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A Guide to Education & International Schools in Norway

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  • David Hicks

    Thanks to my network on InterNations, I already had some contact persons to ask for support on coming to Oslo.

Norway boasts some of the best schools and higher education in the world. Attending public universities in this country is tuition-free—even for international students! This is because Norway believes that everyone should have access to education regardless of socio-economic background.

Compulsory education starts at the age of six in Norway and is mandatory until a student reaches 16 years of age. Daycare, preschool, and kindergarten (all known as barnehage in Norway) is optional and will cost parents a fee. Nevertheless, a great portion of the cost is subsidized by the government. There is a yearly cap for these fees, and in 2019 it was 3,040 NOK (333 USD) per month. This cap is subject to change from year to year. This also excludes the cost of food.

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The Education System in Norway

What is the education system like in Norway? The public education system in the country is one of the best in the world. Norway has a higher level of general education than the European average.

Education Facts about Norway

  • School is compulsory between the ages of 6–16.
  • Classes are taught in Norwegian with the exception of foreign language classes.
  • Students only begin receiving grades in school once they enter lower secondary school.
  • The entire education system in Norway is state-supported, including higher education.

Should My Child Attend Public or Private School?

The main differences between public and private schools are the number of schools and students who attend. Private schools in Norway tend to be favored by expat families versus local Norwegians. There are also very little private schools in the country in comparison to public ones. This could be due to the fact that private school in Norway was illegal up until 2005. Before then, in order for a private school to qualify as private, they had to offer religious or pedagogic education.

School Ages in Norway

It is important to know what grade level your child will be entering dependent on their age. The school system in Norway can be divided into the following three levels:

School Level Grades Ages Primary 1–7 6–13 Lower Secondary 8–10 13–16 Upper Secondary VG1–VG3 16–19

Grading System in Norway

For secondary and upper secondary school, the following number scale is used:

  • 6—Outstanding competence
  • 5—Very good competence
  • 4—Good competence
  • 3—Fairly good competence
  • 2—Low level of competence
  • 1—Very low level of competence/fail

Universities and university colleges grade in the following way:

Letter Grade Description A Excellent B Very Good C Good D Satisfactory E Sufficient F Fail

What is the School Year in Norway like?

The school year in Norway starts in mid-August and goes until late June of the following year. It is divided into two terms split by the Christmas break, which runs from mid-December to early January. School hours are short in Norway. Children go to school starting at 8:15 a.m. and end at 13:10 or 13:55 p.m. with three different breaks during the day: lunch and two recesses.

Daycare and Kindergarten

Daycare/childcare, preschool, and kindergarten all refer to the same thing in Norway. It is known as barnehage and it is completely voluntary. If a parent/guardian wishes to enroll their child in barnehage, they will need to pay. However, a large portion of the costs is subsidized by the government.

Is Preschool and Kindergarten Mandatory?

No. School is only compulsory starting at the age of 6 (Grade One). However, the majority of Norwegian children do attend preschool daycare centers / kindergarten.

What Age Do You Start Kindergarten?

Kindergarten is for children between 0–5 years of age.

Educational Approach

Preschool daycares and kindergartens take a holistic approach to education. They focus on fun learning, social skills, and a play-based program. There is also a strong emphasis on outdoor play (some even have lunch outside). Preschool daycares and kindergartens promote well-being and enjoyment. They also concentrate on fostering children’s creativity, natural curiosity, and language skills.

Daycare/Childcare and Kindergarten Fees

As of 2019, the school cost for barnehage cannot exceed 3,040 NOK (333 USD) per month (2019). Keep in mind that this cap changes annually. This is excluding food costs which can be 200–800 NOK (22–88 USD) extra per month. In some daycare centers, you can opt for part-time spots (80%, 60%, 50%, 40%, or 20% of the time). In these cases, tuition fees will be adjusted accordingly. Discounts also exist if you have more than one child attending at a time.

Apart from kindergarten, other daycare options include nannies and babysitters. For a full-time nanny in Norway (Mondays—Fridays for eight hours a day), you can expect to pay between 4,000 to 8,500 NOK (438–931 USD) per month. If you only need your child looked after on occasion, you can consider hiring a babysitter. Hourly rates range from 50 to 200 NOK (5–22 USD).

Talk to other international parents with young children in Norway

Talk to other international parents with young children in Norway

Primary and Secondary Schools

School costs for primary and secondary schools in Norway are completely free of charge.

