Guide: Education in Sweden

Education for international children in Sweden

A young scholar - Photo: Kuanish Reymbaev/Unsplash
A young scholar - Photo: Kuanish Reymbaev/Unsplash

Education for international children in Sweden

Moving to a new country can be a stressful experience for the whole family, but the process of selecting a school where your kids can receive a high-quality education doesn’t need to be. There are many options for educating children of different backgrounds in Sweden – from international schools and bilingual schools to the public school system, there is something for every family.

As a primer, our article about how to choose and apply to the right school is a great place to refamiliarise yourself with the Swedish school system in general.

International/English-speaking schools in Sweden

With the population in Sweden becoming increasingly international, English language schools are becoming more and more popular. In fact, from the 2008-2009 school year to the 2017-2018 school year, the number of students enrolled in International English schools has almost quadrupled.

Many foreign residents choose international schools for their children because classes are conducted in English or because they follow the curriculum of the child’s home country. If you and your family are living in Sweden for a short period, this solution definitely has its advantages. Large metropolitan areas like Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg all have a selection of international schools to choose from.

One thing to remember about international schools in Sweden is that many of them are considered free schools (friskolor) and do not charge tuition fees. However, there are some that exist outside of the Swedish system and do charge fees, so this can be good to find out early on in the decision process.

English education in the Swedish school system

If you expect your children to spend most of their childhood in Sweden, placing them in the Swedish school system could be a good fit as well. There are a lot of opportunities for a multilingual education in public schools in Sweden, with many schools describing themselves as bilingual, and English being a key subject in Swedish schools everywhere.

Needs of international children can also be supplemented by mother tongue courses, available at most schools. It is best to research all of these components on a case-by-case basis as you explore potential schools. Placing children in Swedish schools allows them to be more immersed in the culture they are going to be spending a number of years in, while also allowing for them to maintain their level of English.

The great thing about Swedish schools is that you are allowed to choose the one that best suits the needs of your family members. If you would like to read some stories of other families and the choices they’ve made for their children, please check out our feature on six multilingual families in Sweden.

High schools in Sweden

A high school graduation day (Studenten) – Photo : Shubhesh Aggarwal/Unsplash

High schools (gymnasium) in Sweden are technically optional, but the vast majority of students attend from ages 16 to 19. Once in high school, students generally choose an area of focus to study, to prepare them for the workplace or for secondary education.

If you would like your child to be prepared to take the international baccalaureate, you can find a list of schools that follow the IB curriculum here.

How does the education system in Sweden rank worldwide?

Sweden has generally enjoyed a high ranking in the world for its educational system, which was reinforced in the most recent Pisa rankings report. While the rankings dropped during the period from 2013 to 2016, the Swedish school system has made improvements that have placed it once again amongst the world’s leading educators. Read about the finer points of Sweden’s Pisa rankings performances here.

Additionally, like any other country, there are some places in Sweden that tend to produce better academic performance. A report from 2019 listed out the best municipalities for public education in Sweden. Our 2018 exposé into the inequalities that exist in different regions of Sweden can be found here.

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