Education Today

The Norwegian school system can be divided into three parts: Elementary school (Barneskole, ages 6-13), lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, ages 13-19), 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, 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. 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, 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.

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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

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.