Primary School

Primary school, known as elementary school in other countries, is where compulsory education begins in Norway. Children must enroll when they turn six years old. Attending is a right for all students.

Lower Secondary School

Lower secondary school is often taught in the same school as primary. It, too, is compulsory and a right. A typical schedule at both the primary and lower secondary school levels include the following school subjects:

  • Norwegian
  • mathematics
  • social science
  • Christina knowledge, religions, and ethical education
  • art and crafts
  • natural science
  • English (compulsory foreign language starting in grade one)
  • foreign language / in-depth study of a language
  • food and health
  • music
  • physical education
  • student council work
  • optional program subject

Upper Secondary School

Following the completion of lower secondary school, students are able to attend three years of upper secondary school (known as high school in some countries), which is where students will prepare to access university. This level of schooling is optional. Pupils can also choose between vocational training or general studies. Programs for vocational education include:

  • buildings and construction;
  • design, arts, and crafts;
  • electricity and electronics;
  • health and social care;
  • media and communication;
  • agriculture, fishing, and forestry;
  • restaurant and food processing;
  • service and transport;
  • technical and industrial production.

General studies programs are:

  • specialization in general studies;
  • sports and physical education;
  • music, dance, and drama.

How to Access University

Requirements for higher education include:

  • three years of upper secondary school education;
  • proficiency in English or Norwegian;
  • minimum grade point average (varies between university/college);
  • student visa (if applicable).

There are several scholarships and grants for international students wishing to go to university in Norway. These include:

  • Erasmus+;
  • NORAM;
  • Norwegian-Russian Scholarship Scheme;
  • Norwegian Quota Scholarship Scheme;
  • High North Fellowship Program;
  • Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund;
  • UiT Marie Sklodowska Curie Individual Fellowship for International Students in Norway.

International Schools

Some of the best international schools in Norway are listed below. Schools in Norway for international students can include nursery, primary, and secondary schools. They can help prepare pupils for the International Baccalaureate and other diplomas. There are more than 40 schools offering the International Baccalaureate in Norway.

International schools can be a great choice for expat families and children of diplomats, NGO staff, and multinational corporation executives. While you may find a few local students at some international schools in Norway, the student body is typically made up of foreign national pupils.

Top International Schools in Norway

  • Ålesund International School (AaIS) (Ålesund): This is an English-language IB World School with Norwegian lessons. It has a student council and several after-school activities.
  • Arnedal International School (AIS) (Arnedal and Asker): This school was the first English-medium primary and middle school in the country. It boasts a variety of clubs and activities including Sports Day, drama club, cooking club, and a talent show, among many others.
  • International School of Bergen (IBS) (Bergen): This school begins at the preschool and kindergarten levels. It follows the International Baccalaureate. IBS was also the first school in the world to offer the prestigious program: International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program.
  • Children’s International School (Fredrikstad): This is a small school with lessons in English that focus on the arts. Both the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program and Middle Years Program are offered.
  • Gjøvik International School (GIS) (Gjøvik): This school offers an international education in English. Students learn both English and Norwegian from Grades 1–5. Starting in Grade 6, pupils begin a third language. They are an International Baccalaureate school.

Other schools in Norway for international students include the following British, French, and German schools.

  • British International School of Stavanger (Stavanger): This English-language school offers the International Baccalaureate program and is based on the British curriculum. The school offers bus service, after-school clubs, and sports. It is accredited by the Council of British International Schools.
  • Lycée Français René Cassin d’Oslo (Oslo): Instruction at this school is in French and is supported by the French l’Agence pour l’Enseignement Français à l’Entranger (AEFE). It offers school from preschool to the final year of high school.
  • Lycée Français de Stavanger (Stavanger): This school has lessons from preschool to the end of high school. Lessons are taught in French. It, too, is supported by the AEFE.
  • Deutsche Schule Oslo—Max Tau (DSO) (Oslo): This school has a kindergarten, primary, and upper secondary school. Students can earn their Arbitur which will give them the ability to continue their education in Germany or abroad.

International School Tuition Fees

Tuition tends to be expensive for international schools in the country, but they often come with better facilities, higher standards of learning, and smaller class sizes. Below are some examples of school costs.

