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Schools in Norway have more favourable disciplinary climates in science lessons compared to other OECD countries, according to students’ reports in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, with an index of disciplinary climate of 0.14 (the average index value was 0.00). Student truancy also was lower than the OECD average: 13.5% of 15-year-olds reported skipping at least one day of school in the two weeks before the PISA 2015 test, compared to 19.7%, on average. Students in Norway were also more likely to report that their science teachers adapt their instructions more frequently than the OECD average, with an index of adaptive instruction of 0.08 (the average index value was 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]).

The PISA 2015 index of instructional educational leadership (measuring the frequency with which principals report doing leadership activities specifically related to instruction) was higher than the OECD average, at 0.06 (compared to 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]). The proportion of lower secondary teachers in 2016 aged 50 or over was 29.5%, compared to the OECD average of 35.4%. In 2017, teachers in Norway annually taught 741 hours at primary level and 663 hours at lower secondary level, which was less than the OECD averages of 784 and 696 hours, respectively (OECD, 2018[2]). According to school principals’ self-reports in PISA 2015, schools in Norway have similar levels of autonomy over curriculum to the OECD average: 75% of principals reported that the school has primary autonomy over curriculum, compared to 73.4% on average (OECD, 2016[1]).

Lower secondary teachers in Norway earned 75% of the average salary of a full-time, full-year worker with tertiary education in 2016, which was below the OECD average ratio of 91% (OECD, 2018[2]). According to the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018, 75% of teachers in Norway said that if they could choose again, they would still become a teacher; this was around the OECD average of 75.6%. Furthermore, 34.8% of teachers felt that the teaching profession was valued in society, compared to an OECD average of 25.8% in 2018 (OECD, 2019[3]).

According to school leaders’ reports in PISA 2015, school leaders in Norway are more likely than average to conduct self-evaluations of their schools (98.5% of students were in schools whose principal reported this, compared to the OECD average of 93.2%). However, they are less likely to undergo external evaluations of their schools (63.9% of students were in schools whose principal reported this, compared to the OECD average of 74.6%) (OECD, 2016[1]). Teacher appraisal levels, as reported in the earlier cycle of TALIS 2013, were higher than the average: 77.7% of teachers had reported then having received a teacher appraisal in the previous 12 months, compared to 66.1%, on average (OECD, 2014[4]).

The share of students enrolled in secondary schools whose principal reported that standardised tests are used to make decisions on students’ promotion or retention was only 5%, well below the OECD average of 31% (OECD, 2016[1]).

In 2017, school autonomy levels over resource management (allocation and use of resources for teaching staff and principals) were lower in Norway than on average across the OECD: 25% of decisions were taken at the school level, compared to the OECD average of 29%.

Norway’s annual expenditure per student at primary level in 2015 was USD 13 275, which was among the highest across OECD countries (the OECD average was USD 8 631). At secondary level, Norway spent USD 15 401 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 10 010, while at tertiary level (including spending on research and development), Norway spent USD 20 973 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 15 656. In 2015, expenditure on primary to tertiary education in Norway as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) was 6.4%, which was the highest among OECD countries (the OECD average was 5%). The proportion coming from private sources (including household expenditure, expenditure from other private entities and international sources) was lower than the OECD average (1.5% compared to 16.1%). Between 2010 and 2015, the relative proportion of private expenditure on primary to tertiary education in Norway increased by 47 percentage points, which was one of the most significant increases among OECD countries, where the average change was an increase of 10.6 percentage points (OECD, 2018[2]).

Evolution of key education policy priorities

Norway’s key education policy priorities have evolved in the following ways over the last decade (Table 8.22).

