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Teaching and learning in general upper secondary education


6.Upper secondary education and post-secondary tertiary Education

6.2Teaching and learning in general upper secondary education

Last update: 22 June 2022


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 2006 (KL06) 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 will be 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 and Core Curriculum Options (subjects related to the respective education programmes).

There are around 240 subject curricula in vocational education and 159 subjects in general education. See 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 in Norwegian Distribution of Teaching Hours in Upper Secondary Education and Training.

Upper secondary education consists of the general subjects area and the vocational subjects area. Both enroll approximately half the pupils. The general subjects area consists of five programme areas 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):

SubjectMain StreamPupils without foreign language from lower secondary schoolSami pupilsPupils with hearing disabilities
Religion and Ethics84848484
Second language Sami/ Norwegian/ Finnish  309 
Norwegian for pupils with hearing disabilities   393
Norwegian sign language   225
Natural Science140140140140
Foreign Language225365  
Social Studies84848484
Physical Education168168168168
Total Common Core Subjects1683182316831683

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

 Main StreamPupils without foreign language from lower secondary educationSami pupilsPupils with hearing disabilities
Core Curriculum options from chosen are of study560560560560
Core Curriculum options from toher study areas within General studies (Music, Dance, Drama, Media and Communication, Sports, Arts, Design and Architecture280140280280
Total number of hours over a 3 year period (Common Cores subjects and Core Curriculum Options)2523252325232523

The national subject curricula contains 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 emphasises five basic skills. They 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

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.

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.

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.

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 centers of cultural activities and sources of information and learning materials.

There are no central regulations regarding homework.