Primary school in Greenland

Foto: Barn, Nuuk centrum, Grönland
Mats Bjerde
Here you can read about primary education in Greenland.

In Greenland, there are ten years of compulsory education. This means that all children aged between 6 and 16 must receive education for ten years. Primary school education is free of charge for everyone living in Greenland. Primary school concludes with a test and an evaluation, which provides admission to upper secondary and vocational education.

Compulsory education

School attendance is not compulsory in Greenland, but children must receive primary education. This means that parents are obliged to ensure that their children receive education from 1 August in the year in which they turn six. Children must receive ten years of primary education, but parents may decide whether they will do so in primary school or in the form of home schooling.   

Greenland is a large country, with long distances between the towns and villages. There may be cases in which families live so far away from the nearest school – such as parents who work as sheep farmers – that they may instead choose to hire a tutor to undertake home schooling. Although the teaching takes place in the home, it must still be approved by the municipal council, which also assesses the home teaching on an ongoing basis.

Primary school

There are free primary schools in all towns and villages in Greenland – however, not all of these schools offer teaching throughout the entire primary programme (see section on village schools).

Primary schooling is divided into three steps:

  • First step: A three-year step for the youngest children, 1st-3rd grade
  • Middle step: A four-year step for intermediate children, 4th-7th grade
  • Third step: A three-year step for the oldest children, 8th-10th grade

After both the first and middle steps, all children must be tested to ensure that they have learned what they need to, and so that teachers can adjust their teaching. The third step concludes in examinations and an assessment, after which the pupil receives a school-leaving certificate. The results the pupil achieves in 10th grade may be crucial in determining the pupil’s possibilities for further education.  

The concluding assessment consists of:

  • A statement and general proficiency grade
  • The pupil’s own evaluation
  • Tests in Greenlandic, Danish, English and Mathematics
  • Presentation of a project

It is also possible to take 10th grade at a continuation school in Greenland or Denmark. In rare cases, pupils may leave school after nine years if this is requested by the parents.    However, few pupils in Greenland do so, and most conclude primary school after 10th grade.

Village schools

In many smaller settlements and villages, primary school is available only for the first two steps. Children must therefore travel to larger towns to complete their schooling, typically after 7th grade. 

Children who have to move away from their families to complete their primary schooling are accommodated in a pupils’ home belonging to the school they attend.   At the pupils’ home, there are adults who are in charge of looking after the children while they live there. Accommodation at the pupils’ homes is free of charge, and full catering is provided.

Independent schools

The vast majority of primary schools in Greenland are municipal schools. However, there is a private, parent-run independent school in Nuuk.  

Continuation schools and vocational schools

A continuation school provides an opportunity for pupils aged between 14 and 18 to take one or more of the final years of primary education. A continuation school is a boarding school, and the young people live, eat their meals and receive their tuition at the school. Continuation schools are fee-paying schools.

In Greenland, there are continuation schools in Maniitsoq and Qasigiannguit.

Continuation school in Denmark and the Nordic countries

Many young people in Greenland choose to travel to Denmark to take one or two years at a continuation school. In these cases, it is possible for the parents to apply for a grant to help fund the child’s stay at continuation school.

During their stay in Denmark, the pupils must be provided with a contact family who can support the young person in the same way that their own family would do. The contact family undertakes to attend the first day of school and parent meetings, and to act as host family during holidays and periods of illness, etc.

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