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Table 8.22. Evolution of key education policy priorities, Norway (2008-19)

Identified by

Selected OECD country-based work, 2008-191

Evolution of responses collected by the Education Policy Outlook, 2013-192

School improvement

The OECD had previously identified the need to strengthen the conditions that nurture excellent teachers and better prepare lower secondary teachers in their subjects, pedagogy and adolescent development. It was also found that teachers received little guidance or support from the school or school owners and had a relatively low salary, combined with low teaching hours. More recently, the OECD acknowledged Norway’s ongoing efforts to strengthen teacher professionalism with in-service professional development. It made recommendations for the implementation of the teachers’ competence development model, which referred to: clarifying objectives; reviewing policy tools; assigning roles and responsibilities; gathering data for monitoring; designing a communication strategy; and securing resources with a clear calendar. [2010; 2019]

Norway reported the ongoing priority of improving learning conditions for students by enhancing pedagogical support. More recently, Norway reported its intention to make broad policy efforts to strengthen teacher professional development. [2013; 2019]

Evaluation and assessment

Previously, the OECD had identified the need to develop a clear set of reference points for common orientation to help local actors evaluate the quality of processes and outcomes. The OECD also signalled the need to embed an evaluation culture in schools and municipalities. In addition, the early childhood education and care (ECEC) framework was found to lack indication of specific outcomes for children to reach or develop at a certain age, which limits staff ability to identify or map children’s developmental needs. The flexibility for staff in curriculum implementation was also found to possibly lead to large differences in the quality of centre-level curricula. A more recently identified need is to monitor quality in the tertiary education sector and expand data collection and exchange. [2011; 2012; 2016; 2018]

Norway reported the ongoing priority of strengthening assessment practices. [2013; 2016-17]


The OECD had previously identified the challenge of imbalanced governance and inefficient use of resources, making implementation challenging. A need was found to define goals and content for ECEC. More recently, the OECD found that there is a need to promote efficiency and quality in higher education; help institutions adjust and develop business within a reorganised higher education sector; address social differences in higher education and strengthen comparative advantage, quality, and interactions with business and community. Another challenge found was blurring the divides between universities and university colleges, following the introduction of institutional accreditation in 2002. The OECD had also identified the need to improve the effectiveness of labour market measures. [2010; 2012; 2016; 2018]

Norway had previously reported the aim of ensuring capacity building and consistent implementation across all municipalities. Optimising resources and policy implementation strategies within the context of decentralised decision-making is also a key, ongoing priority. [2013; 2016-17]


The OECD had previously identified a need to improve cost-effectiveness in higher education. Substantial financial assistance to students had not encouraged timely completions of study despite the conversion of loans to grants being conditional on progress in studies. The partially performance-based funding system for higher education providers was found not to have delivered the expected efficiency and quality gains, and to overly incentivised institutions to focus on producing study credit points rather than degree completions. [2016]



1. See Annex A (OECD publications consulted).

2. See Reader’s Guide (years and methods of collection).


Selected education policy responses

School improvement

  • Norway has introduced modifications to its initial teacher education (ITE). As part of the Promotion of the Status and Quality of Teachers (2014) strategy, in 2017 Norway reformed its differentiated four-year teacher education programmes for Years 1-7 and Years 5-10 by introducing a five-year integrated master’s programme. A report prepared by Norway for an OECD TALIS Initial Teacher Preparation study identified a deficit of ITE 1-7 teachers as especially alarming, as they are the only teachers directly qualified to teach all subjects in Years 1-4. For teaching in Years 5-10, several categories of teachers are qualified. Furthermore, a significant gender gap exists in ITE, with ITE 1-7 attracting 82-84% females. Before the introduction of the 2017 reforms, approximately 50% of students completed on time, the dropout rate was approximately 30%, and about 20% were delayed but were still in the programme after four years. The new 2017 model aims to improve the quality of the teaching workforce while also improving research and development (R&D) qualifications and raising qualification standards in ITE. The five-year model supports future teachers by providing them with relevant work experience in schools, a professionally oriented thesis that supports R&D initiatives and more in-depth academic work in fewer subjects. Norway’s ongoing challenges lie in trying to ensure that there is an equal distribution of qualified teachers in the necessary education levels, higher status for educators, and in recruiting attractive applicants into teaching (Fiva, 2017[457]).

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Progress or impact: As part of the Promotion of the Status and Quality of Teachers strategy, several measures, such as on further and continuing education and school-based development, were implemented by the government to enhance “a modern school of knowledge”. The government expressed that besides having well qualified individual teachers, it is also important to have school leaders who can promote knowledge sharing and collaboration as well as municipalities and counties that strive for good quality in schools – and these actors should interact (Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, 2017[458]).

