Basic education in Sweden
In Sweden, where equality, democracy and children’s rights are cherished, education is always a hot topic. Issues such as the growth of private schools, awarding grades to elementary school children, and education for the children of recent immigrants are rarely out of the headlines.
In recent years there have been many changes to the curriculum and the way schools are organized but the basic premise of free education for all remains.
Education is compulsory for all children aged seven to 16, although nearly all start at age six. Everyone is catered for. The Sami-speaking minority in the north of Sweden have Sami schools. There are also special schools for children with hearing difficulties or learning problems.
Junior high school students who pass exams in at least Swedish, English and mathematics — the vast majority — go on to do three years at high school, while the others study educational programs tailored to their needs.
Most of the responsibility for education rests with local municipalities. The majority of the education budget is financed by local taxes, and approximately half of the municipal budget is spent on education. Today Sweden and Finland are the only two countries that still provide a free lunch for pupils.
Compared with many countries, there is not a great variation between schools when it comes to the socio-economic standing of the pupils and their results. All students have the right to attend an independent, privately-run school for which they do not pay a fee. These schools, which often have a specific focus such as art, music or sport, are spreading rapidly. Today about one in five Swedish high school students attends an independent school.
School is free in Sweden. Most children go to preschool class (kindergarten) at the age of six, start school at seven and finish around the age of 15. After that, you can choose to stay on for senior high school, which most pupils do.
If you are in Sweden at the beginning of June, you can’t miss that it’s graduation time. One of the traditions is flatbed trucks adorned with balloons and greenery, driving through the streets, honking their horns, and carrying students that are dancing and shouting out in joy. Here’s your guide to “school’s out,” Swedish style.