The Icelandic Education System

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The Icelandic Education System

Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík secondary school
MR, a junior college in the center of Reykjavík. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Q: What is the education system like? And what subjects are commonly taught to students?

Lucy, UK


A: The Icelandic educational system is divided into four levels:

Pre-school level: up to six years of age; Compulsory school: primary and lower secondary school in a single structure, six-16 years of age; Upper secondary school: 16-20 years of age; and Higher educational: age 19/20 and older.

Education in Iceland has traditionally been organized within the public sector, and there are very few private institutions in the school system. Almost all private schools receive public funding, as described on

Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, is legally and politically responsible for the educational system. It determines its basic objectives and administrative framework. All education comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, with the exception of a few specialized schools.

The Icelandic higher educational system dates back to the foundation of University of Iceland in 1911. The University of Iceland remains the principal institution of higher learning in Iceland, but over the last three decades, new institutions of higher education have emerged, and there are currently seven institutions of higher education operating in Iceland.

In compulsory school, these are the main subjects taught (as described in the Icelandic national curriculum guide for compulsory schools): Icelandic, Icelandic as second language or Icelandic sign language; foreign languages: English, Danish or another Nordic language; arts and crafts; natural sciences; physical education; social sciences, religious studies, life skills, equal rights affairs, ethics; mathematics; information and communication technology; and school electives.

For further information, visit the website of the Ministry of Education.