Norwegian educational policy is rooted in the principle of equal rights to education for all members of society, regardless of their social and cultural background or where in Norway they live. It is the role of the schools to convey both knowledge and culture, as well as to promote social mobility and provide a basis for wealth creation and welfare for all.
Teaching at Norwegian schools is to be adapted to the abilities and skills of the individual pupils. Special education is available for persons with disabilities or those with special needs who are otherwise unable to participate in ordinary school teaching activities. As a result of the increase in immigration, the number of pupils belonging to language minorities is on the rise. Norwegian education policy stipulates that consideration be given to the special needs of language minority pupils in order to better enable them to complete upper secondary education and pursue higher education and employment.
The Storting (Norwegian national assembly) and the Government are responsible for specifying the objectives and establishing the budgetary frameworks for the education sector. The Ministry of Education and Research is the administrative agency in charge of educational matters, and is responsible for implementing national educational policy. Norway has a unified school system based on a common standard. A national curriculum has been introduced to help to ensure that government educational standards are met.
Compulsory education in Norway is ten years, and consists of primary and lower secondary education. Upper secondary education is optional. The responsibility for ensuring that appropriate schooling is accessible to children, young people and adults in all municipalities and counties has been assigned to educational authorities in the county administration. The individual municipalities are in charge of operating primary and lower secondary schools, while the upper secondary schools are administered at the county level.
The higher education sector comprises educational programmes at the universities and university colleges. Admission to these programmes is normally contingent upon completion of three years of upper secondary education. With the exception of a few privately-run institutes, all institutions of higher education are operated by the state. However, each institution enjoys a large degree of academic and administrative autonomy.
Public education in Norway is free up to and including the upper secondary level. Tuition for higher education programmes at state-run institutions is normally minimal. The State Educational Loan Fund was founded in 1947, and provides student loans and grants for living costs to those attending higher education programmes. Support is also available for Norwegian students who wish to pursue part or all of their education abroad.
Independent, private schools provide a supplement to the public school system. The Directorate of Primary and Secondary Education authorizes such schools according to stipulated quality criteria. The academic programmes at independent schools must satisfy the requirements set out in the relevant regulations. Authorized independent private schools are eligible for government funding.