4.2 The cost of compulsory education

In 2015, municipal primary and lower secondary schools received NOK 63.3 billion in funding. The funding contributes towards running costs, the cost of tuition, materials, premises, school transport and the educational psychology service (PPT).

24 per cent of local authorities’ own funds were spent on compulsory education in 2015. Only healthcare received more municipal funding.

Public primary and lower secondary schools in Norway are primarily funded by the local authorities, in addition to funding through government grant schemes. In addition to local authority funding, the government gives grants to primary and lower secondary schools approved under the Independent Schools Act.

Norway spends more on compulsory education than most other countries

A pupil in a municipal primary or lower secondary school costs an average of NOK 105,500 per annum (KOSTRA, preliminary figures). Out of this, NOK 88,200 is spent on tuition, school materials and similar expenses, while NOK 17,300 is spent on school premises and school transport (Figure 4.5). Norway spends more money per pupil in compulsory education than its neighbouring countries and significantly more than the OECD average (Figure 4.4). The biggest differences in spending are at the primary level. In 2012 Norway spent 54 per cent more on primary schools than the OECD average – an increase of 4 percentage points on 2011. As for the lower secondary level, Norway spent 39 per cent more per pupil than the OECD average in 2012 – an increase of 3 percentage points on 2011. Low population density and small schools contribute to the high cost per pupil in Norway. When we include teacher FTEs for special needs education and special language tuition, there are around 10 pupils for every teacher in Norway, while the OECD average is 15 (OECD 2015, figures from 2012).

Figure 4.4 Spending per pupil in selected countries*. 2012.


Source: OECD (2015)

*Figures in USD adjusted for purchasing power

School size is the most important factor affecting the cost per pupil

Small schools with relatively few pupils result in small classes and subsequently higher costs per pupil in terms of teachers’ salaries. Even when excluding the cost of school transport, municipalities with small schools incur higher costs per pupil (Fugure 4.5).

Figure 4.5 Local authorities and primary/lower secondary pupils by municipal operating cost per pupil. 2015. Per cent.


Source: Directorate for Education and Training and Statistics Norway (KOSTRA), preliminary figures

Bigger grants for independent primary and lower secondary schools

In 2015 just over 7 per cent of all primary and lower secondary school were private schools, and 3 per cent of all pupils attended these schools. Government grants for private primary and lower secondary schools in Norway totalled almost NOK 1.9 billion in 2015. Spending has increased by 11 per cent since 2014. The increase is due both to more pupils and increased costs per pupil.

Primary and lower secondary schools approved under the Independent Schools Act receive government funding equivalent to 85 per cent of the operating costs of public schools. To cover the full costs, schools are allowed to charge school fees of up to 15 per cent of the grant they recieve.