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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Fundamental principles and national policies


2.Organisation and governance

2.1Fundamental principles and national policies

Last update: 27 November 2023

Fundamental Principles and National Policies

A suitable general education is one of the fundamental rights of all Icelandic citizens. This right is guaranteed by article 76 of the Constitution of Iceland. The Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into Icelandic law by Act 62/1994, also guarantees the right to a general education.

A substantial policy reform effort was reached in 2008 with the adoption of new legal framework for all main school levels: 

The Preschool Act 90/2008the Compulsory School Act 91/2008the Upper Secondary Education Act 92/2008, and the Higher Education Institutions Act 63/2006 . Together with the national curriculum guides for all school levels, these comprise  the various  the core national policies for the Icelandic educational system.

The main objective of Iceland's education policy is to offer all citizens equal opportunities to receive education, regardless of age, domicile, financial situation, disability, sex, mother tongue or religion.

Education is compulsory for children who are turning 6 years old in the year primary education commences and is compulsory for ten years or until the year they turn 16. Thus, children born in September or later are still 5 years old in the beginning of their primary education.  

Between ages 16 and 18, emphasis is placed on providing the opportunity for upper secondary education for all, irrespective of the pupil's results at the end of compulsory schooling. Those that have the right to enrol in upper secondary school also have the right to study until the age of 18, according to the Upper Secondary Education Act 92/2008.

Regarding disabled students, the policy promotes inclusion rather than segregation. By law, all schools are expected to provide pupils with disabilities the same education as other pupils as well as appropriate opportunities.

There are seven higher education institutions in Iceland. Most of them have departments that are run as lifelong learning centres for adult education. In addition, there are several private schools that offer adults a range of courses.

In the Icelandic education policy, it is of great importance that adults who have not finished upper secondary education, get a second chance. There are several ways and means of getting prior learning, courses and other life and working experiences validated to accelerate the completion of accredited education. (see more on Lifelong learning in section 2.2.)