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Schooling in Norway is mandatory for all children aged six to 16. Education is guaranteed by the Norwegian state and is free to all children at public schools in Oslo. However, many expats choose to send their children to private or international schools, of which there are a few to choose from. Surprisingly, though, there is not the same great variety that expats might find in other European cities.
Day care in Oslo
Most children begin their education in Oslo when they are a year old and are placed in a barnehage, or day care. A child’s barnehage is tied to their residential neighbourhood in Oslo, but there are hundreds in the city, often situated in the suburbs. The government gives residents Kontantstøtte (a family allowance) until children turn three to help pay for barnehage.
There are different kinds of day cares in Oslo to choose from:
Familiebarnehage is day care for children from newborns to three years old that is run in a private home between the hours of 7am and 5pm.
Korttidsbarnehage is a day care open for six to 21 hours a week for children aged one to six.
Halvdagsbarnehage is a day care for 21 to 31 hours a week for children aged one to six.
Heldagsbarnehage is a day care open five days a week for children aged one to six.
Åpenbarnehage is an open day care for mothers who stay home with their children. The mothers have a chance to meet with other adults while the day care provider cares for the children.
Barnepark is an outdoor day care open between three and four hours a day.
There are both kommunal (public) and private barnehage. To apply for a child to attend either barnepark or barnehage, expats should contact their nearest bydel kontor. Expats should keep in mind that Norwegian children are expected to spend a majority of time outside playing and getting exercise.
Public schools in Oslo
Oslo's public schooling system is well regarded and easily accessible to expats. Placement in a school is generally related to one's residential neighbourhood.
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, age 16 to 19). Elementary and lower secondary schools are mandatory for all children aged 6 to 16. The marks students achieve in Ungdomskkole will determine whether they are accepted into their high school of choice.
Upper secondary school (similar to high school) is three years of optional schooling. 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.
Private and international schools in Oslo
Perhaps surprisingly for a city with such a large expat population, there isn't a wide variety of schools that teach international curricula in Norway. That said, there are now a number of international schools in Oslo.
Until 2005, private 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 were religious (mainly Christian), Waldorf, Montessori or Danielsen schools. Secular international senior schools opened only after the law changed in late 2005, although some of the more established schools have offered international curricula in lower grades for decades.
International schools generally offer the International Baccalaureate (IB), although there are also schools offering some European curricula, such as French and German, and those which offer the British IGSCE at a middle school level.
As the choices are limited when it comes to international schools in Oslo, space may be scarce and there may be long waiting lists at the most popular schools. Expat parents should, therefore, apply as soon as possible to ensure a place for their child at the school of their choice.
Special-needs education in Norway
Inclusive education is of fundamental importance in Norwegian primary and secondary education. It means that all children and young people are entitled to the same level and standard of education, regardless of ability.
Norway spends significant resources on providing special educational support and special-needs education. The aim of the Norwegian government is to improve adapted tuition in schools, the goal of which is to improve learning outcomes for all pupils so that fewer of them require special-needs education. Of course, if there is a need to deviate from the normal curriculum, a decision on special-needs education is required.
Pupils may access special needs provision within ordinary study programmes, within an adapted or alternative study programme in school, or in workplace training.
Tutoring in Oslo
As in most Scandinavian countries, education is highly valued in Norway, and parents make regular use of private tuition to bolster their children's learning. Expats also often employ tutors, whether for Norwegian language lessons, extra help with certain subjects, or simply to build some confidence in an unfamiliar environment.
Regardless of age, tutoring can be massively beneficial. Some of the top tutoring companies in Norway include Superprof and Varsity Tutors.
►Private Schools in Oslo gives more insight into education in the city
"The little guy has had a great first experience with out-of-home day care, and I'm thoroughly impressed with Norwegian preschool, called barnehage, which is play-based, public day care for children from infancy through six years old, or the start of Grade 1. Our big girl started Grade 1 this year, which has been a perfect stepping stone. I think schools at home are a bit more academically challenging, and therefore her experience has been primarily about learning Norwegian. We are amazed by how fast she is taking to the language and how much of it she speaks... more every day." Read about American expat Laura's experiences in Norway.
Are you an expat living in Oslo?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Oslo. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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