Education in Norway

Education in Norway
Norwegian Ministry of
Education and Research
Minister of Education Torbjørn Røe Isaksen
National education budget (N/A)
Budget N/A
General details
Primary languages Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk)
System type National
Current system Kunnskapsløftet, since the academic year 2006/7
Literacy (2014[1])
Total 100
Male 100
Female 100
Total n/a
Primary 99.9% (graduating)
Secondary N/A
Post secondary 82% (graduating)
Secondary diploma N/A
Post-secondary diploma N/A

Education in Norway is mandatory for all children aged 6–16. The school year in Norway runs from mid August to late June the following year. The Christmas holiday from mid December to early January historically divides the Norwegian school year into two terms. Presently, the second term begins in the beginning of January.

History of education in Norway

Organized education in Norway dates as far back as medieval times. Shortly after Norway became an archdiocese in 1153, cathedral schools were constructed to educate priests in Trondheim, Oslo, Bergen and Hamar.

After the reformation of Norway in 1537, (Norway entered a personal union with Denmark in 1536) the cathedral schools were turned into Latin schools, and it was made mandatory for all market towns to have such a school.[2]

In 1736 training in reading was made compulsory for all children, but was not effective until some years later. In 1827, Norway introduced the folkeskole (people's school), a primary school which became mandatory for 7 years in 1889 and 9 years in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, the folkeskole was abolished, and the grunnskole (foundation school) was introduced.[3]

Traditionally poorer counties like Finnmark and Hedmark have the highest shares of inhabitants who only have completed the compulsory primary education, with numbers as high as 38%.[4]

Education today

The Norwegian school system can be divided into three parts: Elementary school (Barneskole, ages 6–13), lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, ages 13–16), and upper secondary school (Videregående skole, ages 16–19). The Barneskole and Ungdomsskole levels are compulsory, and are commonly referred to as Grunnskole (literally translates to "'foundation'-school", but "Basis-school" perhaps fits better).

Elementary and lower secondary school are mandatory for all children aged 6–16. Before 1997, mandatory education in Norway started at the age of 7. Students almost always have to change school when they enter lower secondary school and upper secondary school, as most schools only offer one of the levels.

Primary school (Barneskole, Grades 1–7, ages 6–13)

In the first year of primary school, students spend most of their time playing educational games and learning social structures, the alphabet, basic addition and subtraction, and basic English skills. In Grades 2-7 (Years 3–8 or P3/4-S2/3), they are introduced to mathematics, English, science, religion (focusing not only on Christianity but also on all other religions, their purpose, and their history), aesthetics, and music, complemented by geography, history, and social studies in the fifth grade (Year 6 or P6/7). No official grades are given at this level. However, the teacher often writes a comment, analysis, and sometimes an unofficial grade on tests. Tests are to be taken home and shown to parents. There is also an introductory test to let the teacher know if the student is above average or is in need of some assistance at school.

Lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, Grades 8-10, ages 13-16)

When the students enter lower secondary school, at age 12 or 13, they begin getting grades for their work. Their grades together with their location in the country will determine whether they get accepted to their high school of choice or not. From eighth grade (Yr 9 or S3/4), students can choose one elective (valgfag). Typical offered subjects are German, French, and Spanish as well as additional English and Norwegian studies. Before the educational reform of August 2006, students could choose a practical elective instead of the languages. Teens born in 1999 and later could once again choose a practical elective upon starting lower secondary school, thus getting the option to choose two electives.

A student may take the Grade 10 exam in a particular subject early as long as he or she has been granted an exemption from further instruction in the elementary/middle school curriculum of that subject.[5]

In 2009, Norwegian fifteen-year-olds performed better in OECDs Programme for International Student Assessment than other Scandinavian countries, with significant improvement since 2006. In mathematics, however, the top scoring 10% were estimated to lag three years behind the top scoring students in Shanghai.[6]

Upper secondary school (Videregående skole, Grades VG1-VG3, ages 16-19)

Upper secondary school (akin to high school) is three years of optional schooling, although recent changes to society (few jobs available for the age group) and law (government required by law of 1994 to offer secondary schooling in one form or another to everyone between the ages of 16 and 24 who submits the application form) have made it largely unavoidable in practice.

Secondary education in Norway is primarily based on public schools: In 2007, 93% of upper secondary school students attended public schools.[7] Until 2005, Norwegian law held private secondary schools to be illegal unless they offered a "religious or pedagogic alternative", so the only private schools in existence were religious (Christian), Steiner/Waldorf, Montessori schools, and Danielsen. The first "standard" private upper secondary schools opened in the fall of 2005.

