Education and Schools in Norway
Education in Norway is mandatory for all children aged six to 16. Education is guaranteed by the Norwegian state and is thus free at public schools. However, most schooling actually begins when the child turns one, and gets placed in a barnehage, or daycare.
It is important to apply for a spot in the barnehage as soon as possible, as many have long waiting lists. A child’s barnehage is tied to their residential neighbourhood, but there are hundreds in the city, often situated in the suburbs. The government gives residents Kontantstøtte until children are three to help pay for barnehage.
The school year in Norway runs from late August to mid-June the following year. The juleferie (Christmas holiday) from mid-December to early January divides the Norwegian school year into two terms. Children also have a vinterferie (winter break) and a påskeferie (Easter break). The school day usually finishes at 3pm and parents are free to leave work to pick up children from school.
Public schools in Norway
Citizens and legal residents of Norway have access to free public schooling. The Norwegian school system can be divided into three parts: elementary school (Barneskole, ages six to 13), lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, ages 13 to 16), and upper secondary school (Videregående skole, ages 16 to 19). The marks they achieve in Ungdomskkole will determine whether they are accepted into their high school of choice.
Upper secondary school (similar to high school) is optional and lasts for three years. However, few jobs are available for this age group and changes in local education laws have made upper secondary school mostly unavoidable in practice.
Students graduating from their Videregående studies are called Russ in Norwegian. Russetid (the graduation period) is anticipated for years and celebrated with wild parties and festivities. Russ students are recognisable by their mono-coloured red or blue overalls.
Private and international schools in Norway
Perhaps surprisingly for a country with such a large expat population, there are few schools that teach international curricula in Norway. However, there are now a number of international schools in Oslo, in addition to the more ubiquitous public schools.
Until 2005, private secondary schools were illegal in Norway unless they offered a religious or pedagogic alternative to the public school system, which meant that the only private schools taught from a religious (mainly Christian) background or were Waldorf, Montessori or Danielsen schools. Secular international senior schools opened only after the law changed in late 2005, although some more established schools have offered international curricula in lower grades for decades.
International schools generally offer the International Baccalaureate (IB), although there are also French- and German-curriculum schools and those which offer the British IGSCE at middle school level.
Fees for international schools are often prohibitively expensive and space can be limited, so it's best for parents to apply as early as possible to ensure a place for their child at their school of choice.