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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Distribution of responsibilities


8.Adult education and training

8.1Distribution of responsibilities

Last update: 13 September 2022

Formal education

The parliament passes the Education Act (Skollagen) which contains general provisions for all forms of school and addresses the student's right to education. In July 2012, the new Education Act became applicable to municipal adult education. 

The government decides on the Ordinance on Adult Education (Förordning om vuxenutbildning), which contains more details than the Education Act. The curricula are also decided on by the government. The curriculum for adult education programme (Läroplan för vuxenutbildningen) states what the tasks of adult education are, the overall goals and the values on which the education is to be based. The government also decides on the syllabi for Swedish tuition for immigrants. The Ordinance on Adult Education became applicable to municipal adult education in July 2012. At the same time, the new curriculum for adult education programme was introduced.
The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) is the central administrative authority for the public school system, publicly organised preschool, school age childcare and for adult education. The mission of the Agency is to actively work for the attainment of the goals and guidelines set out by the parliament and the government in the Education Act and the Curricula. The municipalities and the independent schools are the principal organisers of the school system, and as such, are the ones that allocate resources and organise activities so that pupils attain the national goals. The Swedish National Agency for Education supervises, supports and evaluates the schools in order to improve quality and outcomes. The Swedish National Agency for Education draws up syllabi goals and knowledge requirements.  
The Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen), a public authority with offices all over Sweden, is responsible for labour market training intended primarily for unemployed adults in need of retraining or further training and education. The parliament and the government have assigned the Swedish Public Employment Service the goal of focusing on people who are at some distance from the labour market and who, for example, have been unemployed for a longer period of time.
Regional authorities
County councils (region) may be the responsible authority for adult education. County councils or regions are responsible for 43 folk high schools. County councils may also provide adult education at upper secondary level. 
Local authorities
The municipalities are obliged to provide municipal adult education although the actual provision can be delivered by independent providers. Municipal adult education includes:
Compulsory education level: Sweden has established a legal entitlement to basic adult education for all Swedish residents who are at least 20 years old and have not completed lower secondary education. The municipalities are responsible for ensuring that students receive the education to which they are entitled. Each municipality should actively work to reach adults in the municipality who have the right to participate in education at compulsory school level and encourage them to partake in such education. Those who have the right to participate in compulsory-level education, also have the right to engage in such education in a municipality other than their home municipality if the educational provision is available there. Adults who have the right to the education can thus choose to study in a different municipality. 
Upper secondary education level: The aim of municipal adult education at the upper secondary level is to give adults knowledge at a level that corresponds to education in the standard upper secondary school provision. Municipal adult education at the upper secondary level is run in the form of courses, and it also contains a diploma project. With the exception of specialised sports training, the syllabi and knowledge requirements are the same in municipal adult education at the upper secondary level as they are in standard upper secondary schools. There may also be other courses delivered as part of this adult education at the upper secondary level based on individual needs.
Special education for adults (särskild utbildning för vuxna, särvux) is offered at a basic level and at upper secondary school level. This form of school is intended for adults with learning disabilities or acquired brain damage. On 1 January 2007, the right to special education for adults at the basic level entered into force for adults who do not have the skills, knowledge and competence that education and training at compulsory special school is intended to provide and who are capable of benefiting from this education. Special education for adults is intended to supplement student’s skills, knowledge and competence, building on the previous education, experience and abilities of each individual. The courses can therefore provide skills, knowledge and competence in individual subjects and skills equivalent to those acquired at compulsory and upper secondary education schools for pupils with learning disabilities. This educational provision can also provide vocational education and training in a similar fashion.
Swedish tuition for immigrants (svenskaundervisning för invandrare, sfi) is a separate school form and consists of advanced language education which aims to give adults with a mother tongue other than Swedish basic knowledge of the Swedish language. Through this educational provision, students develop a functional second-language ability in Swedish. The municipalities are required to provide Swedish tuition for immigrants, but it can be delivered by independent providers. The tuition is organised within courses. Study plans and learning objectives are personalised and tailored to the needs of each individual.
The Swedish Schools Inspectorate 
It is the principal organiser of a school, that is, a municipality or the operator of an independent school, which is responsible for its quality and results. The role of the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) is to monitor and scrutinise. In connection with these supervisory and quality-
auditing activities, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate provides advice and guidance as to how schools should improve based on the requirements of legislation.
The Swedish Schools Inspectorate conducts regular inspections of all municipal and independent schools, from preschool to adult education. The Inspectorate may make use of penalties and apply pressure so that a principal organiser improves its activities. If the organiser does not take action or seriously disregards its obligations, the Inspectorate may decide to impose a conditional fine or other measures at the principal organiser's expense. In the case of an independent school, its licence to operate may be revoked. A licence is necessary to be allowed to start or extend an independent school. The Swedish Schools Inspectorate makes decisions about these licences and ensures that each school operates in accordance with its licence conditions.

