Education and Schools in Sweden

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Schooling in Sweden is compulsory and free in public schools for all children between the ages of seven and 16. In addition to the public education system in Sweden, expat parents also have the option of sending their children to a private or international school in Sweden.

Schools in SwedenThe academic year starts from 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, Christmas holidays (jullov), sportlov in February, for Easter (påsklov) and then three months for summer vacation (sommarlov).
Children in Sweden start school when they are seven years old and primary school is divided into three stages, with preschool 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 (gymnasium) which is not compulsory. However, most children do fulfil secondary education to be able to get good jobs in the future. 

The education system in Sweden

In Sweden, children start voluntary pre-school from the age of one year old, which is very common as often both parents in the family work full time. When the children turn six years old there is a preschool that provides a bridge between pre-school and elementary school.

There are nine compulsory years of schooling and then students can attend an upper secondary school that is geared towards either further study or learning a trade. Natural sciences and social sciences are common to the programmes which are focused on further studies.

Ratings do not occur before grade 8. The standard A-F rating system is used. 

Ratings are awarded four times in high school: at the end of autumn and spring terms in grades 8 and 9. The final grade is used for application to upper secondary school (gymnasium); to be accepted children need to pass in Swedish, mathematics and English. 


Preschool is for children aged one to five years old, and all children are entitled to free public pre-school. 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. School obligation begins when the child is seven; 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 has the responsibility to follow up the young people under 20 who do not study after high school. Pupils choose between programmes - 17 national programmes, a large number of local programs, 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 administered through the local municipality in which they are located and 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, as the school language is either English or French and they keep the same standard and teaching as their home country.

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; but private schools are free to accept donations.

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 have started in Sweden (22 already in Stockholm) and of course it means more competition, not least because parents can now choose which school they want their children to attend and the school money follows the student to the school chosen. This is good for public school students because the competition forces schools to perform better.

Boarding schools

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: Sigtuna Foundation Grammar School of Humanities, Lundberg School and Senior Level School and Grennaskolan

International schools in Sweden 

International schools in Sweden are primarily intended for students who live a short time in Sweden or have 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 to plan ahead and apply for a spot for your child as early as possible. Fees at international schools can cost upwards of 44,000 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 Primary School 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 also forming part of the weekly syllabus.
The following is a general list of requirements for application to international private schools:
  • Completed application form
  • Received payment of application fee
  • A school transcript from previous school attended highlighting last three academic years
  • A copy of the student’s passport. If you are a Diplomatic Family a copy of the passport and visa are required for both parents.
  • Completed student medical form
  • Copy of students immunisation record
  • Yearly annual tuition fee

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 wish 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.

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Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm Social is a network for professionals in Stockholm, and aims to bring people together to expand their social...

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