One fundamental principle of the Swedish education system is that all children and youth must have access to equivalent education, regardless of gender, place of residence and social and financial background. The curricula are valid nationwide. State regulations for the education system are set out in the Education Act (Skollagen), the Higher Education Act (Högskolelagen) and in a number of ordinances.
The Education Act
The Swedish Education Act (Skollagen) of 2011 contains basic principles and provisions for compulsory and further education, preschool (Förskola), preschool class (Förskoleklass), out-of-school care and adult education. It promotes greater oversight, freedom of choice, and student safety and security.
The current curricula for compulsory schools for all students, Sami schools, special schools and upper secondary schools came into force 1 July 2011. The curricula contains new general goals, guidelines and syllabuses. The preschool curriculum includes clearer goals for children’s linguistic and communicative development and for science and technology. Mandatory national subject exams are held in years 3, 6 and 9 of compulsory school to assess students' progress. There are also new qualification requirements for areas including upper secondary school studies.
The grading system
The old Swedish system with four grades from Pass with Special Distinction (MVG) down to Did Not Pass (IG) was replaced by a new grading scale with six grades from A to F in 2011. A to E are passing grades, with F as a failing grade. Grades are assigned starting in year 6. The new grading system is very similar to the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), the standard grading system for higher education in Europe.
As of 1 December 2013, professional certification is required for school and pre-school teachers on permanent contracts. The decision, a milestone in Swedish education policy, aims to raise the status of the teaching profession, support professional development and thus increase quality in education.
In Sweden, preschool (förskola) is provided by municipalities for children ages one to five. The amount of municipal subsidy for preschool depends on the child’s age and whether the parents work, study, are unemployed or on parental leave for other children. Swedish preschool emphasises the importance of play in a child’s development, with a curriculum aiming to ensure children’s individual needs and interests. Gender-aware education is increasingly common, striving to provide children with the same opportunities in life regardless of gender.
Curriculum for the preschool (Läroplan för förskolan).
All children are guaranteed a place in a one-year preschool class (förskoleklass) starting in the fall term of the year they turn six until they start compulsory school. This year is designed to stimulate each child’s development and learning, and provide a platform for their future education. The preschool class is mandatory.
Curriculum for the compulsory school, preschool class and the recreation centre (Läroplan för grundskolan, förskoleklassen och fritidshemmet).
Swedish compulsory education (grundskola) consists of three stages: years 1–3 (lågstadiet), followed by years 4–6 (mellanstadiet) and then years 7–9 (högstadiet). Children between ages 6 and 13 are also offered out-of-school care before and after school hours. Compulsory education also includes Sami schools (sameskolor) for children of the indigenous Sami people.
Curriculum for the compulsory school, preschool class and the recreation centre (Läroplan för grundskolan, förskoleklassen och fritidshemmet)
Upper Secondary School
Upper secondary school (gymnasieskola), years 10–12, is optional. There are 18 regular national programmes of 3 years to choose from, 6 of which are preparatory for higher education such as a university, and 12 of which are vocational. While entrance requirements vary between programmes, all of them demand students to have passing grades in Swedish, English and Mathematics from their final year of compulsory schooling.
Curriculum for the upper secondary school (Läroplan för gymnasieskola).