Non-formal education

The Swedish National Council of Adult Education (Folkbildningsrådet) is a non-profit, membership-based association with certain authoritative tasks delegated to it by the government and the parliament. The Council distributes government grants to study associations and folk high schools, submits budgetary documentation and annual reports to the government and monitors and evaluates adult education activities. There are currently ten study associations to which the Swedish National Council of Adult Education distributes grants. The Council also works on certain projects with its member organisations. The National Council of Adult Education has three members:
  • The Swedish Adult Education Association (Studieförbunden), an interest association for the study associations.
  • The Interest Organisation of Popular Movement Folk High Schools (Rörelsefolkhögskolornas Intresseorganisation) is the umbrella organisation for the 108 Swedish folk high schools owned by civil society organisations.
  • The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges Kommuner och Regioner) represents the 43 folk high schools operated by county councils and regions.
The state has provided financial support to liberal adult education (folkbildning) since 1912. It is generally agreed that liberal adult education should be run separately from the state but be financed by public funds. The importance of liberal adult education to Swedish society is recognised by all political parties.
Study associations
In Sweden there are currently ten study associations (studieförbund) to which the Swedish National Council of Adult Education (Folkbildningsrådet) distributes grants. The study associations have different profiles and emphases in their activities. There are close connections between the study associations and civil society or social movement organisations, such as those focusing on disability rights, immigrant advocacy or environmental issues. Every year the study associations reach over 1.8 million participants (in a country with a population of 9.5 million). The study associations are located throughout Sweden.
  1. Arbetarnas Bildningsförbund, ABF
  2. Bilda
  3. Folkuniversitetet
  4. Medborgarskolan
  5. Nykterhetsrörelsens bildningsverksamhet, NBV
  6. Sensus
  7. Studiefrämjandet
  8. Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan
  9. Ibn Rushd
  10. Kulturens 
The Swedish Adult Education Association (Studieförbunden) is the interest organisation of the study associations, and its task is to strengthen the position of the study associations through communication, cooperation, and analysis of the surrounding world. The ten study associations have 374 member organisations, nearly 280 000 study circles and some 341 000 cultural programmes each year. The Swedish Adult Education Association is a member of the European Association for the Education of Adults and the International Council for Adult Education.
Folk high schools
The parliament and the government determine the general funding framework through the Ordinance on government grants to liberal adult education (Förordning om statsbidrag till folkbildningen). Certain conditions and guidelines are laid down by the Swedish National Council of Adult Education (Folkbildningsrådet) regarding study assessment, for example. Otherwise, each folk high school (folkhögskola) and its principals draw up their own goals for the school's work and are responsible for design and content. The special conditions for state grants to folk high schools state that each school must have a governing body and that all state-assisted tuition must be free of charge. The general course at folk high schools must account for at least 15 per cent of their total activities. The general course is primarily intended for those who lack compulsory or upper secondary education, and its length varies.
There are 151 folk high schools in Sweden, of which county councils or municipalities own and run 43. The remaining 108 are run by various civil society organisations. The folk high schools are not tied to a national curriculum; each school determines its own activities on the basis of its ideology and preferences for particular spheres of knowledge.