2.1 Pupil and school numbers

Compulsory education

Compulsory education is divided into two main levels: Primary school (grades 1–7) and lower secondary school (grades 8–10). The compulsory education system is based on the principle of equitable education for all. Compulsory education is free and primarily financed by the local authority.

In autumn 2015 (1 October) there are 624,000 pupils enrolled in primary and lower secondary schools in Norway. That is 4,800 more than at the same time in 2014. Pupil numbers have remained relatively stable in the past decade, but there are significant geographical variations. For example, pupil numbers in Oslo have risen by 21 per cent in the last ten years whereas the northern part of Norway see a decrease.

The number of primary and lower secondary school pupils will rise sharply until 2025

Statistics Norway expects the number of children of primary and lower secondary school age to rise to 664,000 by 2025, an increase of 6 per cent when compared to today’s figure. Pupil numbers are expected to rise by around 5,000 annually from 2015 and by around 3,000 annually from 2020 (Statistics Norway 2015).

Fewer and larger schools

There is a tendency towards fewer and larger schools in Norway. In 2015 there are 2,867 primary and lower secondary schools. This is 19 fewer than in 2014 and almost 400 fewer than in 2005. In the autumn of 2015 there is an average of 218 pupils per school – 26 more than a decade ago.

In 2015 there are 160 schools with more than 500 pupils in Norway. More than 90,000 of all pupils attend these schools. Ten years ago there were 117 schools with the same high pupil numbers, and 65,000 pupils were enrolled in these schools. In addition to schools becoming larger, the average number of pupils enrolled in these schools has risen from 556 to 589.

Conversely, the number of small schools has decreased. In 2005 almost 1,200 schools had fewer than 100 pupils. Today the figure has dropped to below 900. 30 per cent of schools have fewer than 100 pupils, but fewer than 10 per cent of pupils attend the smallest schools, as shown in Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1 Pupils and primary and lower secondary schools by school size. 2005-2015. Per cent.


Source: Directorate for Education and Training

Figure 2.2 Private primary and lower secondary schools. 2005-2015. Numbers.


Source: Directorate for Education and Training

More private primary and lower secondary schools

The number of private primary and lower secondary schools has risen by 45 per cent since 2005, and there are now 224 approved private schools in Norway (see Figure 2.2). This is 69 more than in 2005, and most of them are private government-dependent schools. Almost 22,000 pupils currently attend private schools. This is 3.5 per cent of all primary/lower secondary pupils and an increase of 1.1 percentage points when compared to 2005. On average, private schools have fewer pupils than public schools. In the autumn of 2015 private schools have on average 97 pupils compared to 229 pupils in municipal schools.

The key trend is that few pupils attend private schools in Norway compared to the other Nordic countries. In Denmark as many as 15 per cent of primary school pupils and 27 per cent of lower secondary pupils attend private schools. Sweden also has more pupils enrolled in private schools than Norway (see Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3 Pupils in private schools by primary and lower secondary level. 2013. Per cent.


Source: OECD 2015