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Teaching and learning


6.Upper secondary education and post-secondary tertiary education

6.2Teaching and learning

Last update: 27 March 2024

Curriculum, subjects, number of hours 

The National Curriculum covers compulsory primary and lower secondary education and upper secondary education and training as a whole.

The National Curriculum from 2020 (LK20/LK20S) is defined as a regulation to the Education Act. It consists of three parts:

  • The Core Curriculum – Values and principles in education
  • Subject curricula
  • Framework regulating the distribution of teaching hours per subject

From the 2020/2021 school year, new educational programmes, programme areas and curricula were introduced in upper secondary education.

A revised Core Curriculum from 2019, implemented in 2020, sets down the values and objectives of primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary education and training. The Core Curriculum builds on the objects’ clause of the Education Act. It describes how schools are to foster pupils’ formative development as well as the values, cultural aspects, and knowledge-related aspects that form the basis for primary and secondary education. The revised Core Curriculum articulates more explicitly, the schools’ overriding responsibility for developing the pupils’ social skills.

The National Subject Curricula are developed by teachers, researchers, teacher trainers, and other specialists within each subject, and are appointed by the Directorate of Education. A curriculum working group usually consists of 3–5 persons. The Ministry of Education and Research decides the Core Curriculum and the Curricula for Primary and Lower Secondary School. The same applies to Common Core Subjects in upper secondary education. 

The National Curriculum at upper secondary level aims to give young people a broad education platform. It is competence-based. All education programmes contain two components which all students must complete: Common Core Subjects (compulsory) and Core Curriculum Options (subjects related to the respective education programmes).

There are around 160subjects in general upper secondary education. Please refer to the 14 Common Core Subjects which all pupils must have in the table below. The total number of hours for Common Core Subjects over three years is 1683. Pupils must, in addition, choose among core curriculum options related to their field of study within General Education with at least 560 hours Core Curriculum options from the selected field of study. In addition, they must choose 280 hours of Core Curriculum options from other education programmes in General Studies. See table below.

The number of teaching hours per subject for upper secondary education and training is defined in each subject curriculum and in the framework regulating the distribution of teaching hours per subject. See link (Norwegian only): Framework regulating the distribution of teaching hours in upper secondary education and training  

Upper secondary education consists of the general programmes and the vocational programmess. Both enroll approximately half the pupils. 

General upper secondary education

The general programmes consist of five areas which each qualifying for university entrance. Each programme area has a set of Core Curriculum options, but pupils can choose Core Curriculum subjects from other programme areas. The common core subjects for these programme areas are Norwegian, Mathematics, Natural Science, English, Social Science, Geography, History, Religion and Ethics, and Physical Education. All pupils enrolled in programmes for General Studies must complete a compulsory foreign language course (see table below).

  • Programme for Study Specialisation is the largest programme in terms of enrolment. It is subdivided into two strands:
    • Languages, Social Studies and Economics
    • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Programme for Music, Dance and Drama offers three programme areas at upper secondary level 2 and 3 (Vg2 and Vg3): Music, Dance and Drama.
  • Programme for Sports and Physical Education is basically an education in sports, but it is also possible to combine the education with active participation in competitive sports. The selection of sports is based on Norwegian traditions. The education consists of three years in school and gives general academic competence.
  • Programme for Media and Communication provides university matriculation rights from 2016. Pupils who started the programme in 2015 or prior to 2015 follow the former vocational programme.
  • Programme for Arts, Design and Architecture is about the development and design of different products, services, interactive systems, physical environments and urban development.

Below are listed the individual compulsory subjects that pupils within the programmes for General Studies have to take during three years of upper secondary education. In addition, they may choose between a range of Core Curriculum Options pertaining to their educational programme.

