Access to free education is a key priority in Sweden, and the population is becoming increasingly more educated. The usual trajectory of education in Sweden starts with preschool and ends with higher education. Nearly one in four of the Swedish population between 16 and 74 years had attained a post-secondary education of three years or more in 2022. The highest share of the population, however, had upper secondary education as their highest completed education level.
Preschool and primary school
Preschools are overseen on a municipal level in Sweden, and attendance is optional and available for children from one year up to the fall semester when they turn six. In 2022, 85.8 percent of all children of preschool age were attending one of the 9,310 preschools in the country. That was the highest share during the last 10 years. While children can enter preschool from the age of one, preschool attendance was most common for five-year-olds.
After preschool, the next step on the education ladder is primary school. However, before moving on to this, children can attend one year of so-called preschool classes, which prerpare them for primary school. Primary school institutions are also overseen by municipalities and consist of nine years of compulsory education. The nine years are divided into three stages: lower school, intermediate school, and junior high school. The number of primary schools decreased since 2013 and amounted to 4,719 institutions in the school year 2022/23. However, the number of pupils attending primary school increased annually over the same period, reaching more than 1.1 million pupils in 2022/23, a development which resulted in a constant increase in the average number of pupils per primary school in the country.
Upper secondary and higher education
Contrary to primary school, upper secondary education is optional in Sweden. 364,000 students were registered in the 1,295 upper secondary schools in the school year 2022/23, which was the highest number of students during the last 10 years. Hence, there were 281 students per upper secondary school in the academic year 2022/23. Upper secondary education in Sweden are divided between programs preparing the students for higher education, and programs preparing them for vocational education. Upper secondary education in Sweden usually lasts three years.
Over the recent years, the number of higher education students in the Scandinavian country increased. In 2022, 372,000 students were registered at higher education institutions in Sweden. Of these, more than 60 percent were women. The most popular field of study among both female and male students is law and social sciences. Among doctoral (PhD) students, however, health and medical studies is the most popular field of study.
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Einar H. Dyvik
Research expert covering Nordics and global data for society, economy, and politics