Per year:

  • Ålesund International School (AaIS)—24,720 NOK (2,690 USD)
  • Arnedal International School (AIS)—21,000 NOK (2,285 USD)
  • British International School of Stavanger— 150,000 NOK (16,321 USD)

Per month:

  • Children’s International School—2,500–2,700 NOK (272–294 USD)
  • Gjøvik International School (GIS)—2,250 NOK (245 USD)

International School Requirements and Admission

Enrollment requirements vary from school to school. Some schools require pupils to be of a certain nationality in order to be considered for admission. Generally, you will need to have:

  • completed application form;
  • school records;
  • proficiency in English and mathematics (for some schools);
  • standardized test results (if applicable);
  • samples of student work/portfolio.

It is best to contact your school of choice for specifics. It is important to note that space is often limited at many international schools, so it is better to inquire and apply early.

Higher Education

If you are interested in studying in Europe, or maybe your child is nearing university age, Norway is an excellent country to consider for high education. Many programs are taught in English. The country follows the Bologna Declaration, which means final degrees correspond to levels in other European countries. Bachelor’s degrees require three years of study while masters require five. Professional studies like psychology, medicine, and law also require five years of study.

Types of Higher Education in Norway

There are different types of higher education institutions in Norway.

  • Universities—There is a focus on subjects like arts, humanities/liberal arts, natural science and they offer bachelor’s, masters, and PhDs. They also run professional studies such as law, medicine, dentistry, psychology, and pharmacy.
  • University colleges—Like universities, they offer bachelor’s, masters, and PhDs. The difference is they offer smaller teaching classes, have more group lessons, more project work, and closer monitoring of pupils. They offer engineering degrees and professional vocations like teachers and nurses.
  • Specialized universities—These are known as national competence centers for the field they concentrate in.
  • Private institutions—The offer popular subjects that tend to fill up fast at public universities such as business management, marketing, or fine arts.

In Norway, there are nine universities, eight university colleges, and five scientific colleges owned by the state. There are also a number of private higher education institutions. Higher education is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Research. Although they are few compared to the number of schools in other countries, they nonetheless offer high-quality education to its pupils.

Top Universities in Norway

  • University of Oslo
  • University of Bergen
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
  • UIT the Artic University of Norway
  • Norwegian University of Life Sciences

These universities are also considered the best universities for international students in Norway.

Top Faculties

The best subjects to study in Norway are:

  • life sciences and biotechnology;
  • agricultural science;
  • natural sciences;
  • energy and sustainability;
  • social sciences;
  • digital media, animation, and visual arts;
  • marketing and management studies;
  • IT and technology;
  • tourism and hospitality;
  • ecology;
  • marine studies;
  • architecture.

The most popular programs for international students in Norway are:

  • architecture;
  • master of business administration;
  • bachelor of engineering;
  • law;
  • medicine;
  • teaching;
  • bachelor programs in the sciences.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in Norway for International Students?

The great news is that public university tuition fees in Norway are non-existent! There is no charge to study at the undergraduate level—not even for international students. This is because Norway believes that everyone should be able to get an education despite their social background.

Depending on where you are studying, there may be a small fee you will need to pay, but this is generally between 300 to 600 NOK (33–65 USD). This fee typically gives you access to student union memberships, health services, counseling, sports facilities, and your official student card. Occasionally you will find some public institutions charging a tuition fee for some programs, but this is rare and usually only found with postgraduate programs.

How to Apply

To apply for higher education in Norway, you can do so through Samordna opptak. Even if you do not have a Norwegian national identity number, you should still apply via this website. The last day for applications is April 15. For some institutions and programs, such as a master’s program, you may need to apply directly via the school’s website. You will get your admission decision on July 20 and you must go online to see your results. This is where you will accept and confirm your place at the school as well. Studies typically begin on August 10, but this date may vary between universities.

Alternative to Higher Education

Tertiary vocational education is an alternative to higher education for those students who do not wish to attend university. The Higher Education Entrance Qualification is not required for this. Programs last between half a year to two years.

Ask other international parents already living in Norway

Join one of our many local parent groups and get advice on which schools to choose.

Language Schools

Language schools in Norway include the following institutions in the following main areas:

  • Lingu—Olso and Stavanger
  • Alfaskolen—Olso and Drammen
  • Berlitz Language Services—Oslo
  • Language Power International A / S—Oslo
  • Language Champ—Olso

Language school fees for these institutions vary depending on the type and length of the program you choose. Some cost examples are outlined below.

School Course (A1 Beginner) NOK USD Lingu Online 1,790/month 195 Lingu Fast-track daytime 2,290/month 250 Lingu Fast-track flexi 2,690/month 290 Language Champ For beginners 3,290 (36 hours) 360 Alfaskolen Daytime intensive 18,320 (192 hours) 1,990

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