Country information for Norway - Legislation and policy
Norwegian compulsory education covers primary and lower-secondary education.
Kindergarten is not compulsory in Norway, but children are entitled to a place in a kindergarten when they are a year old. Children can attend kindergarten from 0–5 years of age, when they start school. Municipalities are responsible for assigning kindergarten places to parents and for ensuring enough kindergarten places to meet demand.
Paid parental leave is from the child’s birth to around one year. The parental leave period is split into three parts: maternal leave, paternal leave and a shared period.
The compulsory education programme lasts for ten years (seven years in primary education and three years in lower-secondary education). Children start school in the calendar year of their sixth birthday and finish their compulsory education in the calendar year of their sixteenth birthday.
Upper-secondary education and training comprises all education leading to qualifications above the lower-secondary level and below the level of higher education.
The legislation providing the basis for the organisation of education is as follows:
- Kindergarten Act
- Education Act on primary, lower-secondary and upper-secondary education
- Independent Schools Act
- Adult Education Act.
Early Childhood Education and Care – Kindergarten
It is a political priority to achieve universal access for all children under six years of age (Source: IECE – Norway Country Survey Questionnaire, p. 1).
The first Kindergarten Act in Norway entered into force in 1975. The current Kindergarten Act entered into force in January 2006. The Kindergarten Act states that the municipalities are the local authorities for kindergartens. The municipality must provide guidance and ensure that kindergartens are operated in accordance with current rules. The municipalities are obliged to ensure that there are enough kindergarten places. Private kindergartens have a legal right to approval if they are suitable in terms of purpose and content and fulfil the requirements of the Kindergarten Act. The municipalities must approve kindergartens and provide guidance to them. About 50% of kindergartens are privately owned.
The content of the Kindergarten Act
The Kindergarten Act instructs the Ministry of Education to lay down a framework for the operation of institutions. The Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens states the fundamental principles, goals, contents and activities for all kindergartens, both public and private. The Framework Plan also includes the political and social functions of the institutions and the importance of early childhood as a life phase of intrinsic value.
Kindergartens must take a holistic view of care, upbringing, learning and social and linguistic skills. They must be cultural arenas in which children help to create their own culture.
The Framework Plan also describes learning areas:
- Communication, language and text
- Body, movement, food and health
- Art, culture and creativity
- Nature, environment and technology
- Quantities, spaces and shapes
- Ethics, religion and philosophy
- Local community and society.
Kindergartens must view the learning areas in context, and all learning areas must be recurring themes in the kindergarten content. In Sámi kindergartens, the learning areas are based on Sámi language, culture and traditions. The core values and objectives of kindergartens set the agenda for and influence the learning areas, and the children’s right to participate must be observed. Play is an important building block in the different learning areas. Kindergartens must build on the children’s enthusiasm and contributions so that the learning areas are seen as a meaningful and fun part of kindergarten life.
Kindergartens must observe the children’s right to participate by enabling and encouraging them to express their views on day-to-day life in kindergarten (Sections 1 and 3 of the Kindergarten Act, Article 104 of the Norwegian Constitution, and Article 12, No. 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). The children must be able to actively participate in planning and assessing the kindergarten’s activities on a regular basis. All children have a say concerning what goes on in kindergarten (Framework Plan for Kindergartens contents and tasks).
Primary and secondary education
The Education Act gives all children the same statutory right to 13 years of schooling. The Act concerns primary, lower-secondary and upper-secondary education in publicly maintained schools and training establishments, unless otherwise specifically laid down.
The right to special education is found in Chapter 5 of the Education Act.
The Act concerns private primary and lower-secondary schools that do not receive state support pursuant to the Independent Schools Act and private tuition at home at primary and lower-secondary levels.
Chapter 4A of the Education Act applies to education designed specifically for adults, for which the municipality or county authority is responsible.
The school environment is of great importance for learners’ well-being and learning results. Chapter 9A of the Education Act establishes that:
… all students in primary, lower-secondary and upper-secondary schools are entitled to a good physical and psycho-social environment that will promote health, well-being and learning.
Schools must work systematically to monitor learners’ school environment and implement measures to comply with the Education Act’s requirements.
More information on the school environment can be found on the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training website.
Specific legislative framework – the curriculum
The national curriculum sets out collective objectives and principles for teaching in primary and lower-secondary schools. The curriculum includes:
- Core curriculum
- Subject curricula
- Framework regulating the distribution of periods and subjects.
National curriculum – main points
- Priority and additional attention to the basic skills (oral and written self-expression, reading ability, numeracy and the ability to use digital tools), as they are important for learners’ professional and personal development. Basic skills are integrated into curricula for all subjects in all grades.
- An increased number of lessons in primary school, especially in the first four grades, to improve learners’ basic skills.
- Clarification of subject curricula to express clear objectives, specifying the level of competence expected from learners at each level.
- The division between elementary stage (grades 1–4) and intermediate stage (grades 5–7) has been removed. This creates better continuity and teacher co‑operation in primary education.
- Up to 25% of lessons in each subject at all levels can be used more freely, according to local conditions and individual needs. This allows for increased flexibility in organising and customising education.
- A quality framework defines the principles for developing optimal learning environments and learning achievements.
- To achieve quality development, schools must be able to recruit competent, committed and motivated teachers and school management. Entrance requirements for general teacher education have been introduced. School owners will be supported by national authorities in competence development for teachers, head teachers and school administrators, including further education for teachers in priority subjects.
- Schools will have increased flexibility in how they organise co-operation with parents.
- Further encouragement of co-operation between schools and the local business community.
Core Curriculum and the Quality Framework
The quality framework summarises and elaborates on the provisions in the Education Act and its regulations, including the National Curriculum for Knowledge Promotion in Primary and Secondary Education and Training. It must be considered in light of the legislation and regulations. The Learning Poster, as part of the quality framework, includes 11 basic commitments, mandatory in all primary and lower-secondary schools, and in upper-secondary schools and apprenticeship training workplaces.
All schools must:
- give all learners an equal opportunity to develop their abilities individually and in co-operation with others;
- stimulate learners’ motivation, perseverance and curiosity;
- stimulate learners’ development of their own learning strategies and of their capacity for critical thought;
- stimulate learners’ personal development and identity, and assist them in the development of ethical, social and cultural competence, and democratic understanding and participation;
- encourage learner participation, and enable learners to make conscious value judgements and decisions on their educational needs and future work;
- promote adapted teaching and varied working methods;
- stimulate, exploit and develop individual teacher’s competences;
- contribute to teachers being clear leaders and role models for children and young people;
- ensure that the physical and psycho-social learning environments promote health, joy and learning;
- prepare for co-operation with the home and ensure parents’/guardians’ co‑responsibility in the school;
- prepare for the local community to be involved in education in a meaningful way.
Curriculum for the Indigenous people
A separate curriculum for Sámi Knowledge Promotion is used in Sámi administrative districts.
Curriculum for Norwegian Sign Language
A separate curriculum has been developed for pupils with hearing impairments, with specific subjects in Norwegian Sign Language. The pupils follow the mainstream curricula in all other subjects.
Last updated 05/02/2020