Common Core Subjects in upper secondary education (total after 3 years):

Subject Main Stream Pupils without foreign language from lower secondary school Sami pupils Pupils with hearing disabilities
Religion and Ethics 84 84 84 84
Norwegian 393 393    
Second language Sami/ Norwegian/ Finnish     309  
Norwegian for pupils with hearing disabilities       393
Norwegian sign language       225
Mathematics 224 224 224 224
Natural Science 140 140 140 140
English 140 140 140 140
Foreign Language 225 365    
Social Studies 84 84 84 84
Geography 56 56 56 56
History 169 169 169 169
Physical Education 168 168 168 168
Total Common Core Subjects 1683 1823 1683 1683

Core Curriculum Options in General Upper Secondary Education (total number of hours after 3 years):

  Main Stream Pupils without foreign language from lower secondary education Sami pupils Pupils with hearing disabilities
Core Curriculum options from chosen area of study 560 560 560 560
Core Curriculum options from the study areas within General Studies (Music, Dance, Drama, Media and Communication, Sports, Arts, Design and Architecture 280 140 280 280
Total number of hours over a 3-year period (Common Cores subjects and Core Curriculum Options) 2523 2523 2523 2523

The national subject curricula contain competence goals for each of the 3 years. The subject curricula express high academic ambitions for all pupils, in defining such goals. The pupils achieve these attainment targets to varying degrees. Each pupil shall be stimulated to meet their targets to the best of their ability through differentiated education. If a pupil is not benefiting adequately from ordinary lessons, he or she is entitled to individual tuition.

The curricula emphasis five basic skills. These are oral skills, writing, reading, numeracy, and digital skills. The basic skills have been incorporated into the subject curricula for all subjects as an essential foundation for all other learning. All teachers are therefore responsible for enabling pupils to develop basic skills through their work in various subjects.

Digital skills are one of the five basic skills within each subject and related to the subject in question. There are two Core Curriculum options involving Technology within the programme for General Studies (Mathematics and Natural Sciences):

  • Information Technology – Core Curricular Option Study Specialisation Mathematics and Natural Sciences
  • Technology and Research – Core curriculum option – Study Specialisation Mathematics and Natural Sciences

In addition, there is a subject called Programming and modeling which also includes digital skills. 

Pupils attending upper secondary education and training who have a mother tongue other than Norwegian or Sami have the right to adapted education in Norwegian until they are sufficiently proficient to follow the ordinary teaching. If necessary, such pupils are also entitled to mother-tongue instruction, bilingual subject teaching, or both. There is no provision for teaching one or more subjects in the curriculum in a language other than the language of instruction.

Vocational upper secondary education

From 2020 there are around 211 subject curricula in vocational education. Also, there are seven common core subjects. Mandatory subjects in all the vocational programmes are Norwegian, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, English, Social Science and Physical Education. There are at present ten areas of vocational education in year 1. These lead to 52 different subject curricula in year 2 and further craft and trade specialisation which most often is  enterprise-based training.

The subject requirements for pupils/apprentices within the vocational education programmes are stated in table 17 of the Framework regulating the distribution of teaching hours in subjects (in Norwegian only).

During the course of the school-based two years, the pupils shall have 588 hours Common Core Subjects and 954 hours Core Curriculum Options from their area of study. Also, they shall have 421 hours of Vocational Specialisation.

The ten programme areas of vocational education (from 2020) are the following:

Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry 
Building and Construction
Crafts, Design and Product Development
Electrical Engineering and Computer Technology
Healthcare, Childhood and Youth Development
Hairdressing, Floral, Interior and Retail Design
Information Technology and Media Production 
Restaurant and Food Processing
Sales, Service and Tourism
Technological and Industrial Production

Subjects and teaching hours t for pupils in vocational education programmes after 2 years in school:

Norwegian 112
Mathematics 84
Natural Sciences 56
English 140
Social Studies 84
Physical Education 112
Total Common Core Curriculum 588
Common Core Options from an area of Education Programme 955
Vocational Specialisation 421
Total over a two-year period 1963

Pupils and apprentices wishing to achieve University Entrance Qualifications can do this by taking an extra year 3 (bridging course) in upper secondary educationwhich includes  additional Common Core Curriculum Subjects (701 hours) and 140 hours Core Curriculum options from the Programme for General Studies.

