Education and Schools in Sweden
Public education in Sweden is compulsory and free for all children between the ages of seven and 16. In addition to the public schools system, expat parents also have the option of sending their children to a private or international school in Sweden.
The academic year starts in mid-August and runs to the beginning of June the following year, and is divided into two semesters; the autumn term and the spring term. There are several mid-term holidays during the school year – höstlov in October; the Christmas holidays (jullov); sportlov in February; påsklov around Easter; and then three months for summer vacation, sommarlov.
Children in Sweden start school when they are seven years old. Primary school is divided into three stages, consisting of elementary school (Grades 1 to 3), middle school (Grades 4 to 6) and high school (Grades 7 to 9). Primary school is followed by upper secondary school (gymnasieskola) which is not compulsory. However, most children do fulfil secondary education to be able to get good jobs in the future.
The system of education in Sweden
In Sweden, children start voluntary preschool (förskola) from the age of one, which is very common as often both parents in the family work full time. When the children turn six years old, there is a pre-school class that provides a bridge between preschool and elementary school (förskoleklass).
There are nine compulsory years of schooling, after which students can attend an upper secondary school that is either geared towards further study or learning a trade. Natural sciences and social sciences are common to programmes that are focused on further studies.
Ratings do not occur before Grade 8, after which the standard A-F rating system is used.
Ratings are awarded four times in high school: at the end of autumn and the spring terms in Grades 8 and 9. The final grade is used for application to upper secondary school; to be accepted children need to pass Swedish, mathematics and English.
Preschool is for children aged one to five years old, and all children are entitled to free public preschooling. The local municipality is obliged to offer places to children whose parents are studying or working. The child is entitled to keep their place even if their parents become unemployed or are on parental leave. Universal preschool should be at least 525 hours per year (15 hours per week).
Primary and high school
Primary school and high school are compulsory for children up to Grade 9, when the student is usually 16 years old. School is obligatory when a child turns seven, although it is possible to start school when the child is six years old. Elementary school aims to provide access to secondary school, but no degree. Local public primary and high schools are free and funded by local taxes.
Secondary school, which follows high school, is voluntary, but each municipality is responsible to follow up on young people under 20 who do not study after high school. Pupils choose from 17 national programmes, a large number of local programmes, specially designed programmes and the individual programme. Unlike many other countries, Sweden lacks a formal matriculation; rather, there are secondary schools aimed at providing basic access to college.
Public schools in Sweden
Public schools in Sweden are open to all and follow the Swedish National Syllabus. These schools are administrated by the local municipality in which they are located, are taxpayer-funded and may not charge student fees. When children turn seven years old they are automatically placed in a nearby public school. Most children in Sweden go to public schools, but expats generally choose international private schools for their children since the language of instruction is usually either English or French, and they keep standards and teachings similar to their home countries.
Private schools in Sweden
There are a number of private schools in Sweden, known as friskolor. These schools are funded by local contributions from the home municipalities and notification, queue or registration fees may not be charged. Private schools are, however, free to accept donations.
Swedish private schools are independent and run by individuals, associations or foundations; in some cases there are groups that have formed to run several schools. Private schools are, in principle, not obliged to follow the Swedish National Syllabus. However, most private schools do follow the national curriculum.
More and more private schools are opening in Sweden and of course it means more competition, not least because parents can now choose which school they want their children to attend, and funding follows the student to their chosen school. This is good for students because the competition forces schools to perform better.
Even though it is not very common, Sweden still has a few boarding schools left where students can choose to live at the school or live at home. The best-known boarding schools include the Sigtuna Foundation Grammar School of Humanities, Lundberg School and Grennaskolan
International schools in Sweden
International schools in Sweden are primarily intended for students living in Sweden temporarily or under special circumstances, such as family ties to another country. International schools expect a yearly fee and applications need to be made by contacting the school directly.
International schools may have long waiting lists, so it’s best for parents to plan ahead and apply for a spot for their children as early as possible. Fees at international schools can cost upwards of 100,000 SEK per year.
There are both public and private international schools in Sweden. The private schools have more flexibility than the state school system. They are able to prioritise subjects that are most relevant to international students. Children of all nationalities, including Swedish children, are welcome at most international schools.
The most prominent international schools in Stockholm include the British International School of Stockholm which follows the British curriculum, the Stockholm International School and Tanto International School, which both follow the International Baccalaureate curriculum. These schools all have classes taught in English, with Swedish language lessons forming part of the syllabus.
The following is a general list of requirements for applications to international private schools in Sweden:
Completed application form
Payment of application fee
Transcripts from previous schools
A copy of the student’s passport, identification of parents
Completed student medical form
Copy of the student's immunisation record
Other fees might apply if the children are not registered with their local municipality and do not have a Swedish personal number
Other English-speaking schools in Sweden
Another option for expat parents who would prefer not to send their child to an international school and want them to participate in the Swedish schooling system is the Norr Stockholm School or the International English School. These schools are independent schools which follow the Swedish National Syllabus, but offer instruction in English.