School and Education in Sweden


The formal education comprises four main parts: preschool, school, higher education and adult education. The conditions described below apply to 2009.

Preschool is a non-compulsory form of care and educational activity for children under school age. Since October 1, 2008, the Swedish School Inspectorate has been the supervisory authority for preschool as well as for other preschool activities and school child care. A special curriculum now applies to preschool, which is now part of and constitutes the first step in society’s overall educational system for children and youth.

The municipality is now obliged to set up preschool classes, which are a replacement for the preschool’s former general part-time preschool for 6-year-olds. The preschool class is, from the parents’ point of view, a voluntary school form, but is also part of the school with the same curriculum as the compulsory compulsory school.

The school consists of a 9-year compulsory compulsory school for the age of 7-16 years and a 3-year municipal or county council high school. Both are free of charge. The compulsory school comprises nine grades and offers an essentially common course of study for all pupils. Each school determines, within the framework of the overall goals set in the curriculum, how teaching time should be allocated. English is usually introduced during the first few years. Each school with tuition in later years shall, as a language choice, offer at least two of the languages French, Spanish and German. Within the framework of the total teaching time, there is a space for the student’s choice of studies in order to broaden or deepen the student’s knowledge. Upper secondary schoolis a voluntary school form that provides both college preparation and vocational preparation education. Lines and special courses have gradually been replaced by 18 national programs as well as introductory programs.

For higher education, the university responds in principle with the state as principal. It is divided into basic education with general and professional degrees as well as postgraduate education with a doctorate as the final goal. The main principle is that all higher education in one place must be brought together to the university’s university or university. However, there are several exceptions, especially in Stockholm, where among other things. The Technical University, Karolinska Institutet, Teachers College and Södertörn University are independent units. This also applies to Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg and Sweden’s Agricultural University, located in Uppsala but with education in other places. The same applies to the medical education in Malmö, which belongs to Lund University.

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Adult education is a collective name for several forms of education for adults (persons over the age of 18). More limited is meant to increase competence for further studies or professional life. One form of adult education is municipal adult education (komvux), which received a unified organization in 1968, and which should primarily provide primary or secondary school skills. Another form is labor market education (AMU), which is administered by the Swedish Employment Service and which in turn buys education of, for example. educational companies, colleges or municipalities. Another form is the higher education, which has attracted more and more adults (older than 25) since the 1970s. (See also continuing education.)

Adult education also means folk education that has a long tradition in the Nordic countries and a broad anchoring in folk high schools and in study associations’ study circles. The public colleges and study associationsis run by organizations with non-profit, religious or union backgrounds. The first folk high schools were established as early as 1864 in Sweden, then as a degree-free boarding school, mainly for bond sons in preparation for their political and social life and for their working lives. Today (2016), there are 154 public colleges, most with boarding schools, where full-year and short courses in general and artistic subjects are given. Since the 1970s, some folk high school courses give admission to higher education. Another form of popular education is the study circle that was developed in the early 1900s within the popular movements and is now an established form of study with several million adult participants. See also Folkuniversitetet.

The communalization of the school

When the primary school was introduced in 1842, the responsibility for the school was shared between the state and the municipalities. The state was responsible for school laws, curricula, grading systems, teacher resources, teacher education and for further training of school leaders and teachers. The municipalities were responsible for premises, teaching materials and school transfers.

Critics felt that the state school system was inflexible, difficult to understand and bureaucratic with limited opportunities for school staff to influence organization and teaching. In 1991, some of the state’s tasks were transferred to the country’s municipalities in the municipalization of the school. The municipalities were given increased responsibility for the implementation of the Riksdag’s and the Government’s decisions. The municipalities were also given responsibility for the school’s organization and distribution of resources as well as for the continuing education of the teachers.

The system in which the state county school boards distributed the school’s resources by class and academic year was replaced with a specially determined state grant to the school in the municipalities. Prior to the municipalization, school leaders and teachers were employed in the municipalities but had state-regulated services and agreements. As a result of the municipalization, the responsibility for the agreements that regulated the pay and employment conditions was transferred to the Swedish Municipalities and the County Council.

The state’s credit rating provisions for service appointments were replaced with a general letter stating that the municipalities were obliged to use teachers trained for the teaching they are to conduct.

At the same time, the state school administration changed. The School Supervisory Authority was closed down and replaced with the National Agency for Education. Organizational change was part of decentralization. As the municipalities were given increased responsibility for the school, the tasks of the state school authority changed to work more with monitoring and evaluation of the municipalities. The state went from rule control to a greater degree of goal control and then all the tasks that had previously been laid on the School Board no longer needed to be performed.

School reform

In 1992, the free choice of school, the system of independent schools, the system of school money and the introduction of new forms of principals were allowed to be responsible for the operation of primary and secondary schools. This made it possible for people other than municipalities to run schools.

The reforms were carried out by the then bourgeois government consisting of the Moderates, the Center Party, the People’s Party and the Christian Democrats. The moderates led the government with Carl Bildt as prime minister and were thus responsible for school issues. Per Unckel was Minister of Education and Beatrice Ask was Minister of School. The Environment Party also advocated free school reforms, but without sitting in Parliament.

From 1990, it would have been possible to choose another municipal school within the same municipality, provided it had a different educational orientation or subject profile. That opportunity was extended in 1992 to schools in other municipalities as well as independent schools. The requirement that the school should have a different profile was removed at the same time.

Until the 1990s, there were requirements that independent schools could only be approved if they had a special education or activity that was not in the municipal schools. Examples of such could be schools with waldorf or montessori pedagogy. These would have something to add to the general school system. With the free school reform, that requirement was removed and replaced with a more generally held formulation in the school law. It was enough to have an activity that was designed much like the municipal schools in order for an independent school to be approved.

As of the 2011 School Act, as far as possible, there are similar provisions for municipal and independent schools. It is the state, through the School Inspectorate, that approves new independent schools.

An approved independent school receives financial compensation from the municipality under the school allowance system. The grant consists of a basic amount per pupil, which is calculated on the municipality’s cost of tuition (teacher salaries), educational resources, student health, meals, administration, local costs and VAT. In addition to the basic amounts, an additional amount can be paid based on individual assessment for reimbursement to assistant assistance, adaptation of premises or other extraordinary support measures for a student.

In addition to foundations and non-profit associations that previously operated independent schools, in 1992 there were also limited companies, economic associations, trading companies and individual companies as principals.

Initially, the independent schools were not covered by the eligibility provisions in the School Act. Thus, they were not required to hire trained teachers. From 2003, the regulations were changed and the same rules became the same for all the principals.

The targeted state grant to the school that was decided by the municipalization was removed in 1993. Thereafter, the school’s state resources are included in the general state grant that the municipalities can freely dispose of.

Since the decisions on the independent schools were taken, there has been a rapid growth of the free school sector. In 1992, some single percent of pupils in compulsory school attended an independent school. In 2015, the proportion had grown to almost 15 percent. In 2015, the independent upper secondary schools had about 26 percent of the students. The independent schools are primarily located in the metropolitan regions, in the larger cities and in university and college places.

In the early 1990s, it was the educational alternatives, with foundations and non-profit associations as principals, that grew in number. But after a couple of years, the limited companies took over and in 2013, 65 percent of the students went to independent elementary schools in a school where a limited company was the principal. In 2013, 88 percent of the students in the independent upper secondary schools attended a school run by a public limited company.

AcadeMedia AB is the largest private education group in Sweden today and comprises about 500 preschools, primary and secondary schools. The company was listed on the stock exchange in 2001 and was acquired the same year by venture capital company EQT Partners AB.