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Snapshot of Iceland Education System

The Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture administers the education system in Iceland. The Ministry of Education issues the national curriculum guide for all education levels. Most of the educational institutions are public in Iceland. The private educational institutions get assistance from public funds.

Education in Iceland is split up into 4 levels:
  • Level 1: Covers pre-school education (leikskoli) 
  • Level 2: Includes compulsory education (grunnskoli)
  • Level 3: Includes upper secondary education (framhaldsskoli)
  • Level 4: Includes higher education (haskoli) 

Snapshot of Iceland Education System

Pre-school Education

The pre-schools in Iceland are set up and operated by the municipalities. The pre-school education provides a healthy environment for children. Learning at this educational level is based on the fun and playful activities being organised. It works towards the overall development of the children. This level also comprises of day care centres. These centres are run by the municipalities. Though there are many private centres also. 
  • Ages: 2-6 years

Compulsory Education (Grunnskoli)

In Iceland, compulsory education encompasses primary and lower secondary schools, both are put into a single structure system, i.e. conducted at the same school. This educational level lasts for 10 years. Children aged 6 through 16 may attend compulsory education. 

Compulsory education offered at public schools is free, whereas many of the private schools charges fees.
Compulsory school is split up into 10 grades:
  • Common schools: Includes all 10 grades
  • Schools that includes grades from 1 to 7
  • Merger schools: Schools that includes grades from 8 to 10
 The compulsory education schools in Iceland are co-educational. This educational level provides basic mathematical and literacy skills and knowledge; lays the base for independent and creative thinking.

Lessons per each grade:
Grade 1-4: This band is for students aged 6 to 9, and includes 30 lessons per week
Grade 5-7: This band is for students aged 10 to 12, and comprises of 35 lessons per week
Grade 8-10: This grade level is for students aged 13 to 15, and consists of 37 lessons per week.

Subjects: 
Students from grade 1 to 9 study the following common subjects: mathematics, physical education, natural sciences, Icelandic language, and social and religious studies. 

In grade 10, students study mathematics, life skills, English, natural sciences, physical education, Icelandic language, social studies, and Danish. The electives are also there, but they vary.

Upper Secondary Education (Menntaskoli)

Upper secondary education is not mandatory to attend in Iceland. This educational level is regulated by the ministry. Children aged 16 through 20 may attend this education level. Students who have completed compulsory education are eligible for upper secondary education.  This educational level lasts for 4 years and prepares students for higher education or workplace. 

The upper-secondary level work towards the all-round development of the pupils.  It provides the skills required for higher studies or for workplace. In Iceland, there are 4 kinds of secondary schools: 

Grammar schools: These schools studies last for 4 years and ends with a matriculation exam. Students who successfully complete this school studies are eligible for higher education in Iceland. 

Comprehensive schools: These schools comprise of studies provided at the general academic, specialised vocational, and industrial-vocational schools. 

Specialised vocational schools: These schools provide studies that prepare students for a particular vocation.

Industrial-vocational schools: These schools provide courses in skilled and on-skilled trades. Such schools provide theoretical as well as practical knowledge and skills. 

The duration of vocational studies varies, from semester 1 to 10. 

Higher Education

In Iceland, presently there are 7 universities- public as well as private; and these universities are administered and overseen by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.  The higher education institutions provide undergraduate degrees lasting 3-4 years, Master’s degree lasting 1-2 year and doctorate degree.
  • The University of Iceland is the foremost and the largest university in Iceland, established in 1911. This higher education institution offers several programmes in a wide range of fields. 
  • The Reykjavik University is a private higher education institution established in 1998. This higher education institution offers degree programmes in business, engineering, law, sports sciences, and computer sciences. 
Also, there are many smaller higher education institutions in Iceland:
  • The Icelandic Academy of the Arts offers programmes in music, design and architecture, composition and theatre, and fine arts. This institution provides BA and MA degrees. 
  • The University of Akureyri provides BA and MA degrees in the following fields: natural sciences, humanities, business, social sciences and health sciences. 
  • The Bifrost University provides BA and MA degrees in the following fields: business, social sciences and law. 
In Iceland, there are 2 agricultural higher education institutions:
  • Agricultural University of Iceland 
  • Holar University College 
Both these agricultural higher education institutions provide BA and MA degrees in the following fields: resource management, agriculture and tourism.

Admission requirement: Students who have completed grammar/general academic school education or comprehensive school education are eligible to apply to higher education institutions in Iceland. 

Tuition fees: The public higher education institutions do charge any tuition fees. Private higher education institutions do charge fees. 
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