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Education in Nordic countries - statistics & facts

The Nordic countries are often praised for leading the way towards better and more equal education. In the Nordic countries, education is free and publicly funded, and there are no tuition fees in higher education. The basic principles entail that everyone should have the same educational opportunities, regardless of their social or economic background. Hence, all higher education students are entailed a certain level of unconditional financial support. The people in the Nordic countries are becoming increasingly educated, and over 23 percent of Swedes had attained a higher education of three years or more in 2021. Women in particular are climbing the educational ladder. In Denmark, for instance, a higher share of women than men had completed a master's degree in 2021.

Mandatory primary education and emphasis on preschool

Education generally follows the same trajectory in the five Nordic countries and is comprised of mandatory primary school time of nine or ten years, followed by optional upper secondary and higher education. Most schools and education institutions are public, and the vast majority of pupils and students are admitted in public institutions. Yet both the number of private schools and pupils in private schools in Norway increased over the past years. Moreover, there is a strong emphasis on pre-primary education in the countries to facilitate female employment. Despite these commonalities, however, the education systems are not identical. For example, Sweden offers one year of optional so-called preschool class the year before children enter primary education. Moreover, elementary school in Norway is divided into several stages. The countries also follow different national curriculums, which cannot be deviated from.

Upper secondary and higher education

After finishing their primary education, most people in the Nordic countries move on to do an upper secondary education, which is optional. This is usually divided between general programs, preparing the students for further higher education, and vocational programs. Furthermore, as the number of immigrants in all five countries increased over the past years in the Nordic countries, so has the share of immigrants in upper secondary education, which could be observed in Sweden.

More and more people in the Nordic countries move on to study at a university, as observed through the educational attainment levels in the countries. However, the total number of university students still fluctuated in some of the countries over the past years. Moreover, many students decide to study abroad, with the United Kingdom a favorite destination among many. Some students also decide to study in other Nordic countries. Over the years, several cooperation agreements have been implemented between the the Nordic countries in order to make it easier to study in neighboring countries.


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