Structure of the education system

Everyone is equally entitled to an education, irrespective of gender, domicile, disability, financial position, religion, and cultural and social background.

Education is empowering

  • The Icelandic educational system consists of the following schooling levels: nursery school, primary school, secondary school and university.
  • Each level of schooling is operated independently, although there is co-operation among the levels.
  • Nursery schools are intended for children under the age of 6. Then comes compulsory schooling in a primary school to the age of 16.
  • Everyone who has completed primary school, or have reached the age of 16, can begin his/her studies in a secondary school. Secondary schools, however, may establish their own acceptance criteria for students or require them to take particular courses.
  • Those intending to embark on studies at university level must complete the Icelandic university entrance examination, complete other comparable studies or have equivalent experience and knowledge in the opinion of the university in question.
  • Lifelong learning and Adult education. People increasingly seek further education and training after finishing school. A wide range of courses are offered in all fields, and in schools at secondary and university level, as well as in many professions.

Structure of the education system

  • The Althingi (Icelandic parliament) and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture bear political and legal responsibility for the education system and are responsible for establishing its administrative framework and principal goals. Local authorities are responsible for the operation of nursery schools and primary schools in their area.
  • The Department of Education at the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture addresses the education system as a whole. The Department prepares educational policies and ensures their implementation, and is responsible for the general administration of educational issues.
  • The Department is responsible for educational issues at all school levels, i.e. nursery school, primary school, secondary school and university, as well as lifelong learning and scholarships. It also takes the initiative in the development of educational innovations, including distance learning and the publication of educational material.
  • The Department is responsible for preparing the national curriculum for nursery schools, primary schools and secondary schools, as well as music education at all levels. The national curriculum is the ideological foundation and a policy formulating guideline for the schooling levels.
  • Schools at all educational levels follow educational polices as determined by local authorities and the Ministry of Education. Such policies are a general guideline for school work and the aspects of parenting and education that society wishes to focus on.
  • A curriculum and work plan is prepared for each school based on the national curriculum. School curricula are a guideline for students, teachers, other school employees and parents. Further information on school curricula can be obtained from the schools' websites.

Links of interest

Laws and regulations