Education system in Sweden

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Education in Sweden is state-funded and compulsory for all between the ages of seven and sixteen.


The number of preschool institutions in Sweden has expanded rapidly since the 1970s. Preschool education is an intrinsic part of Sweden’s welfare provision, and thus is heavily state-funded, and extremely popular, with over 70% of under fives in preschool education. Although there are a handful of private nurseries, most are run by parental co-operatives, and are seen as the first step in a Swedish child’s education development.

Primary and lower secondary education

The cornerstone of the Swedish education system is the nine-year comprehensive school (grundskola), for children between the ages of seven and sixteen. Thus the vast majority of children in Sweden remain in the same institution for all of their compulsory education. Grundskola have a relatively high degree of autonomy, and have the power to decide the size and number of classes, as well as whether or not the classes are coeducational or single sex. Schools still must adhere to a nationally standardized curriculum however, which designates a very specific number of hours to each subject, with Swedish, Mathematics, History/Social Sciences and Science given the most emphasis. Children start learning English formally at the age of ten. At the end of their ninth year in school (age 16) students sit national examinations in Swedish, English and Mathematics. National tests are also optional for municipalities at the end of the fifth year of school. Students are often assessed locally by their schools, usually on an annual basis.

Upper Secondary Education

The vast majority (98%) of Swedish students continue their studies into upper secondary education (gymnasium) and anyone up to the age of 20 can enrol for free upper secondary education. There is a large degree of diversity in upper secondary education, but most national programs provide grounding in Swedish, English, Maths and Science among other subjects. Students choose from over fifteen nationally approved specialist programs, each of which has emphasis on a different vocation, from hotel and catering to vehicle mechanics. Students spend three years in upper-secondary education, which is always coeducational. Students are assessed continually for these three years and, as of 2001, undergo national examinations.

Higher Education

Most of the large, prominent universities in Sweden are state-funded and tuition is free. Among the largest and most prestigious universities in Sweden are The University of Lund and the University of Uppsala. A diploma is awarded after two years of University study, although most students stay for another year and achieve a Batchelor’s degree. Most of the large Swedish state universities offer post-graduate courses, which require a further year of study. In order to apply to university, a Swedish student must first meet basic eligibility requirements. This either involves graduation from upper secondary education with at least a 90% pass rate, or four years experience of work with competence in English and Swedish (if over 25 years of age). Students can only apply to university if they have met these standards. Finally, students are also subject to the admissions requirements of individual universities, which are usually based on their achievements in upper secondary school and extra curicular activities.

Alternative Education

Private Education

If a Swedish school is “private” or “independent” it can mean a variety of things. There are many schools in Sweden that are run by corporations or independent bodies, often with a particular educational philosophy in mind, that still receive municipality funding, and thus are free for all students. Other private schools however, particularly international schools or schools run on religious grounds, depend on tuition fees from students.

Sami Schools

Sami is a language spoken by nearly ten thousand people in northern Sweden (among other places). There are many schools in northern Sweden that cater specifically for the Sami language. They are funded by the state, but managed by the Sami School Board. There are also a handful of integrated Sami and Swedish schools, where both languages are spoken and taught.

Kunskapsskolan Schools

(This section is a direct quote from Learning futures: Next Practice in Learning and Teaching' - published by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and The Innovation Unit.) Kunskapsskolan is a publicly funded, privately run company founded in 1999 that now runs 21 secondary schools for pupils between the ages of 12 and 16 and nine sixth form schools for 16-19 year olds, totalling 9,200 students. The Kunskapsskolan pedagogy puts much of the responsibility in the hands of the pupil by removing classrooms and letting them, within limits and in a highly sequenced curriculum, choose when, where, and what to participate in during the school day. They are supported by a personal tutor in setting short- and long-term targets and managing their learning. The pupils plan their own days, recorded in their log books, as they progress through a range of subjects broken down into a series of up to 35 steps and a series of cross-curricular themes, which they might work on in groups. Kunskapsskolan schools follow a pattern of being open plan without corridors and with multi-functional circulation areas, private study booths, tables for group work and tutorials and social areas, providing flexible accommodation that can be used in many different ways by both students and teaching staff. Within school time both the high level of ICT usage and a dedicated portal allows for a degree of blended learning. The approach aims to equip each pupil with the skills needed to be able to thrive in a future world with vast quantities of free-flowing information and a rapid rate of change.


Estia - education
An independent website that provides a very detailed description of the Swedish education system. (Visited 20-July-05)

The Sami Language in education in Sweden. (Visited 20-July-05)

Ministry of Education, Research and Culture
The Swedish Ministry of Education website. (Visited 20-July-05)