Introduction to the Swedish school market

Sweden’s school system covers preschools to adult education. Preschools and preschool classes are voluntary, while grade 1-9 is compulsory and upper secondary school is a three-year, voluntary program. Sweden’s 290 municipalities have been responsible for funding the school system since the early-1990s, and for ensuring that all students have access to equal education.

In the academic year 2015/16, there were 4,012 municipal school units in Sweden, 5 Sami school units and 827 free school units at compulsory schooling level. In the same period, over 985,000 students attended compulsory schools, an increase of over 36,000 students on the previous academic year.  Total municipal expenses for compulsory schooling amounted to approximately SEK 97 bn in the calendar year 2015.

In Sweden, grade 1-9 schooling is compulsory for all children from the calendar year they reach 7 years old. Compulsory schooling then continues for nine years, or at the latest, to the time the student reaches 18. Sweden’s municipalities bear the main responsibility for ensuring attendance in grade 1-9 schooling, and for funding schooling.

Compulsory school attendance means that the student base in grade 1-9 schooling basically tracks the population growth of children of school age. Since 2010, student bases have expanded by average annual growth of about 2%. In the same period, the number of students deciding to join independent schools increased by an average annual growth rate of some 7%. In the academic year 2015/2016, 14% of compulsory school students were in free schools.