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Education in Norway is mandatory for all children aged six to 16. Education is guaranteed by the Norwegian state and is thus free at public schools. However, most schooling actually begins when the child turns one and is placed in a barnehage, or daycare.
It is important to apply for a spot in the barnehage as soon as possible, as many have long waiting lists. A child’s barnehage is tied to their residential neighbourhood. The government gives residents Kontantstøtte (family allowance) until children are three to help pay for barnehage.
The school year in Norway runs from late August to mid-June the following year. The juleferie (Christmas holiday) from mid-December to early January divides the Norwegian school year into two terms. Children also have a vinterferie (winter break) and a påskeferie (Easter break). The school day usually finishes at 3pm and parents are free to leave work to pick up children from school.
Public schools in Norway
Citizens and legal residents of Norway have access to free public schooling. The Norwegian school system can be divided into three parts: elementary school (Barneskole, ages six to 13), lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, ages 13 to 16), and upper secondary school (Videregående skole, ages 16 to 19). The marks they achieve in Ungdomskkole will determine whether they are accepted into their high school of choice.
Upper secondary school (similar to high school) is optional and lasts for three years. However, few jobs are available for this age group and changes in local education laws have made upper secondary school mostly unavoidable in practice.
Students graduating from their Videregående studies are called Russ in Norwegian. Russetid (the graduation period) is anticipated for years and celebrated with wild parties and festivities. Russ students are recognisable by their mono-coloured red or blue overalls.
Private and international schools in Norway
Perhaps surprisingly for a country with such a large expat population, few schools teach international curricula in Norway. However, there are now a number of international schools in Oslo, in addition to the more ubiquitous public schools.
Until 2005, private secondary schools were illegal in Norway unless they offered a religious or pedagogic alternative to the public school system, which meant that the only private schools taught from a religious (mainly Christian) background or were Waldorf, Montessori or Danielsen schools. Secular international senior schools opened only after the law changed, although some more established schools have offered international curricula in lower grades for decades.
International schools generally offer the International Baccalaureate (IB), although there are also French- and German-curriculum schools and those which offer the British IGCSE at middle school level.
Fees for international schools are often prohibitively expensive and space can be limited, so parents should apply as early as possible to ensure a place for their child at their school of choice.
Tertiary education in Norway
Videregående (high school) graduates can apply to go to university. There is no tuition fee at Norwegian state-run universities. Students usually apply for a student loan to cover room and board and other living expenses, which doesn’t have to be paid back until they have a salaried job. Norwegians and those with permanent residency apply for admission through the Norwegian College and University Admissions Service.
Citizens of Nordic countries do not need a study permit to study in Norway. Citizens of other countries in the EU or EEA will need to apply for a study permit in person at a Norwegian Embassy.
Special needs education in Norway
Inclusive education is of fundamental importance in Norwegian primary and secondary education. It means that all children and young people are entitled to the same level and standard of education, regardless of ability.
Norway spends significant resources on providing special educational support and special needs education. The aim of the Norwegian government is to improve adapted tuition in schools, the goal of which is to improve learning outcomes for all pupils so that fewer of them require special needs education. Of course, If there is a need to deviate from the normal curriculum, a decision on special needs education is required.
Pupils may access special needs provision within ordinary study programmes, within an adapted or alternative study programme in school, or in workplace training.
Tutoring in Norway
As in most Scandinavian countries, education is highly valued in Norway, and parents make regular use of private tuition to bolster their children's learning. Expats also often employ tutors, whether for Norwegian language lessons, extra help with certain subjects or simply to build some confidence in an unfamiliar environment.
Regardless of age, tutoring can be massively beneficial. Some of the top tutoring companies in Norway include Superprof and Varsity Tutors.