  • In Norway, the Advisory Team Programme (2009) was incorporated into the Follow Up Scheme in 2017 as part of the new competence development model for schools. The programme provides support to schools and school owners that face special challenges in core areas such as quality, literacy and numeracy, and need guidance for school improvement. The programme recruits experienced school leaders and administrators from local governments to support schools and municipalities. It is led by the Directorate of Education and Training, and national partners include the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), county governors (who manage national education offices at the county level), the higher education sector, consulting groups and practitioners. School owners manage school development. Others, including principals and local support groups, may also participate depending on the subject.

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Progress or impact: After an initial pilot in 2009-10, the first regular portfolio of the Advisory Team started in 2011. By 2014, the programme’s activities covered 429 municipalities in 18 counties (the whole country except for Oslo). As of 2013, almost 30 municipalities had 80-100 schools in each portfolio, receiving guidance for 18 months. By the end of 2013, the Advisory Team had offered guidance to all municipalities in the country (OECD, 2013[459]).

Initially, many in the education sector viewed the initiative as controversial and resisted the measure: this included school owners, universities and colleges, and public administration. Prior to the Advisory Team, the Directorate of Education and Training and local authorities reportedly did not rely on national guidance as a tool for local development work. Reducing the risk of resistance subsequently required a constant emphasis on the voluntary nature of the initiative. School owners seeking counselling were reminded that their intentions were courageous and beneficial for local education. From the point of view of public administrators, the Advisory Team represented an unnecessary interference of state authorities at the local level. In the higher education sector, the initiative came across as professional competition.

Support grew mainly due to its centralised, tight management and the government’s efforts to familiarise all actors and stakeholders with the strategy’s different aspects. Only advisors who achieved all competency requirements following an obligatory training programme were engaged for the initiative’s consultations.

By 2013, resistance had almost disappeared at all levels. Support from public administration and the higher education sector increased, and both sectors integrated the initiative into their professional and organisational activities. School owners having received counselling report satisfaction. Advisors also reported satisfaction in seeing the guided municipalities making progress and earning valuable experience and development competence in their own municipalities and schools (UDIR, 2013[460]).

Since the incorporation of the Advisory Team Programme into the Follow-up Scheme, in 2017 and 2018, 66 municipalities were selected based on criteria, including standardised tests in literacy and numeracy, final grades after secondary school and results from the Pupil Survey concerning well-being, bullying and motivation. In response, half of the municipalities decided to receive guidance from the Advisory Team Programme, while the other half chose to receive support from other measures. The next selection of municipalities is planned for 2020 (National information reported to the OECD).

Evaluation and assessment

  • Norway has made efforts to strengthen assessment since the launch of its Knowledge Promotion Reform (Kunnskapsløftet, 2006), which is a curriculum complementing the National Quality Assessment System (NKVS, 2004). It aims to support effective evaluation and assessment practices in schools. Also, the Assessment for Learning (2010-14) intended to improve formative assessments and support systematic reflection about schools, development of their assessment practices, networking of schools, and professional development. This programme built on a similar initiative that ran from 2007 to 2009.

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Progress or impact: The Knowledge Promotion Reform is currently under review (UDIR, 2018[461]). Until 2020, the following curricula development plan is set out. The core elements that students need to learn in each subject were developed in 2017/18. As of 2018/19, the new curriculum is under development. For example, in 2018, teacher groups worked to develop curricula for individual subjects and requested input on the first draft during an open consultation process. In 2019/20, schools will prepare for the new curriculum to be applied from 2020 onwards. The new curricula will be rolled out step by step from 2020 to 2023.

Regarding the Assessment for Learning programme, just over 40% of the municipalities (184 out of 428) have participated in the programme to date. A preliminary study for an OECD review found that success in implementation was often due to clearly set objectives, good communication, and trust among those actors involved, as well as capacity building for smaller municipalities. Further recommendations have been developed (UDIR, 2018[461]).