Additional core curriculum subjects and common core options  from the Programme for General Studies to achieve University Entrance qualifications:

Norwegian 281
Mathematics 140
Natural Sciences 84
History 140
Physical Education 56
Total Common Core Curriculum 588
Common Core Options from General Studies area 140
Total 841

Social partner representatives from business, industry and the public sector hold the majority of the seats in all advisory bodies in the decision-making system for upper secondary VET. Close dialogue with the social partners is important in anticipating skills needs and in securing relevant provision of VET. Thus, tripartite cooperation is important in both designing VET provision and in assuring relevance and quality in accordance with labour market needs.

The social partners have been actively involved in the development of a new structure of available courses and apprenticeships which came into  force from the school year 2020–21 and also in the development of renewed VET curricula for all trades and crafts in accordance with labour market needs. The new VET curricula were implemented as of the school year 2020–21.

Teaching methods and materials

One of the fundamental principles in the National Curriculum is the introduction of more freedom at a local level concerning local curriculum work, teaching methods, teaching materials, and the organisation of classroom instruction. Thus, teachers have methodological freedom of choice of teaching materials. 

Teaching materials comprise textbooks, ICT-related aids, sound, and images produced with specific learning objectives in mind. Items initially provided for other purposes, such as newspaper articles, feature films, literary works, e.g. can also be used as learning materials. In subjects other than Norwegian, teaching materials may only be used when they are simultaneously available in both of Norway's two official written languages (Norwegian and New Norwegian) at the same time and the same price. In unusual cases, the Ministry of Education and Research may make exceptions from this rule. Local education authorities are responsible for supplying schools with teaching aids, which are free for pupils. Furthermore, schools must have a solid digital infrastructure with supports their pedagogical and administrative work. 'Solid digital infrastructure' means that schools have stable, adequate access to good quality networks, user support, equipment, software and services, while universal design, privacy protection and security are also safeguarded.

In the Norwegian survey to schools, 'Spørsmål til Skole-Norge', from Spring 2022, 7 in 10 school leaders of both primary and lower secondary schools and upper secondary schools stated that the quality of their digital infrastructure is of a good enough quality that teachers can carry out a wide spectrum of digital teaching (Bergene et al. 2022). A very low proportion of the country's school leaders believe that the quality of their infrastructure, including pupils' digital devices, are not good enough. School leaders' experience of the quality of their digital infrastructure has been roughly the same for the past two years. Schools that use PCs often use the Microsoft 365 system, with Teams as a platform for teachers and pupils. Schools that use Chromebooks tend to use Google Workspace for Education with Google Drive as a storage system for pupils and teachers.

Pupils with special needs require teaching aids, which take their abilities and aptitudes into account. Teaching materials should comply with principles of universal design and diverse cultural backgrounds. It is up to the publishing firms to decide which subject teaching materials they wish to produce.

School libraries have a central place in the education and serve as centres of cultural activities and sources of information and learning materials. 

There are no central regulations regarding homework.

The Directorate for Education and Training has also developed Competence resources to give support for developing competence and practice in amongst others schools and training enterprises. The resources are found here. The competence resources are made so that it is possible to work together in schools and enterprises over time. The Competence resources have process and leadership support, and the content is intended to be used in competence development. The content is to be adapted locally in line with local needs. The resources are to be used by colleagues together but may also be used in teams or at certain grade levels. A set of competence resources consists of modules. The modules are divided into themes and are often built up as follows:

  • introduction module: Describes the theme of the resource and how the different subject specific modules are built up.
  • subject specific modules: Present relevant resources for instance text or films, tasks to be solved and sometimes also suggestions for work processes. It varies how many subject specific modules each resource package contains. 
  • end module: Summing up and the way forward. 

The competence resource packages are open for everyone. There are no limits on participants per set of resources.