My wife and I are traveling in Norway this week, so I don’t have time for a full-fledged post, but I offer this description of the Norwegian educational system without additional comment, other than to note what’s possible when a wealthy country makes investing in education for all without layering in competition among elites.
Before Schooling Starts
Birth to 1 year old: 18 months of full-pay parental leave where each parent must take at least six of those months, with the third six months used at the parents’ discretion.
Ages 1 to 6: Kindergarten
Access to kindergarten care is universal and free, and kindergartens are operated on six core values.
- Children and childhood: “Kindergartens shall respect and safeguard the intrinsic value of childhood. Helping to ensure that all kindergarten children can enjoy a good childhood with well-being, friendships and play is essential.”
- Democracy: “Increasing diversity and individualization demands an understand of democracy, respect for our differences and positive attitudes in order to be able to live together.”
- Diversity and mutual respect: “Kindergartens shall promote respect for human dignity by highlighting, valuing and promoting diversity and mutual respect.”
- Equity and equality: “Kindergartens shall promote equity and equality irrespective of gender, functional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity, culture, social status, language, and world view.”
- Sustainable development: “The children shall learn to look after themselves, each other and nature.”
- Life skills and health: “Kindergartens shall promote good health, play a preventative role and help even out social inequalities.”
Norwegian children routinely spend 75 percent of their kindergarten days outside.
Primary and Secondary Education: Grades 1–13
In primary education, no grades are given. Grades are first received in mandatory subjects starting in the Norwegian version of middle school, but no earlier.
For upper secondary education (essentially our high school) students choose between general studies (college prep) or a vocational track. General studies includes subjects like art and design, media and communications, performing arts, and physical education as well as what we would consider a liberal arts degree.
Vocational programs include engineering, computer science, health care, construction, agriculture, tourism, food service, IT, hairdressing, interior design and tourism.
After high school, all Norwegians are required to do a year of service—this is primarily but not exclusively military service.
A university bachelor’s degree is three years, after which you can start a master’s or Ph.D. program if you wish. There are programs for professional study in things like pharmacy, law, fisheries science and teaching, which take an additional two years after the bachelor’s.
All institutions are tuition-free and students are eligible for additional living subsidies, which start in the form of loans but include automatic provisions for partial (60 percent) forgiveness if criteria around course completion are met.
Once working, all Norwegians have the right to full or partial leave from their jobs “up to three years” to pursue additional vocational training that does not come coupled with a degree.