2.5 Elective subjects and foreign languages in lower secondary school

Consequences of not studying foreign languages in lower secondary

Pupils enrolling on a general study programme in upper secondary who did not study foreign languages in lower secondary, must do so for three years at the upper secondary level. They can therefore only choose two programme subjects in Year 3 of upper secondary (Vg3), and they do not have the option of pursuing foreign languages at Level III. Fail rates are much higher among pupils who did not take foreign languages in lower secondary. 1 out of 3 Spanish students who did not study foreign languages in lower secondary failed their written exam.

At the lower secondary level pupils can choose between different elective subjects and foreign languages. The pupils’ options are in practice restricted by what is offered by the school in question, and the range of subjects varies considerably from school to school.

7 out of 10 lower secondary school pupils study a foreign language

Secondary school pupils should either study a foreign language or pursue in-depth studies in English, Norwegian or Sami. The pupils may study working life skills instead, if the school offers this. In 2015, 74 per cent of pupils chose to study a foreign language. 18 per cent chose in-depth language studies and 7 per cent chose working life skills.

Spanish is the most popular foreign language. 44 per cent of pupils who study a foreign language choose Spanish. 38 per cent choose German, and 17 per cent choose French. Less than 1 per cent of pupils study languages other than German, French and Spanish.

Almost 60 per cent of pupils choose one of the three most popular elective subjects

Pupils in Years 8–10 can choose at least 2 out of 14 different elective subjects.

Physical activity and health is the most popular elective subject followed by music and stage production, and design and redesign. Almost 60 per cent of pupils choose one of these elective subjects. 43 per cent of boys choose physical activity and health, while girls’ choices are spread more evenly across the three most popular elective subjects. (see Figure 2.7).

Figure 2.7 Elective subjects by gender. 2015-16. Per cent.

figure-2-7-elective-subjects-by-gender-2015-16-per-cent

Source: Directorate for Education and Training

More pupils in lower secondary take subjects from the upper secondary curriculum

Lower secondary pupils with sufficient background knowledge may follow tuition in one or more subjects from the upper secondary curriculum. Pursuing upper secondary subjects is one of the few formal arrangements available at the lower secondary level for pupils seeking additional challenges. In the 2015-16 school year 1,600 pupils take subjects from the upper secondary curriculum – 600 more than in 2011-12.