From the age of six, every child has the right to free education in Sweden. The Swedish school system is compulsory for the first ten years and known for providing a safe and welcoming environment for students. The English language is a core subject in Swedish school which can be a comfort to internationals thinking of choosing this option instead of an international IB-school.
Every municipality in Sweden is required by law to offer students who have completed compulsory school an upper secondary education. Please note, that the Swedish school timeline differs to schools with international curriculums.
Children attend non-compulsory preschool from ages 1 through 5.
In Sweden, both parents normally work, therefore, childcare is of the utmost importance to many parents. Sweden offers high-quality childcare, a place to feel safe and grow while mom and dad spend their day at work.
Sweden has a very high percentage of 1 to 5-year-old’s attending preschool (“förskola”) compared to other countries. Preschool is mainly subsidized but still incorporates a maximum-fee policy. Meaning, preschool education is tied to a person’s income and is therefore affordable for both low income earners right through to high-income earners; fees are capped at a very affordable rate. Childcare facilities frequently operate between the hours of 6.30 to 18.30.
Preschool is designed for children aged 1 through 6, or until the child starts school. Municipalities have an obligation to provide preschool activities for children whose parents work or study. Children are normally offered a place within 3-4 months of parents registering a need with the municipality but this can go quicker in August when many children aged 6 move on to school. These facilities provide a stimulating environment for the child with educated staff on hand.
In the fall of the year that a child reaches 6 years of age, they are guaranteed a place in preschool class (“förskoleklass”). This is a one-year compulsory preparatory class preparing each child for starting school.
Municipalities wish to encourage children’s participation at preschool. To help facilitate this, each municipality has its own set of rules in place for what is permitted. Parents who work or study have full rights to use preschool and after-school services, while parents under different circumstances have limited options.
Lund municipality for example, offers parents who are not working or studying the right to have their children in daytime preschool for up to 25 hours per week, while other municipalities might only allow for 15 hours (most common) or another amount. Check with your municipality for exact information.
Link to list of preschools in Lund
(in Swedish, but you can choose your preferred language by clicking the language symbol at the top of the page)
List of preschools in Malmö (in Swedish)
After-school care (“fritids”) is an on-going part of the school day. It is available to children whose parents work or study and require care outside of the regular school day. After-school care starts for children from the year they move to preschool class (“förskoleklass”) and is available up until grade 6 (age 12/13).
Not all schools operate their own after-school care; it is also possible to send your child to a different after-school care center than the one offered by your school. Consult with your school principle to find out what arrangements can be made for after-school care. Including different club’s children can join. Some clubs are free, while others requrie a fee.
After-school care is often divided into different programs allowing children of similar ages to interact. These programs can involve activity centers (“fritidshem”) for younger children, and activity clubs (“fritidsklubb”) for older children. The age of your child can determine what holiday periods they are entitled to take part in.
Like preschool care, each municipality sets its own rules on what is permitted for after-school care. Parents who are unemployed and not studying are, in general, not allowed to leave their children in after-school care. Though, it is best to check with your municipality or school principle.
From age 6, children start compulsory schooling for grades “förskoleklass” – grade 9 (“årskurs”). Students are required to choose a school within the municipality where they live in order to access municipality funding. An exception to this is when special permission is granted to students wishing to study at an international school in a neighboring municipality or a private school with a special profile. Before enrolling your child at the school outside your municipality, we suggest you check with your own municipality first then confirm with the school if they can accept your child.
After grade 9 (age 15/16), children can continue into Upper Secondary School (“gymnasium”), a non-compulsory 3-year program or take another form of educational program. Students can choose between schools located anywhere in the country and still receive benefits from government funding. However, placement is still conditional based on factors such as, student demand and a school’s specific requirements. Upper Secondary School is non-compulsory but is highly recommended and most students choose to enter into a program.
A child's schooling is a major concern for many parents when deciding to take on an international assignment. In southern Sweden, we have many top-quality international IB schools to choose from. Whether managed by the municipality or privately, parents will have the opportunity to find a suitable school for their child in the area.
Parents may find that with so many schools to choose among, selecting the right order of preference can be quite daunting. Therefore, we recommend that you understand the vision/teaching method of each school, and how this aligns with your values as parents. This should make the selection process a bit easier.
It is wise for parents to note that a child’s first school preference may not always be met. Some reasons for this may include, student demand, special needs, or a family’s place of residence. It is therefore advisable to investigate a few different schools by attending open houses, talking with other parents, or setting up meetings at the schools. Check the website of each school for information on upcoming open houses!
The Swedish National Agency for Education, "Skolverket", is tasked with ensuring that all children and students have access to the same high-quality standard of education and activities in secure environments.