Education Policy Outlook Snapshot: Norway


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‌‌Norway’s educational context

Students: Norway performs above the OECD average in reading, at around average in mathematics and below the OECD average in science in PISA 2012, with the lowest impact on socio-economic factors on students’ performance among OECD countries and unchanging performance across PISA cycles. Some system-level policies help enhance equity in Norway. Early childhood education and care (ECEC) usually starts at age 1 (the earliest age across OECD countries), and the enrolment rate of 3-4 year-olds in ECEC is above the OECD average. Norway has comprehensive and compulsory education from age 6 to 16. At upper secondary level, attainment rates are around the OECD average, and there is a strong supply of upper secondary vocational education and training (VET), with an above-average enrolment rate. Tertiary education attainment rates are higher than the OECD average, resulting in a highly skilled workforce. Adults (16-65 year-olds) have above-average proficiency levels in literacy and numeracy compared to other countries participating in the Survey of Adult Skills, with younger adults (16-24 year-olds) 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 the lowest rate of unemployment among OECD countries.

Institutions: In Norway, schools’ autonomy over resource allocation (such as hiring and dismissal of teachers) is around the OECD average, while autonomy over curriculum and assessment is below average. Learning environments in schools are less positive than the OECD average, according to views of students at age 15. Lower secondary teachers are required to follow four years of pre-service training including mandatory teacher training. In secondary education, teaching time is lower than the OECD average, while in primary education it is higher than the OECD average. In both primary and secondary education, salaries are above average, and class size is on average smaller than in other OECD countries. A lower proportion of teachers in Norway than the TALIS average consider that the teaching profession is valued in society and would choose to work as teachers if they could decide again. Also, school leaders focus more on administrative than pedagogical tasks. When appraisal takes place, it often leads to opportunities for professional development activities or a role in school development initiatives. Norway has developed a multi-faceted 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.

System: Governance of the education system is shared between the central government and local authorities. Norway’s central government sets the goals and framework, while municipalities run primary and lower secondary schools and counties run upper secondary schools. Municipalities also fulfil the right to a place in pres-school for all children from age 1. Lower secondary schooling decisions are mostly taken at the local level, with just a few decisions taken at the state level, while 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 education is free, except at pre-primary level where parents pay fees. Expenditure on education institutions as a percentage of GDP (for all educational levels combined) is one of the highest among OECD countries.

‌‌Selected indicators compared with the average

 ‌‌EPO SPIDER NOR                                                                        Click here to access the underlying data
Note: For each indicator, the absolute performance is standardised (normalised) using a normative score ranging from 0 to 180, where 100 was set at the average, taking into account all OECD countries with available data in each case. See for maximum and minimum value countries. Source: The Norway Snapshot was produced combining information from Education Policy Outlook: Australia, (OECD, 2013) with OECD data and the country’s response to the Education Policy Outlook Snapshot Survey (2013). More information on the spider chart and sources is available at

‌‌Key issues and goals

Students: Norway faces the challenge of ensuring that students remain in school until the end of upper secondary education. Continuing to promote equity while fostering student motivation and excellence is also of high interest.

Institutions: Efforts have been made to improve learning conditions for students by enhancing pedagogical support and strengthening assessment.

System: Norway aims to ensure capacity-building and consistent implementation across all municipalities. Optimising resources and policy implementation strategies in a context of decentralised decision-making is also key. Norway also needs to improve the coherence and responsiveness of its skills system, focus on developing relevant skills to achieve its economic and social goals, and on activating and using these skills effectively.


‌‌Selected policy responses

  • Norway has carried out multiple efforts in ECEC, such as providing the legal right for all children to a place in ECEC from age 1 (2009).
  • Efforts have 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, 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 component. Also, the National Guidelines for Differentiated Primary and Lower Secondary Teacher Education Programmes for Years 1 to 7 and Years 5 to 10 (2010 and 2013) aim 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 practices in schools. Furthermore, Assessment for Learning (2010), a national programme to improve formative assessment at the school level, is already showing positive results and has been extended from 2014 until 2017.
  • The New Possibilities-Ny GIV initiative (2010-13) aims to boost the completion rate from 70% to 75%, with specific measures for low-performing students, and to motivate participation in education among 16-21 year-olds who are neither in school nor in employment. 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.
  • The OECD and Norway are collaborating on a cross-ministerial project to build an Effective Skills Strategy for Norway. In 2015 the government will follow up with the implementation process of a Norwegian Skills Strategy based on the strategic approach for developing, activating and using skills that the project has already provided.

Spotlight: Raising performance in lower secondary education

To raise performance in lower secondary education, an action plan was developed by 30 key Norwegian education policy makers to work on two basic goals: 1) improving student outcomes in literacy and numeracy; and 2) improving teachers’ classroom practices. Four key actions to implement these objectives were also agreed. Defining and communicating the action plan and its strategy for implementation were the first step before implementing the following actions:

  1. Define measure and communicate what good literacy, numeracy and classroom practices mean.
  2. Identify effective practices for teachers, school leaders and municipalities to improve literacy and numeracy.
  3. Develop support strategies for teachers to deliver improved outcomes in literacy and numeracy.
  4. Strengthen school leadership to deliver improved outcomes in literacy and numeracy (define and communicate the role of instructional leaders; provide school leaders with training, support and capacity enhancement; and develop networks for school leaders to share and work together).

This draft action plan has been used by Norwegian stakeholders to guide further discussions and to shape new education policy efforts. Norwegian Education Authorities have launched a strategy for implementing the action plan over the period 2012-17 (Motivasjon og mestring for bedre læring, 2012).

 Please cite this publication as:
OECD (2015), Education Policy Outlook 2015: Making Reforms Happen, OECD Publishing.
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