Schools in Sweden

Education in Sweden is compulsory and free for all children attending public schools between the ages of 6 and 15. The language of instruction in public schools is Swedish, with support programmes available for non-Swedish speakers.

Nevertheless, many expat parents prefer to send their children to a private or international school in Sweden, of which there are plenty to choose from.

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Public schools in Sweden are open to everyone, including expats. These schools follow the Swedish national curriculum.

Public schools in Sweden take steps to accommodate non-Swedish speakers, with classes known as ‘preparatory classes’ which assist new arrivals in learning Swedish. Preparatory classes run alongside regular lessons – the goal is for students to reach a certain point of proficiency that allows them to be fully integrated into regular school classes. This usually takes around six to 12 months. In addition, some public schools offer expat students special classes to help them maintain mother-tongue proficiency.

Swedish schools are administrated by the local municipality in which they are located. These institutions are taxpayer-funded and charge no fees for students from the age of 3 to a maximum age of 20.

School is only compulsory for students aged six to 15, however. All nine years of compulsory education are undertaken at a comprehensive school (grundskola). Following this, students wishing to continue their education move on to upper secondary school.

Upper secondary school (gymnasieskola) is more specialised, and students must choose their path from a number of national programmes. Some are vocational and others prepare students for entry to higher education. There are also a handful of introductory programmes available to assist students who don’t yet qualify for a national programme. This includes a Swedish-language programme for newcomers to the country who aren’t proficient in Swedish.

Swedish schools generally have high standards and offer a good standard of education. As such, most local children in Sweden go to public schools. However, many expats choose to forego public school in favour of international schools.

There are also a number of private or independent schools in Sweden, known as friskolor. Most of these schools teach the Swedish national curriculum and are funded publicly via government grants. However, unlike public schools, independent schools are allowed to accept private donations. In doing so, they typically have a larger budget to work with than public schools.

Swedish private schools are run by individuals, associations or foundations. In some cases, there are groups that have formed to run several schools.

International schools in Sweden offer the curriculum of a foreign country such as that of the UK, the US, France or Germany, or other qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate.

Children of all nationalities, including Swedish children, are welcome at most international schools. These schools may have long waiting lists however, so it’s best for parents to plan ahead and apply for a spot for their children as early as possible. International school fees can be extremely high, so expat parents moving to Sweden for work should try to negotiate for this expense to be included in their relocation package.