Excellent Education: Schools in Iceland

Excellent Education: Schools in Iceland

We all know that elves live in the world where people believe in them. So, if you dream about meeting an elf, Iceland is waiting for you. Mythical, beautiful nature of this marvelous island seems to have been created for fairies and elves and other magical creatures. But this is not the only exciting thing about Iceland. It is fascinating that the Icelandic language has not changed much since the 11th century. This means that speakers of the Icelandic language can understand the texts of Eddas and ancient sagas written hundreds of years ago. Another fact which can amaze anyone is that the Icelanders do not have traditional last names. Their last names are built on the principle of the Nordic naming system. So, a person’s last name will be composed of two parts. These parts are the person’s father’s, or mother’s, name and the suffix –dóttir or –son. As you can guess, the suffixes mean daughter or son respectively. Besides, if you are a big fan of McDonald’s, you will be very disappointed not to find any in Iceland.

Let’s Talk about Education in Iceland

Children can start getting education at a very young age. Education is compulsory here only for children from age 6 through 16. During these years they attend primary and lower secondary schools which belong to the same school level. Compulsory education is followed by upper secondary school where student of ages 16 – 20 attend classes. After school young people can continue their education.

Kindergartens, Primary and Lower Secondary School

There are both public and private educational institutions in Iceland. The majority of schools are funded by the government though. Even some private schools get funds from the government of Iceland. When children are 12 months old, parents can send them to a kindergarten. Kindergartens are optional and not free, but all of them are subsidized by the government. Thus, parents only need to pay some small tuition fees. This makes pre-school affordable for Icelanders. The majority of children here go to pre-school. There is another service available for parents in Iceland. This is day parents care. They stay with children who are 1 through 3 years old in their homes. Since say parents are independent, they charge their own fees. Compulsory education does not require any tuition because every child has a right to attend school and be able to afford it. There are various after-school programs available for children in the primary school. For after-school programs parents need to pay a fee. Schools in Iceland offer a high-quality education, and the level of literacy has been universal since the end of 18th century (you can learn about literacy rates of all countries at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate).

Upper Secondary School

Although this level is not obligatory, students who wish to study in an upper secondary school can do this for free. There is only one private school which charges fees for this level of education. The only things that students need to pay for are the acceptance fee and textbooks. The rest is completely subsidized by the government. There are three major types of schools, or gymnasia, that students attend at this level:

  • Grammar Schools
  • Comprehensive Schools
  • Specialized Schools
Currently there are 34 gymnasia on the island. There are nine grammar schools which aim to prepare students for the University. These schools’ main emphasis is on traditional subjects, including languages, the arts and sciences. In grammar schools curriculum is fixed, so students do not have much freedom at choosing courses. Comprehensive schools offer both academic and vocational classes. At the moment there are 22 gymnasia of this type. In these schools students can study subjects not offered in traditional grammar schools, for instance, drama classes or plumbing courses. Specialized gymnasia go beyond and provide students with training in specific areas like music. Specialized schools are not free though. The government provides students with some loans, but in most cases they need support of their families to afford to attend classes in this kind of institutions.

Higher Education

It is quite interesting that very few international students come to study in Iceland. Although the level of education here is very high, this country does not attract too many foreigners. The reality is that the Icelandic climate is not too good for many people. Besides, classes in Iceland are taught in Icelandic, and this is not the easiest language to learn. Mostly people who come to study here intend to further live in this beautiful Northern country. At the moment there are seven universities operating in the country. The oldest university is the University of Iceland. Here students can earn bachelor’s and master’s degree in all kinds of disciplines. If students want to earn a degree in engineering, law, or computer science, they often choose the University of Reykjavík, a private institution which was established in 1998. The majority of students in the country are enrolled at these two large universities. There is a school where students can study architecture, design, music, theatre, etc. This is the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, which offers bachelor’s as well as master’s degrees in creative disciplines. Other institutions include Bifröst University, the Univeristy of Akureyri, the Agricultural University of Iceland, and Holár University. As you can see, Iceland is a wonderful country which is definitely worth visiting. And if one day you decide to go abroad and you want to choose a unique country with unique language, consider this island as your first option.