Education in Iceland: A Success Story


SEATTLE — With a near-perfect literacy rate of 99 percent, Iceland’s education system has done very well.

There are four school levels, which are very similar to those in the United States. There is pre-primary (up until age six), compulsory (from age six to age 16), upper-secondary (from age 16 to age 20) and higher education level.

The country’s schools are government-funded, much like in the United States. There are some private schools, but not many. Universities are federally-funded. There are eight universities, the first of which was the University of Iceland, founded in the early 1900s.

University students can pursue business, agriculture, arts, education, engineering, science and more. There are many different opportunities for various career paths and interests. Education in Iceland allows students to choose from many different options. Students do not earn a degree until completion of a final project.

According to the Icelandic government, “A fundamental principle of the Icelandic educational system is that everyone should have equal opportunities to acquire an education, irrespective of sex, economic status, residential location, religion, possible handicap and cultural or social background.” This philosophy can be seen in the public funding of not only education at lower levels, but also in public funding of higher education. In upper secondary school, students are exposed to general education as well as vocational education, allowing them to experience different options for their future careers.

One of the effects of such an amazing education system is that women are able to succeed in higher education in Iceland. Women are likely to hold higher degrees than men in Iceland. The employment rate was 83 percent as of 2013, surpassing other Nordic countries. The unemployment rate was one percent in July 2017.

Another effect of the Icelandic education system is that many students in higher education study abroad. About 16 percent of higher education students study abroad. Government spending on education has increased, as have employment rates, the number of children in schools and the number of women in higher education. Education in Iceland is succeeding, and it has the numbers to prove it.

Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr


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