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Education and SchoolsBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Sweden - Education and Schools
Compulsory education (Grundskola) begins age 6/7 (year 1) and finishes age 15/16 (year 9). Sweden operates a free choice system where parents choose between tax funded independent schools or municipal schools for their children's education. Public or municipal schools follow the Swedish National Syllabus. Below is the standard public education system.
Non compulsory state run schooling for children from 1-5 years. Learning, development and play go hand in hand, with much time spent outside. 80% of 1-5 year olds attend pre school with the final year preparing children for compulsory education to start the next year. Although this is classed as public schooling, fees are paid and regulated to salary. Costs work out at 1-3% of the family's income, no matter how many children attend school. There are also private and international pre schools.
Compulsory education (Grundskoleutbildning)
Public primary schools are free. Primary school is very much inclusive with individuals receiving education based on their best ways of learning and needs. Students are graded in years 8 and 9, with the year 9 grades for their exams for maths, English and Swedish qualifying them to go on to either upper secondary school (gymnasium) or other educational programmes. Students from 12-15 years study social sciences and technology, biology, chemistry and physics. In compulsory education, after school and before school care is offered to children. Compulsory education ends at 16. Lunch is included in the fees.
Upper secondary school education (Gymnasieutbildning)
Gymnasiums are voluntary to attend but most do. There are 6 courses to take which prepare students for university, or 12 vocational courses. There are other specialist Gymnasiums which cater to athletes or students with special needs. Students who didn’t achieve their secondary school grades in year 9 can choose from 5 introductory courses which can prepare them for work or trade. Successful students receive a leaving qualification in the form of a diploma. Each individual municipality must check up on young people under 20 who don’t study after secondary school.
Qualified Vocational Education (Kvalificerad Yrkesutbildning)
Those who choose vocational training from high school opt to do so so instead of choosing higher education. Such programmes are well subscribed and are similar to community college courses. Practical experience within the industry training and education make up this qualification, which can lead to higher education.
University (Grundläggande högskoleutbildning, Universitet)
Almost all universities in Sweden are publically funded. EU students may study for free at university, but recently fees were brought in for non EU students. Lund University is famously one of the finest in the country, and Uppsala is regarded as one of the best in northern Europe. Universities in Sweden award bachelor's (Kandidatexamen), doctorate (Doktorsexamen) and master’s degrees (Magisterexamen) and have an emphasis and focus on research led studies. There are some private universities, such as Chalmers University of Technology, which award postgraduate degrees.
University college (högskola)
An alternate to universities, university colleges are not only smaller than universities but they offer a smaller range of courses such as bachelor’s degrees and some doctorates. University colleges concentrate on applied sciences courses. The KTH Royal Institute of Technology is an internationally renowned university college. Such colleges are publicly funded.
Types of school
Charter schools (friskola)
Charter schools, otherwise known as independant schools, are publically funded via the school voucher system, a system whereby a student is given a certificate by the government for a school they have chosen or one which the government chose for them. Charter schools operate separately from the public school system. Such schools are free to attend. The schools may be run by not for profit organisations or by for profit organisations. There has been some controversy over rules regarding the schools not being able to accept tuition fees but being able to accept private donations.
Private schools / boarding schools
There are only three fee-paying private boarding institutions in Sweden: Lundsberg School, Sigtuna Humanitarian School, and Grennaskolan, who operate separately from the public system but receive government subsidies. With high fees, and high standards of tuition and living, these schools are sought after by students and families. The government has pushed for such schools to become publically funded like charter schools, with the school voucher system and without private tuition fees. Many of Sweden’s elite and royal family members have attended such schools. Uniforms are worn.
International schools in Sweden receive part government funding, part fees from parents, though some are publically funded. These schools are generally meant for foreign children who are in Sweden on a temporary basis, but international schools expect a yearly fee and applications need to be made by contacting the school directly. Well regarded and well resourced, some international schools have waiting lists and competition to be accepted is fierce. Amongst the best are Stockholm International School and Deutsche Schule Stockholm. Uniforms are usually worn.
Sámi schools (Sameskolor)
Sámi schools run alongside the public education system and are state owned and publically funded. Sámi indigenous people are able to attend such schools and study the identical curriculum that public primary schools follow. Schools have dormitories that some students stay in due to the fact that the weather and long distances in the north of Sweden prevent travel. Outside of primary schools, there is the Sámi University College in Norway and University of Tromsø which offer courses in Sámi.
Given that much time is spent outside, particularly in preschool and primary school, some of this time can be thought of as extra curricular activities in understanding nature, being physically active and playing games together in groups. In older years extra curricular activities are integrated into school life in Sweden as they believe it adds to wellbeing and physical health through sports and understanding nature and respecting it through learning about the world around us. Extra curricular activities are not as common or as wide ranging as in the US or UK. Schools will have sports teams, arts groups and breaks where students can decide what they want to do. After school clubs don’t really exist in public/municipal schools unless in the form of childcare, with most children leaving when school finishes. Music, sports and dance for example can be lessons the child has outside of school with an independant professional.
As is normally true around the world, fee paying schools have a wider range of extracurricular activities, after school clubs and staff available to oversee such arrangements. Such schools have a range of sports teams like athletics, rugby and cricket and finish at 3pm often to allow for After School Clubs such as I.T, reading, music, prop making and dance.
The quality of education in Sweden is extremely high, though there have been some arguments about slipping standards blaming underpaid and overworked teachers and an excessive focus on maths and English, neglecting other subjects. High schools (UK colleges/6th form) are broken into 3 terms in the UK, 3 trimesters in the US and 2 in Sweden. The US, UK and Sweden use a grading system of A-F throughout schooling. Homeschooling is almost obsolete and closely checked by the authorities in Sweden whereas in the UK and US it is a more common and accepted form of schooling.
If you wish to enrol a child in a private boarding school or independent school you must contact the school directly. There is often much competition, so do your research and plan early. Application forms will need to be completed, an application fee paid, a student medical form filled out along with an immunisation record, the student's passport provided along with the parents’ ID, transcripts from past schools, and potentially other fees if the student is not registered with their local municipality. If you are enrolling a child in a municipal or public school then you must register the child with your local municipality (kommun). It is first come first serve when it comes to places and whilst it is dependant on proximity, the state sends the child to whichever is available.
School hours are comparatively shorter in Sweden than in many places around the world. Pre school ranges from a couple of hours to half a day with AM and PM slots, primary school usually begins around 8.15pm-2.30/3pm and 2.30pm and secondary school and upper secondary school start around 8.15am and finish at 4pm. Lunchtimes are usually an hour long.
In Sweden all holidays are the same per region, aside from winter. Further information on holidays can be found here. The Compulsory School Ordinance and the Upper Secondary School Ordinance list that there are at least 17 holidays and 178 school days during school, which is regulated depending on the municipality.
School begins mid to late August and finishes in the middle of June.
• Höstlov in October (usually at the end of October for a week)
• Jullov Christmas holidays in December (19-22nd December to 2nd-13th January)
• Sportlov winter carnival in February (one week)
• Påsklov Easter holidays in April (one week)
• Sommarlov (summer) in June (10-12 weeks)
Further public school holidays are (if not falling on a Saturday or Sunday):
• 6 January 2012 (Epiphany)
• 6 April 2012 (Good Friday)
• 9 April 2012 (Easter Monday)
• 1 May 2012 (Labour Day)
• 17 May 2012 (Ascension Day)
• 6 June 2012 (National Day)
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