Directorate for Education and Skills

Education Policy Outlook Highlights: Norway


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  Last update 20 November 2013
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Norway's educational context

‌‌Students: Student performance in PISA is high, with significant improvement since 2006 in science and less dependence on socio-economic factors than in most OECD countries. Students with immigrant background face performance challenges, but completion rates for second-generation students are close to average. Adults have also significantly above-average proficiency levels of literacy skills across participating countries in PIAAC, with younger adults scoring lower than the average and, unlike the situation in most other countries, lower literacy skill levels than the adult population as a whole. Norway has a comprehensive education system until the age of 16 and high enrolment in pre-primary education. At upper secondary level, there is strong supply and student uptake of vocational education and training, but completion rates in general or vocational programmes are low compared to the OECD average. Tertiary education attainment is higher than the OECD average, resulting in a highly skilled workforce with a relatively small wage premium due to low income differential in Norway.

Institutions: With large within-school variation in performance, learning environments in schools are less positive than the OECD average according to views of students at age 15. Schools leaders focus more on administrative than pedagogical tasks. Teachers report a high degree of self-efficacy and motivation to teach, but they receive less feedback and participate in fewer professional development activities than the TALIS average. Norway has developed a multifaceted system for evaluation and assessment in schools, including quality assessment, which can be completed and made more coherent to support effective evaluation and assessment practices. The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT), an independent government agency, provides quality control for tertiary education.

Governance and funding: Norway's central government sets the goals and framework, and decision-making is highly decentralised, with primary schools run by municipalities and secondary schools run by counties. Municipalities are also responsible for fulfilling the right to a place in Kindergarten for all children from 1 year of age. Tertiary institutions are mostly autonomous in their decisions, including those on how they allocate resources. Norway has generous funding at all levels of the education system: public and private educational institutions at all levels get most of their funding from public sources, and public education is free, except at pre-primary level where parents must pay some fees.

‌‌Key policy issues

Norway faces the challenge of ensuring that students remain in school until the end of upper secondary education. Efforts have been made to improve learning conditions for students by enhancing pedagogical support and strengthening assessment, but the system requires policy implementation strategies aligned to its decentralised governance structure.

‌‌Recent policy responses

Current education policies focus on increasing completion of upper secondary education. The New Possibilities-Ny GIV initiative (2010-13) aims to boost the completion rate from 69% to 75%, with specific measures for low-performing students and to motivate 16-21 year-olds who are neither in school nor in employment to participate in education. An action plan to raise performance in lower secondary education has been launched from the school year 2012-13 to improve mastery of basic skills, boost students’ motivation for learning and develop structures for effective implementation.

Efforts have also been made to improve the quality of teachers, notably through the GNIST initiative, (GNIST is Norwegian for "spark"). This national partnership between the Ministry of Education and the main stakeholders and municipalities/counties (2009-14) aims to increase the quality and status of the teaching profession, teacher education and school leadership. A yearly teacher recruitment campaign is an important part of GNIST. Another initiative is the development of National Guidelines for Differentiated Primary and Lower Secondary Teacher Education Programmes for Years 1–7 and Years 5–10 (2010 and 2013) to support implementation of the new teacher education reform.

Efforts to strengthen assessment have been made since the launch of the Knowledge Promotion Reform (2006), a curriculum complementing the National Quality Assessment System (NKVS, 2004) to support effective evaluation and assessment practice in schools. Furthermore, a national four-year programme to improve formative assessment at the school level, Assessment for Learning (2010), is already showing positive results.

Norway achieves higher-than-average scores in PISA, and the impact of socio-economic status on performance is lower than the OECD average, although its PISA results have not improved since 2000 (Figure 1) (see interactive chart below).


Secondary and tertiary education attainment in Norway is at the OECD average or higher: 84% of 25-34 year-olds have attained secondary education (compared to the OECD average of 82%) and 47% have attained tertiary education (compared to the OECD average of 39%) (see interactive chart below).



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