Compulsory schools in Sweden

Skolebøger og et æble
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Here you can read about compulsory schools in Sweden. You also get an overview of the requirement to attend school, year groups, recreation centres, grading system, and mother tongue teaching in schools in Sweden.

In Sweden, it is the municipalities that have main responsibility for compulsory schools, while the Government steers the school system through laws, regulations, curriculums and syllabuses that define goals and guidelines for schools.

The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) is responsible for following up, developing, and monitoring the school system. Everyone in schools is obliged to work for the common objective to guarantee a standard level of education.

Swedish schools are largely state funded and are free of charges. A small proportion of pupils attend independent schools (fristående skola), which are also state funded.

Children living in Sweden are entitled and required to attend schooling for ten years.

Preschool class (förskoleklass)

The child begins in the preschool class at the age of six in preparation for the start of school. The preschool class is included in the requirement to attend school in Sweden.

The preschool class (förskoleklass) is a separate school form, but is often physically integrated with the compulsory school. Part of the curriculum for compulsory school applies to the preschool class.

Compulsory school

The Swedish compulsory school (grundskola) and the corresponding school forms, compulsory school for learning disabilities (grundsärskola) and special school (specialskola), consist of the preschool class and nine year groups (classes 1-9). Each school year is divided into two terms, a spring term and an autumn term.

There are both municipal and independent (fristående) compulsory schools. All compulsory schools follow the same curriculum, but the independent schools may have an orientation that differs from the municipal school, such as religious belief or pedagogical system. The independent schools can be owned by a business enterprise, a foundation or an association.

You can obtain more information about the compulsory school from the Swedish National Agency for Education or your own municipality.

If you move to Sweden from another Nordic country, your child is entitled to attend school in Sweden in a class of children of the same age and at the same level as the school your child attended in your home country - regardless of language proficiency.

If your child has attended a school in another Nordic country earlier and is to be enrolled in a Swedish compulsory school, you should bring documentation from the previous school in a Scandinavian language or English. Contact the school your child is to attend to find out exactly what documentation the child should take.

Requirement to attend school

Some Nordic countries have compulsory education but, in Sweden, children are required to attend school. Requirement to attend school means that children must be taught in school and that the pupil must participate in the teaching carried out in the school, unless the pupil has valid grounds for not participating.

The requirement to attend school starts in the autumn term of the year of the child’s sixth birthday. The requirement to attend school generally ceases after the tenth school year or, if your child attends a special school, after the eleventh school year.

All children who are subject to the general requirement to attend school are entitled to free basic education.

The right to choose a school

When you choose a school for your child, the municipality must consider your and your child’s wishes on choice of school and the principle of proximity to school (närhetsprincipen), but your child cannot demand admission to a particular school.

Parents and children can choose between a municipal school and an independent school. It may be necessary to register with an independent school a couple of years in advance in order to obtain a place. An independent school is itself responsible for admission to the school and has its own selection procedures. On the Swedish National Agency for Education website you can see which schools you or your child can choose between.

Contact the municipality to which you are planning to move for information on what you must do to enrol your child in the school you want in Sweden.

International schools

Children who are living in Sweden for a short period, or who have other reasons for being educated in an international school, are entitled to this if the school is approved as an international school by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen). For approval, the school’s education must be regarded as being equivalent to the Swedish compulsory school.

Grading system

In compulsory school there is a six-point grading system, with five passing grades, A-E, and F, which is not a pass. Grades (terminsbetyg) are given each term in classes 6-9 in all the subjects in which the pupil has been taught.

At the end of the spring term in year 9, the pupil is awarded final grades (slutbetyg). The pupil applies to upper secondary school on the basis of the final grades.

In the compulsory school for pupils with learning disabilities, grades are awarded if the child or the parent/guardian request this. In special schools, grades are awarded in years 7-10.

Year groups

The school systems in the Nordic countries are not completely identical. The following table shows how the year groups in the five Nordic countries are distributed (figures in parentheses show that the year group in question is not compulsory). Preschool class (förskola) plus 9-10 years of schooling.

Sweden          Denmark          Finland         Iceland          Norway          Age

     0                     0                      (0)                 1                  1                 6

     1                       1                      1                    2                  2                 7

     2                      2                       2                   3                  3                 8

     3                      3                       3                   4                  4                 9

     4                      4                       4                   5                  5                10

     5                      5                       5                   6                  6                11

     6                      6                       6                   7                  7                12

     7                      7                       7                   8                  8                13

     8                      8                       8                   9                  9                14

     9                      9                       9                  10                10               15

     -                    (10)                   (10)                 -                   -               16

Mother tongue language

A pupil who has a parent/guardian with a different mother tongue language to Swedish is entitled to mother tongue language teaching in this language if the language is spoken daily in the home, if the pupil has basic knowledge of the language, and if at least five pupils in the municipality have requested this teaching.

If the parent/guardian has a national minority language as mother tongue language, the pupil must be offered mother tongue language teaching even if the language is not spoken daily in the home and even if there are fewer than five pupils. The national minority languages are Finnish, Meänkieli (Tornedal Finnish), Sami (all dialects), Romany Chib, and Yiddish.

Educational activity

Schoolchildren can participate in educational activities at a recreation centre (fritidshem), in open leisure-time centres, or in child care from when they are aged six up to and including the spring term in the year of the child’s 13th birthday.

The centres are open from early morning until the evening to enable parents to work or study.

Parents generally pay a fee for this child care.

In most cases, the recreeation centre is a department that is integrated with the school and has the same management.

School transport

Pupils who live a long distance from the school, have a disability, or for some other reason require transport, can under certain circumstances be entitled to free school transport (skolskjuts). Contact your municipality for more information.

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