In 1814, after Norway had been in a union with Denmark for more than four centuries, Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden as part of the Kiel Peace Agreement at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Wishing to regain its independence, Norway drafted and adopted the Constitution still in effect today (the Constitution of 17 May 1814). Sweden agreed that Norway could retain its Constitution if the country accepted being a partner in a union under the King of Sweden. However, Norway had its own parliamentary assembly and an increasing degree of autonomy. The union with Sweden was formally dissolved in 1905 and Norway has been an independent country ever since. The day the Constitution was adopted, 17 May, is Norway’s national day.
Norway’s wealth increased steadily through the 1900s. The development of hydropower started in 1905 and the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas began in the 1970s. Norway also has longstanding maritime traditions, and is the sixth largest shipping nation in the world (2012).
A well-educated population is the greatest asset of every nation. The education system lays the foundation for social cohesion and economic growth and is vital to the development of a democratic and unified society.
It is a challenge to any education and training system to facilitate learning and the optimal realisation of both individual and social potential. This is particularly so in a context of constant change and high levels of migration, where education and training needs are changing and becoming increasingly diversified. The Norwegian Government has chosen to address this challenge by laying the foundation for inclusive quality education. Equal opportunities and non-discrimination are basic principles and objectives for promoting access, stable attendance and learning. The education system is meant to give equal access to, and accommodate optimal learning for, all individuals, thereby helping to reduce social inequality.
Several measures have been implemented in the aim of promoting equity and equality. They target specific vulnerable or under-privileged groups and individuals. Children and youth with special educational needs are catered to in mainstream primary and lower secondary schools and in some specialised schools. Except for some minor special quota arrangements, merit is the only relevant factor above compulsory and rights-based education for regulating progress to higher education levels and specialised studies.
In 2012, 72% of the total population aged 16 and older had attained upper secondary education or higher. The proportion of the total population in Norway with education below lower secondary school has declined over the last 30 years. In 2012, only 28% of the total population aged 16 and older had a lower level of education than upper secondary school, compared with 45% in 1980. The proportion of the population attaining tertiary education has doubled over the last two decades – from 13% in 1980 to 27% in 2012. (Post-secondary, non-tertiary education (ISCED 4) is not defined as higher education. The duration is a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years.)
The below figure illustrates the Norwegian education system.3
Highest completed education in population 16 years and older:4
***: Tertiary education, long: comprises higher education exceeding 4 years in duration. Kindergarten
In 2009 an individual legal right to kindergarten was introduced. A child born before the end of August has a right to a place in kindergarten in the main enrolment in August of the following year. The Government has the overall responsibility for quality-development, management and financing of the sector, and kindergarten operation is included in the general purpose grants. The county governors implement kindergarten policy through development activities, administrative tasks, supervision and guidelines for municipalities. The municipalities are responsible for providing and operating municipal kindergartens, as well as for approving and supervising both public and private kindergartens in the municipality.
Percentage of children attending kindergarten by different age groups:
Primary and lower secondary education is compulsory, encompasses education for children aged 6 to 15 and is administered by local authorities. This includes pupils from 1st to 10th grade level. The local authorities are required to offer before and after-school care from 1st to 4th grade. Upper secondary education and training normally comprises three years of general education or four years of vocational training after the 10-year compulsory education. The norm for apprenticeship is two years of vocational training in upper secondary education followed by two years of apprenticeship. The county authorities administer upper secondary education and training.
Ninety-two per cent of the age-group 16–18 attend upper secondary education and training, with no significant gender differences (2012). Fifty-three per cent of pupils in year one attend a vocational education programme. In the 2012–2013 academic year, 29% of pupils in year three had an apprenticeship. Fifty-six per cent complete their education in three to four years, 69% after five years. Completion rates are lowest for male pupils and for pupils starting vocational training. These rates have been stable during the past ten years.
Pupils, apprentices and trainees in upper secondary education in per cent of registered cohorts, 16-18 years:
The state is responsible for the majority of universities and university colleges, which are directly subordinate to the Ministry of Education and Research. Each institution has a board, which is responsible for the direction and organisation of operations. Accredited institutions have been awarded extensive academic autonomy. University colleges decide for themselves which studies and topics they are to offer at first-degree level. Universities determine for themselves which subjects and topics they wish to offer at all levels, including doctoral programmes.
Although the literacy rate in Norway is close to 100%, literacy tests have shown that a small amount of the adult population lacks basic competencies in reading and writing. In order to meet the needs of this heterogeneous group, measures have been implemented by the formal schooling system, in cooperation with employers’ organisations and study associations for adults. Adults in Norway have a statutory right to primary and lower secondary education. Adults over 25 years of age have a right to upper secondary education and training. Quality and relevance in adult education and literacy work requires cooperation across ministries and across sectors in local and regional administration.
A national qualification framework for lifelong learning (LLL), based on formal qualifications, has been established by the Government. A key to realizing LLL for adults is the validation of non-formal competence. Norway has established a system for such validation.
The total number of private households is 2 258 794, with an average of 2.2 persons per household (2013 figures). Eighteen per cent of all persons in Norway live alone. This means that 40% of all households consist of one person. Seventy-five per cent of all children lived with both their parents, 21% of the children lived with their mother and 4% with their father.
The Gini-coefficient for after tax household income (EU-scale) for the Norwegian population as a whole:
Income statistics for households. Distribution of income.
Distribution of household equivalent income after taxes5 between persons (EU-scale). Decile shares and cumulative decile shares. 2007-2011. Persons in student households are excluded. Per cent.