Compulsory schools in Sweden

Skolebøger og et æble
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In Sweden, most children start in the preschool class when they are six, and then attend school for nine years. Here you can read about Sweden’s compulsory school, the requirement to attend school, year groups, school-age educare, grades, and mother tongue teaching.

If you move to Sweden with a child who has gone to school in another Nordic country, and want to register the child in a Swedish school, contact the Swedish school and ask what papers the child should have with them. These should be in a Scandinavian language or English.

Your child is entitled to attend school in Sweden at the same level as the school your child attended in your home country with similar-aged classmates - regardless of language proficiency.

Preschools in Sweden

Your child begins in the preschool class (förskoleklass) 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, and comprises its own school form that is often integrated with the compulsory school. Part of the curriculum for compulsory school applies to preschool.

Compulsory schools in Sweden

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

In Sweden, 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, assessing, developing, and monitoring the school system.

In Sweden, the municipalities have main responsibility for schools, which are largely state-financed and free of charge. There are both municipal compulsory schools and independent (fristående) schools.

Compulsory schools can be either municipal or independent. Most schools are municipal, and student usually attend a municipal school close to home.

A small proportion of pupils attend independent schools, which are also state funded. Independent schools are open to all students, and the teaching must correspond to that in municipal schools. Independent schools have a different owner to the municipality, and can be owned by a business enterprise, a foundation, or an association.

All compulsory schools follow the same curriculum, but the independent schools may have a profile that differs from the municipal school, such as religious belief or pedagogical system.

Every school may have different profiles, such as teaching in English or culture and sports classes.

In Sweden, according to the Education Act, all students must complete work experience in Class 8 and/or 9. This is called PRÅO (praktisk arbetslivsorientering), and means that students can find out what it is like to work in a workplace.

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

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.

Every school year has two terms (terminer), an autumn term and a spring term.

The requirement to attend school starts in the autumn term of the calendar year of your 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 in Sweden

In Sweden parents can choose a school for their children anywhere in the municipality in which they live. In some parts of Sweden there are local agreements through which parents can choose a school anywhere in the county.

Consequently, the possibility to choose school is not limited to the part of the municipality or town in which the child lives. However, a parent’s wish cannot override another student’s right to a place in a school close to home. This is called the principle of proximity (närhetsprincipen).

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, 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 and 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 your chosen school 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.

Grades in compulsory schools in Sweden

In compulsory school there is a six-point grading system, A-F. The first five grades, A-E, are approved grades and show that the student has passed. The grade F is a fail grade, and shows that the student has not passed.

At the end of each term from Class 6 to Class 9, students are awarded grades (terminsbetyg) in the subjects that have been included in the teaching. Grades are awarded in all the subjects in which the student has been taught. The school head can choose that the school will award grades from Class 4.

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 requests this. In special schools, grades are awarded in Classes 7-10.

Year groups

The transitions between the school systems in the Nordic countries are not completely identical. The following table shows how the respective year groups in the five Nordic countries. The figures in parentheses show that the year group in question is not compulsory.

Year 0 corresponds to the preschool class, which is followed by 9-10 years of schooling in the individual Nordic countries.

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 whose parent/guardian has 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.

School-age educare

Schoolchildren can participate in educational activities at a school-age educare 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.

There is both municipal and independent school-age educare. Independent school-age educare centres can be run by a business enterprise, a religious community, a foundation, or an economic association in the form of cooperative.

It is the municipalities that are responsible for ensuring that there is school-age educare and that children have places. The municipalities approve independent school-age educare centres, which largely operate under the same rules as municipal centres. It is the municipality that is the supervisory authority for the independent school-age educare in the municipality.

School-age educare 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 school-age educare 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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