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Education in Sweden is compulsory and free for children between the ages of six and 16. Apart from public schools run by the government, parents also have the choice of independent schools, which are funded by the government but are run by independent entities. There are few tuition-paying schools, many of which are international schools offering foreign curricula.
Children in Sweden start school when they are six years old. Compulsory education consists of förskoleklass (‘preschool year’ or Year 0), lågstadiet (Years 1 to 3), mellanstadiet (Years 4 to 6) and högstadiet (Years 7 to 9). This is followed by gymnasieskola (upper secondary school, Years 10 to 12), which is not compulsory. Most children do fulfil secondary education to be able to get good jobs in the future.
Public schools in Sweden
Public schools in Sweden are open to all and follow the Swedish national curriculum. These schools are administrated by the local municipality in which they are located and funded by taxes.
Most children in Sweden go to public schools and teaching is of a high standard, but as teaching is in Swedish, expats generally choose international schools for their children instead due to the language barrier.
Independent schools in Sweden
In Sweden, independent schools are known as friskolor. Though funded by the government, these schools are run by individuals, associations or foundations and, like public schools, are obligated to follow the Swedish national curriculum. Friskolor can be attended free of charge.
International schools in Sweden
International schools in Sweden offer the curriculum of a foreign country such as the UK, the US or other qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate. These schools are primarily intended for students living in Sweden temporarily or under special circumstances.
International schools expect a yearly fee and applications need to be made by contacting the school directly. Extra fees might apply if the children are not registered with their local municipality and do not have a Swedish personal number.
Children of all nationalities, including Swedish children, are welcome at most international schools. These schools may have long waiting lists, however, so it’s best for parents to plan ahead and apply for a spot for their children as early as possible.
Special-needs education in Sweden
Special-needs education in Sweden is managed by The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (Specialpedagogiska skolmyndigheten). Children with special needs are kept in mainstream schools as far as possible, and receive individualised extra support in accordance with an action plan drawn up by the school principal. In cases where mainstream schooling is unable to provide the required support, a multidisciplinary team assesses the child and may recommend entry into a special-needs programme or a special school.
Tutors in Sweden
Education is highly valued in Sweden, and parents make regular use of private tuition to bolster their children's learning. Expats also often employ tutors, whether for Swedish 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 Sweden include Studybuddy, Privatläraren Stockholm and My Academy.
►Read Cost of Living in Sweden to get an idea of day-to-day expenses
"Fee-paying schools are extremely rare in Sweden but they are often a popular choice for expats in the Stockholm area. The general standard of education is quite good and there is more emphasis on critical thinking than on rote learning or discipline." Read more of Anne's expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Sweden?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Sweden. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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