The Norwegian Education System

Universal schooling for children was introduced in Norway 250 years ago. From 1889, seven years of compulsory education were provided, 1969 this was increased to nine years and in 1997 to 10 years.

As a result of Norway’s scattered population, forty per cent of primary and lower secondary schools are so small that children of different ages are taught in the same classroom. Primary and lower secondary levels are often combined in the same school.

Link til brochure Education in Norway 2007 - from kindergarten to life long learning

The collective objectives and principles for teaching in primary and lower secondary schools are laid down in the national curriculum. The curriculum for primary and lower secondary education includes:

  • Core curriculum for primary and lower secondary, upper secondary and adult education
  • Principles and guidelines for primary and lower secondary education
  • Curricula for individual subjects

The subject curricula lay down a common learning content for all pupils, which increases in scope throughout the school and is greatest at the lower secondary stage. This common learning content is enlarged on and supplemented to adapt it to local conditions and to the needs of individual pupils.

The Sami curriculum

The culture and traditions of the Sami community are part of the common Norwegian and Nordic culture that both the national curriculum and the special Sami curriculum require all pupils to be acquainted with. In areas defined as Sami districts and according to specific criteria elsewhere in Norway, this teaching is given in accordance with the special Sami curriculum.

For Sami pupils, this teaching is intended to build a sense of security in relation to the pupils’ own culture and to develop Sami language and identity, as well as equipping Sami pupils to take an active part in the community and enabling them to acquire education at all levels. State support is provided for the development of textbooks written in the Sami language. The Sami College has a special responsibility for training Sami teachers. The University of Tromsø has responsibility for Sami language and Sami studies.

Building teaching competence

To ensure that pupils receive an education compatible with the curriculum for primary and lower secondary education, the Ministry prepared a plan for competence building for the period 1996–2000, giving special attention to supplementary training for teachers at primary and lower secondary schools.

For the period 2000–2003 a targeted plan for competence building, development and experimentation gives particular priority to the lower secondary level.

As part of the Knowledge Promotion and in collaboration with the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities and the teachers’ unions, the Ministry of Education and Research has presented a Strategy for Competence Development in Primary and Secondary Education.

The strategy "Skills for Quality 2009 - 2012" is a lasting commitment to continuing education for teachers.

School subjects at primary and lower secondary levels

Christian knowledge and religious and ethical education
Social Studies
Art and Crafts
Science and the Environment
English (is compulsory from the primary level)
Home Economics
Physical Education
Compulsory additional subjects

In addition, time is set aside at all levels for School’s and pupils’ options. These hours are taken from the teaching hours allocated to the main levels. A separate quota of hours is allocated to class and pupils` council work at the lower secondary level. At the lower and upper primary levels, it is possible for schools to allocate a quota of hours locally for this purpose from the hours allocated to other subjects.

In addition to the compulsory subjects, pupils are required to choose one of the following options:

  • Second foreign language. Pupils can choose a foreign language in addition to English, i.e. German or French or another language on the basis of local or regional needs.
  • Supplementary language study. Pupils can choose additional in-depth study of a language they already have a basic knowledge of.
  • Practical project work. This is an activity that is planned in cooperation with the pupils.

For deaf pupils, curricula have been set up for Norwegian sign language as a first language, supplementary study of Norwegian Sign Language, special syllabuses in Norwegian, English and Drama and Rhythmics for deaf pupils.

Day-care facilities for school children

In many families, both parents are out at work during the day. If they have children in the lower primary school, they may therefore need day-care facilities for them both before and after school hours. Day-care facilities for school children must provide facilities for play and for participation in cultural and recreational activities appropriate for the age, level of physical ability and interests of the children. Such day-care facilities must also provide satisfactory development conditions for children with physical disabilities. From 1 January 1999, all municipalities in Norway have been legally obliged to provide day-care facilities before and after school hours for children attending the first four grades.

Last updated: 19.05.2011
Ministry of Education and Research