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Education in Scandinavia - statistics & facts

Scandinavia is often praised for leading the way towards better and more equal education, and the Scandinavian education systems do stand out: Education is free and publicly funded in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and the welfare-state mentality makes way for an inclusive and cooperative way of learning. The basic principles entail that everyone should have the same educational opportunities, regardless of their social or economic background. Scandinavian populations are becoming increasingly educated, and over 22 percent of Swedes had attained a higher education of three years or more in 2019. Scandinavian women in particular are climbing the educational ladder, notably in Denmark where females recently outnumbered men in higher education.

Education generally follows the same trajectory in Scandinavian 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 increased over the past years. Despite these commonalities, however, the education systems are not identical. For example, there is stronger emphasis on preschool in Sweden, while elementary school in Norway is divided into several stages. The countries also follow different national curriculums, which cannot be deviated from.

Other than that, demographic and regional differences also play a role. Sweden has both the largest population and geographical area, and naturally accounts for the most education institutions and students. In 2019, roughly 360 thousand students were enrolled in higher education institutions in Sweden, which was a considerably higher number than in Denmark and Norway. Universities are by far the most popular higher education institution in all the countries. Close to 150 students were registered in Denmark in 2019. Despite having the smallest population, the largest university of Scandinavia is found in Norway. With headquarters in Trondheim, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology counted over 41 thousand students in 2019. By comparison, the largest universities in both Denmark and Sweden are located in their capital cities.

Scandinavian students enjoy free educational mobility across the different countries. For example, students with a Danish diploma can apply for higher education in Sweden on the same terms as Swedes. Over the years, several cooperation agreements have been implemented between the Scandinavian and the Nordic countries more broadly, in order to make it easier to study in neighboring countries. Not only does this apply for students in higher education, with the exception of doctorate students, students in vocational or upper secondary education also have the opportunity of completing parts of or their whole degree abroad.

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Education in Scandinavia

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Upper secondary education

Higher education

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