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The educational system of Iceland

Seminararbeit 2011 11 Seiten

Pädagogik - Schulwesen, Bildungs- u. Schulpolitik




1. General Information

2. Historical Development of the Icelandic Educational System

3. The structure of the Icelandic compulsory school system
3.1 General Objectives of the Icelandic Pre-Primary Education
3.2 Compulsory Education in Iceland
3.2.1 Age Levels and Grouping of Pupils in Icelandic Compulsory Schools
3.2.2 Organisation of the School Year
3.2.3 Weekly and daily Timetables
3.2.4 Teaching Methods and Materials in Icelandic schools
3.2.5 Educational Guidance for pupils in Iceland

4. Upper Secondary and Post-Secondary Education in Iceland

5. Tertiary Education in Iceland
5.1 Short Tertiary Education Programs
5.2 Long Tertiary Education Programs

6. Becoming a Teacher



1. General Information

Iceland has 319.368 Citizens (119.547 live in Reykjavik, the capitol).The country is 103.020 square kilometers (which means, there are about 3 Citizens per square kilometer) big and consists of eight Regions: Höfuðborgarsvæðið, Suðurnes, Vesturland, Vestfirðir, Norðurland vestra, Norðurland eystra, Austurland und Suðurland[1]

2. Historical Development of the Icelandic Educational System

The educational system of Iceland has its roots in two traditions: The catholic tradition on one and the Tradition of the Icelandic literature on the other hand. One of the first Monastery schools was founded in 1056 in Skálholt (where the residence of the Bishop is), were Reading, Writing, Theology, Singing and Poetry was taught there. During this time, the Catholic Church was (not only in Iceland) a very wealthy landowner with extraordinarily much social power, which means that the economical basis for their schools was very stable at that time.

The beginning of the literary tradition can also be found in the middle ages. Since that time, it is a part of the Icelandic culture that children should learn how to read properly. After the reformation, this tradition was institutionalized. The parents got the order to teach their kids in Reading and Christianity, which was controlled by their responsible priests on a regular basis. The rule was that every kid should be able to read up to their confirmation. At the end of the 18th century, Iceland was one of the very few countries, were nearly the whole population could read.

The first Icelandic elementary schools were built 1745 on the south coast and 1830 in Reykjavik. In 1880, it was committed to the parents, that they are responsible for the education of their children in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. The establishing of schools was – because of the very thin population – very difficult, especially at the Icelandic countryside. This means that the tradition of teaching children at home under the control of the priest lasted until the 20th century. Only 5416 of 12030 kids between the age of seven and fourteen years went to school regularly.

The basis for the actual educational system of Iceland was accomplished with the educational laws of 1926, 1936 and 1946. Children were obliged to go to school from the age of seven to the age of fifteen, which was extended to six to sixteen in 1991, which means, that the visiting of the whole primary school is compulsory now.[2]

3. The structure of the Icelandic compulsory school system

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The Icelandic school system is split into four levels: Kindergarten (leikskóli) for children between the age of six months and six years, primary school (grunnskóli) from six to sixteen years, secondary schools which end at the age of twenty and the university and some technical colleges.

3.1 General Objectives of the Icelandic Pre-Primary Education

The Icelandic Pre-Primary School Act from 2008 defines its main aims as follows:

1. To monitor and encourage children’s general development in close cooperation with parents.
2. To provide systematic linguistic stimulation and contribute to common skills in the Icelandic language.
3. To provide children with mental, intellectual and physical care according o the needs of each individual, so that they may enjoy their childhood.
4. To encourage children’s broadmindedness and strengthen their moral values.
5. To lay the foundation necessary for the children to become independent, autonomous, active and responsible participants in a democratic society which is undergoing rapid and continuous development.
6. To cultivate children’s expressive and creative abilities with the aim of strengthening their self esteem, health awareness, confidence and communication skills.

The structure of many Icelandic pre-primary schools is similar. Each school has one to five divisions with 18 to 24 children. Divisions, where handicapped and other kids are integrated have 14 to 18 children. The age of them ranges from one to six years. Almost all children move over to primary school in the autumn of the year that they turn six.

Children are often divided into divisions according to their age. The one to three year old kids are often together in one and kids from the age of three to five years are together in another division. However, especially in smaller communities it is possible, that kids of different can be found in one group.

Each pre-primary school is expected to choose and develop methods that can support the aim of the school. Models based on Montessori and Waldorf are examples of ideology that have frequently been adapted to suit the aims of Icelandic pre-primary schools.

There is also no coordination across pre-primary schools concerning the choice of material. Each one of them provides the children with materials, such as books and toys. Many of them also offer computer sessions for the older kids to enhance their computer skills.

In the Icelandic pre-primary school, the child is first and foremost to learn through play by dealing with different tasks under concrete, normal circumstances. The most important thing here is first handed experience for the kids. The job of an Icelandic pre-primary schoolteacher is primarily to create stimulating learning conditions. The interaction between the teacher and the children is very important and a democratic form of co-operation, which is based on mutual respect.


[1] See also KARLSDOTTIR, Ragnheidur, STEFANSSON, Thorarinn: „Island“ In: „Die Schulsysteme Europas“ Hrsg. von DÖBERT, Hans; VON KOPP, Botho; MITTER, Wolfgang, Bd. 46 aus „Grundlagen der Schulpädagogik“, Schneider Verlag Hohengehren 2002, S. 208-221

[2] See also


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
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Institution / Hochschule
Universität Wien
iceland Educational System



Titel: The educational system of Iceland