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The Iceland K-12 Education System

The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is in charge for the education system in Iceland. The Ministry lays down the basic aim and administrative structure.

In Iceland, there are public as well as private schools. The private schools get support from public funds.  
Education in Iceland is mandatory for children aged 6 to 16.

The K-12 educational system is split up into three levels:

Pre-school education (leikskoli): For children aged 2 years through 6 years. This educational level is regulated by the Pre-school Act No. 758, Year: 1994

Compulsory education (grunnskoli): This educational level comprises of primary and lower secondary education, and is for children aged 6 to 16. This education level is regulated by the Compulsory School Act No. 66, Year: 1995

Upper-secondary education (framhaldsskoli): For children aged 16 to 20. The upper secondary educational level is regulated by the Upper Secondary School Act No. 80, Year: 1996;

Iceland K-12 Education Profile

Pre-school Education

In Iceland, Kindergartens offer pre-school education. This educational level is managed and operated by the municipality. There are many private schools as well, but these schools obtain support from the municipality. Pre-school education prepares children for further studies and the curriculum of this educational level promotes the overall development of the children.
  • Ages: 2 to 6 (Varies)
The Ministry of Education publishes the national curriculum guidelines for pre-school education.
  • Time-frame: 4 to 9 hours a day

Compulsory Education (Grunnskolar)

The compulsory education in Iceland encompasses primary and lower secondary schooling. 
Primary education: Covers grades 1 to 7
Lower Secondary education: Covers grades 8 to 10

The compulsory education schools are administered by the municipalities. These schools do charge any fees.
  • Ages: 6-16
Compulsory education is split up into 10 grades:
  • Common schools: Covers grades 1-10
  • Schools that includes grades 1 to 7
  • Merger schools: These schools include grades 8 to 10
The compulsory education schools are co-educational.
Lessons per grade: The lessons for each grade vary. The number of lessons is:
Grade 1-4: For children aged 6 to 9, and includes 30 lessons per week
Grade 5-7: For children aged 10 to 12, and includes 35 lessons per week
Grade 8-10: For children aged 13 to 15, and includes 37 lessons per week

Subjects for grade 1 to 9: Mathematics, social and religious studies, Icelandic language, physical education, home economics, arts and crafts, mathematics, life skills, natural sciences, and modern languages.
Subjects offered in 10th grade: Physical education, Icelandic, natural sciences, mathematics, life skills, English, social studies and Danish.

Assessment: Students at this educational level are assessed by the means of written examinations that are conducted at the end of each year. Based on the performance, grades are given-letter or numerical.   Student reports are prepared and provided at regular intervals throughout the academic year and at the conclusion of each year.

Also, there are optional examinations being conducted at the conclusion of the compulsory studies. These examinations are managed and conducted by the Education testing institute. Students get to select the subjects of the examinations. Scores in the range of 1 to 10 are given, with 10 as the highest score. These examinations help students select a study programme at the upper secondary level. 

Certificate awarded: Upon successful completion of compulsory education, students are awarded “Compulsory/basic school certificate (grunnskoli)”.

Teachers: At primary educational level, a single teacher is responsible for teaching most of the subjects, while at the lower secondary educational level, many teachers are involved in teaching one or more subjects to different classes. 

Upper Secondary Education

This educational level is not mandatory to attend. At this level, education is free, though students have to pay a registration fee and for study material.
  • Ages: 16 to 20
This level prepares students for higher studies or for employment. A unit-credits system is being used at this level, where each subject is split up into a number of set units for each semester. The credits are allotted for the courses completed. Students

Admission requirement: Students who have successfully completed compulsory school are eligible for upper secondary education. 

Lessons per week: 32 to 40 lessons per week; the duration of each lesson is 40 minutes.

Assessment: Students are assessed by the exams that are held at the end of each semester. Also, assignments are taken into consideration while assessing the students. 

Certificate awarded: Upper secondary school certificate- Studentsprof after successful completion of grammar school studies; technical secondary school certificate- Sveinsprof after completion of technical secondary school education

Types of Upper Secondary Schools

In Iceland, there are different types of upper secondary schools:

Grammar schools/general academic schools: These schools provide courses that require 4 years of study. At the end of this school, students must sit for a matriculation examination. Students who pass the examination and successfully complete the course are eligible to apply for higher education in Iceland.
Subjects: Split up into three categories:
  • General subjects: These are the subjects undertaken by all the pupils
  • Specialised subjects 
  • Electives
Industrial vocational schools: These schools provide theoretical as well as practical study programmes in both certified and non-certified trades/crafts. The industrial vocational schools also provide post-secondary non-tertiary courses to study in order to train master craftsmen.  

Comprehensive schools: These schools provide academic programme, and at the end of the programme a matriculation exam takes place. The comprehensive schools in Iceland provide theoretical as well as practical study programmes. 

Specialised vocational schools: These schools provide courses that prepare students for a particular work. 

Vocational Education

Vocational education in Iceland is provided in industrial-vocational schools, comprehensive, and specialised vocational schools. 
  • Duration: The duration of the programme varies, but generally lasts for 4 years.
Students can select the area of specialisation. They can select for a skilled trade training, or vocational training in other fields.
Skilled trade training: This consists of vocational secondary courses and a study contract with an industrial oragnisation or a master craftsman. Upon successful completion of the course, the apprentice is required to sit for a journeyman’s exam. Apprentice who pass the examination are given a credential and a status of a master craftsman after an appropriate amount of professional experience and vocational studies at the vocational secondary school.
  • Duration: 3-4 years 
Vocational training: Consists of training in a particular field, such as health and commerce, travel, fisheries, etc.

Students with special needs are given support as per their needs. They are put into the mainstream education.

Application Procedure

You must register directly to the school of your choice. Fill out an application form and submit it along with the following documents:
  • Child Identification number
  • School documents: Previous school credentials
  • Medical examination records Vaccination details
Contact the school administration office to know about the applying process. 
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