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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of general upper secondary education


6.Upper secondary education and post-secondary tertiary Education

6.1Organisation of general upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Types of institutions

A large majority of upper secondary schools in Norway are combined schools, i.e. they offer both general and vocational education. Institutions offering both general and vocational education sometimes have teaching facilities in separate buildings.

The schools specialise and offer full qualifications in different programs. All the county authorities have to offer most of the educational programs of the curriculum.

Public or private enterprises and organisations approved by the county authorities to take on apprentices are responsible for apprenticeship training. Thus, in Norway, both schools, enterprises, and organisations may be VET providers.

There are 419 upper secondary schools in Norway (2022-23). 318 are public schools and 101 are privately owned.

The Act relating to Primary and Secondary Education (the Education Act) regulates general upper secondary education and vocational training. The county authorities are responsible for the schools and the vocational training. A large majority of the schools are public.

The  Independent Schools Act regulates private upper secondary education. The Act sets out criteria that private schools must meet to be considered of equal standing to public schools and thus be eligible for public funding.

Geographical accessibility

Upper secondary education and training is available all over the country to ensure equal education for all. The equity principle for all primary and secondary education requires equality of access. Within each county, upper secondary courses are also provided in remote areas. The vast majority of 16 to 19-year-olds live at home.

The Education Act Section 7-2  on transport and accommodation in upper secondary education states that the pupils in upper secondary education who reside more than six kilometers from the school have the right to free transport or full reimbursement of travel expenses. Where necessary, pupils have the right to free boat transport regardless of distance.

The county authority shall assist in procuring accommodation for upper secondary pupils who, because their homes are so situated or their journey is too long, cannot make use of the daily transport services to the school. If necessary, the county authority shall build boarding facilities.

Admission requirements and choice of school

When pupils turn 15, they choose their own further educational path through upper secondary education.  Young persons who have completed primary and lower secondary school or equivalent have a statutory right to three years of upper secondary education and training, called Young person’s right. This right is valid until the academic year they turn 24 years of age.

The main rules for admission to upper secondary education and training are outlined in the Regulations to The Education Act § 6-2. Also, the county authorities prescribe their own sets of rules of admission and rules for school placements. These may vary from county to county.

Chapter 4A in the Education Act regulates education and training for adults. Adults who have completed primary and lower secondary education or equivalent have the right to enroll in upper secondary education and training from the year they reach the age of 25.

The same section of the Act also states that adults above compulsory school age (normally 16 years of age) who require primary and lower secondary education have the right to such education unless they have the right to upper secondary education and training.

The right to upper secondary education is contingent upon the student having completed primary and lower secondary education, but not upon having passed all subjects or exams. Pupils with a right to special needs education are entitled to an additional two years of upper secondary education.

A pupil has the right to a place on one of three alternative education programs that he or she has applied for, chosen from the programs presently available. Admission to specific education programs can be affected by factors such as the applicant's grades and the programs offered by the county. However, more than 90% are admitted to the program and school of their first choice. Pupils with a disability who need special education have the right to be accepted to a specific education program at upper secondary level 1 at the request of the pupil, their parents, and teacher.

If the number of applications exceeds the number of places in the county, pupils will be assigned an educational program depending on the pupil's grades from lower secondary school. In some counties, this rule also applies to the assignment of pupils to specific schools. The achievement points are based on grades from compulsory subjects in lower secondary education. Pupils applying for an upper secondary level 1 program (first year) have to fulfill one of the following requirements:

  • Completed compulsory education (primary and lower secondary education). It is not necessary to pass all subjects but to have participated in the compulsory education.
  • Completed education equivalent to Norwegian compulsory education.
  • Completed all but one year of compulsory education and left lower secondary school due to specific circumstances such as a disability preventing the pupil from taking further part in education at that level.
  • Completed 7 years of compulsory education following the requirements of curricula before 2006.

County authorities can decide to award half of the places in the first year in Music, Dance, and Drama to pupils based on a test or documentation of their specific skills rather than pupils achieved grades.

Age levels and grouping of pupils/students

General upper secondary education consists of three years. Pupils are normally in the age group 16–19, but they may be older.

Classes are organised by subjects. The level of ability is not a determining factor. There is no streaming or grouping by ability. Thus, streaming is not accepted in Norwegian schools; pupils in upper secondary education and training attend mixed-ability classes. However, attaining fundamental skills at one level is necessary for admission to the next level. There are no regulations prescribing class sizes in upper secondary schools.

Teachers are assigned to classes depending on their specialisation. Pupils have different teachers in most subjects. Pupils choosing the same subject at year 2 and year 3 can often have the same teacher in the subject for the duration of the two years.

Organization of the school year

The organisation of the school year is the responsibility of the county authorities. The national regulations prescribing the distribution of lessons per subject is not per week; only per year.

The school year consists of 190 days or 38 weeks. This is the same as in primary and lower secondary education. Teachers normally work six additional days, according to a negotiated agreement on teachers' working time.

The school year starts in mid/late August and ends in mid-/late June and is divided into two semesters or three terms. There are usually four holidays during the academic year, one week in late September or early October, two weeks at Christmas, one week in February, and one and a half weeks at Easter. The summer holidays last around eight weeks.

Organization of the school day and week

There are no national regulations concerning the organization of the school day or week in the upper secondary schools. The distribution of hours is decided by the local authorities or the school.