History of the Ministry

A central government was created for Finland on 2 October 1809 when the Government Council started to operate. It was the supreme administrative body in the Grand Duchy of Finland. Autonomous Finland had come into being.

The Ministry of Education and Culture is one of the oldest ministries in Finland. It started in the early years of Autonomy as the Ecclesiastical Department in 1809. Its first functionary was Henrik Reinhold Bäck.

When Finland became independent, the name was changed to Department of Ecclesiastical and Educational Affairs. It was changed to the Ministry of Ecclesiastical and Educational Affairs in 1918 when the Senate became Government and the departments became ministries. In 1992 the name was shortened to Ministry of Education.

In order to mark the 200 years of the ministry’s history, The Ministry of Education became the Ministry of Education and Culture on 1 May 2010. Finnish ministries have been named in a way that best describes the key mandate of each ministry.

The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for the competence and creativity foundations for the future: education, science, cultural, sport and youth policies. Church affairs still come under the Ministry.

  • Matriculation examination 1852
  • Awards for artistic merits since 1865
  • Primary School Decree 1866
  • National Board of Schools 1869
  • Women eligible for university studies 1901
  • Expert boards in science and art 1918
  • State sport board 1920
  • Compulsory Schooling Act 1921
  • Freedom of Religion Act 1922
  • Universities Act 1923
  • First provincial archive in Hämeenlinna 1927
  • Public Library Act 1929
  • National pools and lottery (Veikkaus) 1940
  • Academy of Finland 1947
  • Free school meals (the first country in the world) 1948
  • Research, art and youth work began to receive lottery funds 1953
  • Statutory school dental care 1956
  • Library Act 1962
  • National Board of Vocational Education 1966
  • Arts Council of Finland est. 1968
  • Comprehensive School Act 1970
  • Five-day school week 1971
  • Act on Local Youth Boards 1972
  • Sport Act 1979
  • First women priests ordained 1988
  • The National Boards merged into National Board of Education 1991
  • Polytechnics begin to operate on a permanent basis 1996
  • Reform of pre-primary education 2001
  • University reform 2010