The Swedish school system and how it is organized for foreign children

The Swedish school system and how it is organized for foreign children

Sweden is a family-friendly country with good conditions when it comes to school and education for children. But how is the Swedish school system organized and how is a foreign child integrated? In this blog post, we will learn more about what the school system in Sweden consists of, and what kind of support a foreign child can expect. We will also take part in some relocated MediCarrera families’ experiences when it comes to the Swedish school.

 Swedish school system: The education system in Sweden is publicly funded and free for all students. In addition to the municipal schools, the Swedish school system also includes independent schools with public funding (friskolor). Municipal schools are part of the public school system in Sweden, while independent schools have another principal than the municipality or county council. Usually, these independent schools have more autonomy when it comes to curriculum and methods of teaching. In Sweden, parents can choose for themselves whether their children should go to a municipal or private school. The Swedish school system consists of nursery school (förskola), compulsory schooling (grundskola), and upper secondary school (gymnasium).

Nursery school: The nursery school, also called preschool, is provided by Swedish municipalities for children ages one to five. The curriculum of nursery schools in Sweden aims to meet each child’s individual needs and interests and places emphasis on the child’s development. For instance, gender-sensitive education is becoming more common, which aims to give children the same opportunities regardless of gender. In Sweden, the preschools are generally open from Monday-Friday between 06.15 am to 6.30 pm. If the parents work outside these hours, it is possible to apply for the child to attend a special hours preschool.

Compulsory schooling: also called the primary school, in Sweden consists of four stages; a pre-school year or year 0 (förskoleklass), years 1–3 (lågstadiet), years 4–6, (mellanstadiet), and years 7–9 (högstadiet). In compulsory school, the students typically attend six to seven classes per day. A class usually lasts around 45 minutes and between the classes, the children have a break where they can play together in the schoolyard. In the middle of the day, the students eat lunch together in school and then have a longer lunch break that lasts around one hour.

Upper secondary school: The Swedish upper secondary school also called sixth form or high school (years 10–12) is optional. There are eighteen three-year regular national programs to choose from, six of which are university preparatory and twelve of which are vocational. Even though the requirements for each program are different, all of them require that students pass their final year of compulsory education in Swedish, English, and mathematics.

Extracurricular activities: The compulsory school in Sweden comes with 16 compulsory subjects and these are Swedish, mathematics, physical education, English, handicrafts, music, visual arts, technology, physics, chemistry, biology, history, social studies, religion, geography, and home economics. Besides these subjects, Swedish schools generally offer several extracurricular activities such as sports, music, drama, art, and language classes. These activities are free for all students to participate in.

Swedish school year, holidays, and summer break: In Sweden, an academic year generally starts in August and ends in June. ​​This school year must consist of at least 178 school days, 12 holidays, and a maximum of 5 study days. Every year, the schools close for the summer break, autumn break, Christmas holidays, sports leave, and Easter holiday. The summer break, the longest vacation, falls in between two school years and is normally about nine weeks long. 

Integration of foreign children: The Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear what rights children have and, consequently, what requirements of the Swedish school and Swedish society’s decision-makers they must meet. The state, authorities, municipalities, and schools are responsible for ensuring that each student in Sweden has equal opportunities for education regardless of their circumstances.

Preparation class: A student who attends a preparatory class receives partial teaching in a different teaching group than the one they normally belong to. Students may attend a preparatory class for a maximum of two years. The purpose of the preparation class is to give newly arrived students the knowledge they need to be able to take part in teaching in the regular full-time teaching group as soon as possible. 

Study guidance in the mother tongue: In Sweden, all students have the right to study guidance in their mother tongue. Study guidance is a kind of tutorial, usually held after a lesson. It is used to repeat and deepen the knowledge the student has been taught about in a subject. There is no limit to how long and to what extent a student can have the right to study guidance in their mother tongue. It is the student’s needs that govern.

If you want to know more about newcomers’ right to support in the Swedish school system, you can have a look at the Swedish national board of education’s (Skolverket) website.


    Relocating with children to another country can feel a little frightening. However, one of the good things about relocating with your family to Sweden is the well-functioning education system. Swedish schools will do everything they can to help your children integrate as smoothly as possible. If you want to know more about our available positions for medical specialists in Sweden, you can find them here.

    Experience from our medical specialists

    MediCarrera has many years of experience in helping medical specialists and their families relocate to Sweden. It is not unusual that families have children who need to be placed in a kindergarten or a school. Many of our candidates who moved to Sweden are satisfied with how the Swedish kindergartens and schools work and how their children thrive.

    Learning the language:

    • Saskia, a Dutch Physiotherapist, and her husband Rolf relocated with their two sons to Sweden in 2018. Something that both of them value a lot about their new resident country is the school system. “The best thing about Sweden is the school system for the kids,” says Saskia. Before relocating, their sons also participated in the preparing Swedish language courses where they also improved their English a lot.  Today, they are among the best in their classes when it comes to English. The children also learned Swedish very fast once they arrived in Sweden and today they speak the language very well. “One of the reasons why they can speak so well today is because they have learned the grammar rules before they learned the language itself. The classmates in Sweden already speak Swedish but they don’t know why they speak as they do”, says Saskia. Read more about Saskia and Rolf’s experience in this blog post.

    • Christian, a Radiologist from Romania and his family relocated to Sweden together with his family. When they first arrived, his daughter Ingrid attended Swedish daycare and was very content. She spoke a mix of Romanian and Swedish, made friends, and felt at home in the new environment.
      You can read more about Christian and his family’s journey in this blog post.

    The overall educational system

    • Agnes, a General Practitioner from Hungary, relocated to Sweden in 2013 together with her husband and their twins. She thinks that the move has been very good for her children. Sweden is a very child-friendly country and the daycare is well functioning and peda­gogically oriented. She thinks that her children have become much more open since they arrived in Sweden and it’s clear that they are thriving. You can read more about Agnes’ experience in this blog post.
    • Maria, a Child Psychiatrist from Greece, relocated to Sweden in 2014 with her husband and their two children. “My children have a lot of free time after school, and at the same time, the education system is very good”, says Maria. If you want to read more about Maria’s experience you can do so in this blog post.
    • Sonja, a nurse from Croatia, moved to Sweden with her family in 2018. “The children’s teachers are fantastic which feels good as we had very good contact with the teachers in Croatia as well”, she says. Read more about Sonja and her family’s experience in this blog post.
    • Erika, a General Practioner from Hungary, relocated to Sweden together with her family in 2018 with help from MediCarrera. In Vetlanda, the city they moved to, children first go to a preparatory school, where they map their school backgrounds and knowledge. They stay there for 4-8 weeks and then join preschools and schools in the municipality. While Erika’s daughter completed the entire eight weeks, her son could start going to high school earlier. Read more about Erika and her family’s experience in this blog post.
    Share This