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries

Evaluation and assessment

  • In 2015, a new regulation was added to the Education Act in Norway to clarify the relationship between formative and final assessment, and to underline the impact of the overall learning progression on the final assessment (CEDEFOP, 2016[462]). A more transparent framework on formative assessment intends to enhance education quality and learning outcomes through promoting learning and competence development, as well as provide feedback for modifying training programmes. Furthermore, learning done abroad is considered an integral part of the education pathway and is also included in the final assessment, with the changes in regulation aiming to guarantee better formative assessment of learning abroad. In addition, the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education was in the process of setting up a framework for continuous assessment in vocational education and training (VET) mobility in co-operation with the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (CEDEFOP, 2016[462]). In 2009, a modification of the Education Act aimed to include requirements for schools and municipalities to create a quality report based on data from the national quality assessment system (National information reported to the OECD).


Selected education policy responses


  • In 2006, Norway introduced the Knowledge Promotion (Kunnskapsløftet) reform (discussed as well in Chapter 6). While results from international studies (such as PISA 2015; PIRLS [Progress in International Reading Literacy Study] 2016; TIMMS [Trends In International Mathematics and Science Study] 2015; ICICLS 2013 and ICCS [International Civic and Citizenship Education Study] 2016) show an overall positive development in results from Norwegian schools after its introduction, some challenges persist related to low student performance and dropout. There are ongoing efforts that aim to renew the reform. In a white paper presented in 2016, the Ministry of Education highlighted the need to update subject curricula with fewer and more clearly articulated competence objectives; to integrate topics on democracy and citizenship, sustainable development, and public health and well-being for students’ social development; and to revise the core curriculum for primary and secondary education (Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, 2016[463]). The new subject curricula will come into force by autumn 2020.

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Progress or impact: A 2017 white paper (Meld. St. 21 [2016-17] Lærelyst – tidlig innsats og kvalitet i skolen) highlights that between 15-20% of students who leave primary school do not have the necessary competencies to cope with further education and working life. This figure is equivalent to roughly 10 000 students every year. Along with subject curricula as a main lever, Norway is continuing to support ECEC initiatives that can better prepare students for primary school. The Ministry of Education and Research has also proposed and approved a new model for competence development, Prop. 1 S (2016-17) that differentiates measures based on municipalities’ needs and developmental capacity as part of a decentralised municipality-level scheme. This measure puts municipalities and local governing bodies in more control of competency-related initiatives, allowing local context to play a more central role in decision making.


  • Early childhood care and education in Norway has been financed through the block grant distributed to municipalities since 2011. Non-municipal (private) kindergartens are ensured equal treatment with public kindergartens regarding public grants.

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Progress or impact: Both public and private kindergarten providers receive public funding from the government via the municipalities. Private kindergartens receive public funding based on the average expenditure in the public kindergartens in the municipality; the amount may, therefore, vary from one municipality to another. The parental fees make up for approximately 15% of the costs and has a maximum limit, which is NOK 2 990 in 2019. In addition, there are subsidy schemes for low-income families.

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries


  • Norway’s Ministry of Education and Research adopted the Regulation of National Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (NQF, 2011) and the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF) in 2017 (NOKUT, 2018[464]). The NQF provides an overview of the Norwegian education and training system and the levels of qualifications for all levels of education and training. It contains seven levels. An initial report on aligning the NQF to the EQF was prepared in 2012. The overall aim is to allow the NQF to be a “transparency tool”, which can be used for comparing Norwegian qualifications with other countries, based on the EQF, as well as the European Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (QF-EHEA). The aim is to enhance cross-border mobility. Prior to the above-mentioned developments, the National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (2009) had been implemented in all higher education institutions. The Ministry of Education and Research is currently evaluating the NQF.


  • The Ministry of Education and Research introduced new changes and adjustments to the performance-based component in the 2017 national budget for higher education. Alongside adjustments to education spending, two new indicators were introduced. The first indicator focused on the number of graduates, targeting higher completion rates in higher education institutions. The second indicator evaluates public and private revenue, targeting increased co-operation between external actors and institutions in the public and private sectors. An adjustment to an existing indicator increased the rate for student exchange, with the aim of enhancing international mobility. Furthermore, the ministry and ten pilot higher education institutions have made new performance agreements, and are aiming to have the remaining institutions agree to the new measures on performance regulation by 2019.

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