Primary and Secondary School

The educational system in Sweden is based on a nine-year primary school, or "Grundskola", with mandatory attendance. Following this comes an elective three-year secondary school, or "Gymnasieskola", which is divided in two instances where you either prepare for higher education or receive vocational education. The preparatory instance allows for specialization in either natural sciences or social sciences.

Pupils do not start receiving official grades until the 6th grade. Three grades were until recently used in elementary school: Pass (godkänd (G)), Pass with distinction (Väl godkänd (VG)), and Pass with special distinction (Mycket väl godkänd (MVG)). The grades were usually referred to by their abbreviation. Note that a failing grade did not exist as a formal grade. If the student failed to pass a course, this was reported as ***, referring to a footnote explaining that the pupil "lacks foundation for a grade". Many people, however, considered 'failed' (Icke godkänd (IG)) to be an actual grade and often referred to *** as such. Compared to course grades, failed tests were often actually marked with IG. This was, however, dependent on the preferences of the teacher and did not make any difference.

However, from the autumn of 2011, a new grading scale has been introduced into the Swedish school system: A, B, C, D, and E as passing grades and F as failing. B and D work as filling grades, for when a student hasn't reached all objectives for C or A but has reached most of them. If the student can't be graded, e.g. extensive truancy, the student will receive a dash instead of an F. If a student is on the verge of receiving an F in a certain subject/course, the teacher responsible for that subject will notify the student and the student's parents. If a student is given an F, they will receive a written review of how to improve themselves.

The pupil's total score, which is used for application to gymnasium, the secondary schools, is calculated by taking the pupil's subjects and numerically adding them together, with E = 10, D = 12.5, C = 15, B = 17.5, and A = 20, yielding a maximum possible score of 340. It is normal for a pupil to have 17 grades, as most study a third language - traditionally German or French, but in recent years Spanish has increased in popularity. If a pupil doesn't study a foreign language he or she instead studies extra Swedish and English. He or she will then only receive 16 grades and cannot reach a higher score than 320.

The sixteen subjects used to calculate the total must include the three core subjects - English, Swedish, and Mathematics. If the pupil fails any of the core subjects, she or he lacks qualification to attend secondary school. However, the student can still attend the secondary school individual program (individuellt program (IV)), either to gain competence in the core subjects and start a secondary school program or to complete the individual program and satisfy the requirements for a student degree.

Secondary school, called gymnasieskola, lasts for three years (however, some students study for four or more years for various reasons) and is formally elective, although most attend it, and there are very few prospects for those who do not attend. Secondary school is divided into so called "programs", i.e. different types of choices of educational focus. The two most common "programs" are "social science" (samhällsvetenskap) and "natural sciences" (naturvetenskap). The "programs" are further divided into orientations. There are currently seventeen different "national programs" (centrally defined program curricula) with between two and four centrally defined orientations. In addition, there are local programs and orientations, but most schools use the national programs. As of the autumn of 2011, there will be eighteen national programs, six college preparatory programs, and twelve vocational programs.

The programs are divided into two general categories: preparatory and vocational. All programs give basic qualification to attend university, but preparatory programs typically satisfy more of the various special qualifications that are required to attend some university courses and programs.

Just over half of upper secondary students follow one of the thirteen vocationally oriented programs. These programs must include at least fifteen weeks of workplace training over the three-year program.

The courses that a student takes depending on program and orientation can be divided into four levels: core subjects, program-specific subjects, orientation subjects, and individually selected courses. Core courses are courses that everyone, regardless of program, must study to satisfy the requirements for a student degree. Program-specific courses are the additional courses that a student is required to take to fulfill the program requirements. If a student for some reason does not fulfill the requirements, for example, by electing to replace a program-specific course with another course, the student is considered to have attended a specially designed program, which has no bearing except for what's printed on the school leaving certificate. Orientation subjects are the courses that a student elects to take by selecting an orientation. Normally these courses take place in the second and third year, although in a few cases the courses start earlier. Finally, individually selected courses are courses that the student freely selects for herself/himself in the second and third year; specific slots have been set aside in the curriculum and the schedule for these.

To attend secondary school, the prospective student applies to attend a certain program at a certain school, competing for entrance based upon his/her elementary school grades. In a few cases, such as the arts program (Estetiska programmet (ES)) at certain schools, the student applies for both the program and the orientation. Some programs, generally the arts program and certain local programs/orientations, have some form of entrance exam in addition to the elementary school grades.