher education institutions. Although education in Iceland has traditionally been provided by the public sector, a certain number of private institutions are in operation today, primarily at the pre-primary, upper-secondary and higher education levels.

Pre-primary school education (leikskóli)

Pre-primary education is defined by law as the first level of the educational system, providing education and care for children who have not reached six years of age, at which point compulsory education begins.  

Compulsory education (grunnskóli)

Compulsory education is organised in a single structure system, i.e. primary and lower secondary education form part of the same school level, and generally take place in the same school. Legislation on compulsory education stipulates that education shall be mandatory for children and adolescents between the ages of six and sixteen.

Upper secondary education (framhaldsskóli)

Upper secondary education is not compulsory, but anyone who has completed compulsory education has the right to enter an upper secondary school. Students are usually between 16and 20 years of age. General academic education is primarily organised as a four-year course leading to a matriculation examination. The length of the courses in vocational education varies, lasting from one semester to ten, but most prevalent are four-year courses. 

Higher education (háskólar)

The modern Icelandic system of higher education dates back to the foundation of the University of Iceland in 1911. The legal framework covering higher education in Iceland is the Higher Education Act No 63/2006. The acts apply to institutions providing higher education leading to a degree and which have been accredited by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The ministry has also issued the National Qualification Framework for Iceland No 80/2007, a systematic description of the structure of education and degrees awarded in higher education that is specifically based on learning outcomes. All accredited higher education institutes in Iceland must follow this framework.

The Minister of Education, Science and Culture grants accreditation to Higher Education Institutions that fulfil the criteria laid down in national legislation as well as internationally accepted criteria. Accreditation is also field-based, with each institution being limited to teaching and research in those fields and subfields of academia in which they are accredited. The Quality Board for Icelandic Higher Education has issued a Quality Enhancement Framework (QEF2) that includes elements on reviews at the institutional and subject levels as well as continuing and additional accreditation of HEIs.

There are currently seven higher education institutions in Iceland that fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and are governed by the Higher Education Act No 63/2006.

Adult education (fullorðinsfræðsla)

Adult education is provided by public authorities, private institutions, companies and organisations. Adult education and training are offered by institutions at the upper secondary and higher education levels, including lifelong learning centres. 


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