Prior to 1994 there were three branches of upper secondary schooling: "General" (language, history, etc.), "mercantile" (accounting, etc.), and "vocational" (electronics, carpentry, etc.) studies. The high school reform of 1994 ("Reform 94") merged these branches into a single system. Among the goals of the reform was that everybody should have a certain amount of "general studies" large enough to make them eligible for higher education later, meaning more theory in vocational studies, and it should be possible to cross over from one education path to another without losing too much credit. In the old system, two years of carpentry would be wasted if you wanted to switch to general studies, but in the new system you could keep credit for at least half of it.[8]

Since the introduction of the reform Kunnskapsløftet ("the knowledge promise" or "the lifting of knowledge, the word løfte having two meanings) in the fall of 2006, a student can apply for a general studies (studiespesialisering) or a vocational studies (yrkesfag) path. Inside these main paths there are many sub-paths to follow. An upper secondary school usually offers general and vocational curriculum.[9] Vocational studies usually follow a typical structure named the "2+2 model": After two years of school training (with workshops and short internship in industry), the student goes in apprenticeship for two years in an enterprise or a public institution. The apprenticeship is divided into one year of training and one year of effective work. Some vocational curriculum are nonetheless entirely school-based, and other include 3 years of apprenticeship instead of 2.[9]

The new reform makes the incorporation of IT into the schooling mandatory, and many counties (responsible for the public high schools) offer laptops to general studies students for free or for a small fee. Kunnskapsløftet also makes it harder to switch between electives that you take in the second and third year in the general studies path.

Students graduating upper secondary school are called Russ in Norwegian. Most of them choose to celebrate with lots of parties and festivities, which, impractically, take place a few weeks before the final examinations of the final year.

Educators in Norwegian schools

The titles of educators in Norwegian schools vary with the degrees they have.

Higher education

Higher education is anything beyond upper secondary school, and normally lasts 3 years or more. To be accepted to most higher education schools you must have attained a general university admissions certificate (generell studiekompetanse). This can be achieved by taking general studies while in upper secondary school or through the law of 23/5 where a person must be above 23 years of age, have 5 years of combined schooling and work experience and have passed exams in Norwegian, mathematics, natural sciences, English and social studies. Some degrees also require special electives in second and third grade (e.g. maths and physics for engineering studies.)

The main building of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

Higher education is broadly divided into:

There are no formal distinction between vocational and non-vocational higher education.[9]

Timeline of Norwegian higher education

Before the 19th century the main source for higher education of Norwegians were the University of Copenhagen.


Norway has multiple different grading systems, both unique ones and ones that have been based on foreign grading systems. The formerly most common system of grades used at university level was based on a scale running from 1.0 (best) through 6.0 (worst) with 4.0 or below being considered passing grades.

The way the new Bologna system was introduced implies that students who had started their studies while the old system still was in effect will graduate with transcripts containing grades from both systems (i.e. both numbers and letters).

Lower levels of education use a scale running from 1 through 6, with 6 being the highest and 2 the lowest passing grade. For non-final tests and mid-term evaluations the grades are often postfixed with + or - (except 6+ and 1-) and it is also common to use grades such as 5/6 or 4/3 indicating borderline grades. However, the grades students get on their final paper are either 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.

See also


  1. "Norway Literacy". indexmundi.
  2. Aamodt, Per (1990). "A New Deal for Norwegian Higher Education?". European Journal of Education. 25 (2): 171–185. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  3. Cultice, Wendell (1967). "The School System of Norway". The Clearing House. 42 (2): 119–121. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  4. "Her bor de med høyest utdanning".
  5. in Norwegian § 2-1 - Mulighet for å avlegge eksamen før 10. trinn
  7. "Statistics Norway: Upper secondary school students by type of study and school ownership". Statistisk Sentralbyrå (Norwegian) - select all regions, all 'studieretning', all 'eierforhold', year 2007 revidert. Click 'vis tabell' ('show table'), compute percentages from result.
  8. Johnson, Palmer. "The Norwegian System of Public Secondary Education". The School Review. 44.8 (1936): 608–14. JSTOR 10.2307/1080362.
  9. 1 2 3 "TVET in Norway". UNESCO-UNEVOC. 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  10. Nordland, Eva (1969). "Teacher Training for Norwegian Schools". International Review of Education. 15 (1): 65–74. JSTOR 10.2307/3442072.

Further reading

External links

Official authorities

Reports from international organizations

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