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What Does Education in Iceland Look Like?

Education in Iceland is incredibly important. In a 2016 study, Iceland was ranked the third most literate nation in the world, trailing behind Finland and Norway. The small island country is home to a population of around 332,000 people.

Iceland is well known for being progressive. Its equality endeavors are evident in the structure of its education system. According to the nation’s website, “A fundamental principle of the Icelandic educational system is that everyone should have equal opportunities to acquire an education, irrespective of sex, economic status, residential location, religion, possible handicap and cultural or social background.”

Education in Iceland is a four-level system.

  1. Preschool is the first level of education, which children attend between one and six years of age. There are fees for preschool, but they are largely subsidized.
  2. Compulsory education follows preschool education. Compulsory education is free and mandatory for children between the ages of six and 16. Unlike in the United States, homeschooling is not an option.
  3. Upper secondary education is the third level. It is available to anyone who has completed compulsory education, and is mostly compromised of students 16 to 20 years of age. The upper secondary level is essentially the equivalent of high school in the United States and is free with the exception of one private school.
  4. The fourth tier is education at a university, otherwise known as higher education. To apply for university, a student must first have completed upper secondary education. For the most part, universities in Iceland are required to accept all students with an upper secondary degree. Public universities in Iceland are tuition-free; the only costs associated with higher education are registration fees.

With a literacy rate of 99 percent and an unemployment rate at around 2.7 percent, perhaps the rest of the world can learn from the system of education in Iceland.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr