Compulsory schooling starts at the age of seven in Sweden, but the vast majority of kids attend pre-school and complete a preparatory year at the age of six. Education is free in Sweden, there is usually no charge for teaching materials, school meals, health services or transport, and the city of Stockholm furthermore provides free adult education.
It is not compulsory to attend upper secondary school, although almost everyone does. Upper secondary education is divided into 17 national 3-year programmes. All of the programmes offer a broad general education and esnure a basic eligibility to continue studies to the post-secondary level. Alongside the national programmes, a number of specially designed and individual study programmes also exist.
The Swedish Education Act ensures that all children and youths have equal access to education, consideration is given to students with special needs, and the Education Act also extends to the education of adults which may be provided through municipally-run adult education (called Komvux in Sweden), or in adult education for adults with learning disabilities (called Särvux). The National Agency for Education is there to ensure that the provisions of the Education Act are being complied with and that the rights of the individual student are respected. To a large extent each municipality may determine how its schools are run. Using the approved curriculum, national objectives and the local school plan, the principal of each school draws up a local work plan in consultation with the school's teachers and other personnel.
The school year normally begins at the end of August and runs to the beginning of June the following year, comprising a total of about 40 weeks. Included in compulsory schooling are the regular compulsory school, Sami school, special school, and programmes for pupils with learning disabilities. The 9-year compulsory school programme is for all children between the ages of 7-16 years. Upon the request of the parents, a child may begin school one year earlier, at the age of 6. Sami children can receive education in Sami School that covers grades 1-6. This schooling corresponds to the first 6 years of compulsory school. Special schools offer a 10-year programme for the deaf and hard of hearing. Programmes for pupils with learning disabilities include compulsory school and training school for pupils with severe learning disabilities.
Most children attend a municipal school close to their home. However, students and their parents have the right to choose another municipal school, or a privately run (independent) school. Only a very small minority of students attend one of the country's approved independent schools.
Independent schools are open to everyone and must be approved by the National Agency for Education. The municipality in which the student resides pays the school a per student/per year grant. The independent schools have the same basic objectives as municipal ones but may have a different profile, such as a particular religious character or use of a special educational approach like Montessori or Waldorf.
For more information about education in Sweden follow the following links: