Child care and the school system

Living in Europe | Day care, schooling & family related issues | Iceland

Child care and the school system

Icelandic pre-schools operate according to laws passed in the Alþingi. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture lays down the framework and policy for pre-school education, while local municipalities bear the responsibility for implementing the law on pre-school education. Parents pay a monthly fee to have their child in pre-school. The fee depends on the amount of time your child is in school everyday, if meals are included, and whether or not the parents are single, working or enrolled in university or college. Pre-schools are to be available to all children who have not reached compulsory school age, i.e. in the autumn of the year in which the child turns 6. Very few pre-schools accept children less than one year old, and the youngest children are usually 2 years of age. In municipalities where there may be insufficient room to accommodate all applicants, the children of single parents and students are often given priority. Parents may apply for a pre-school when the child is 6 months old. Application forms can be found in all nursery schools and the relevant nursery school head offices. In Reykjavik applications in 14 languages are on the web site, http://www.leikskolar.is. As there are often waiting lists for pre-school places it is a good idea to get the application in when the child is 6 months of age. Children of parents that speak a language other than Icelandic may be eligible for priority placement.
If your child cannot be placed in a nursery school immediately, or your child is between 6 months and 2 years old you may wish to find a day care parent. Day care parents take care of children in their own homes and this service is administered by the social services of the local municipal authority. Those who take care of children in their own homes must fulfil certain requirements and the supervision of day care parents is the responsibility of each local municipal authority.
Most neighborhoods in the capital area have supervised playgrounds. These are staffed, closed in playgrounds for children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. No prearrangements are needed and parents are free to bring their child whenever they want. The first time that your child goes you must fill out an application with the child's name, address, home phone number, parents name, etc. At the time that you drop off your child you must pay a small fee.

A fundamental principle of Icelandic education is that everyone should have equal opportunities to acquire an

education, irrespective of sex, economic status, residential location, religion, possible handicaps, and cultural, social or ethnic background. The parliament and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture are legally and politically responsible for the education system and determine its basic objectives and administrative

framework. There are few private schools in the system and almost all private schools receive public funding.

The school system has recently been decentralized and since 1996 local municipalities manage the schools and are responsible for implementing education laws. The municipalities are therefore responsible for providing access to preschool and compulsory school facilities and also for all financial support of these facilities.

The education system is divided into four levels:

  • Pre-School (leikskóli) - for children between the 2 and 6 years of age.
  • Compulsory (grunnskóli) - 6-16 years of age.
  • Upper-Secondary (framhaldsskóli) - For those that are 16-20 years of age or anyone that has completed compulsory education or has turned 18 years of age.
  • Higher Education or University (háskóli) – For those that have completed upper-secondary school and have a "students" degree or the equivalent.
For children up to the age at which compulsory school begins which is in August/September of the year which the child turns 6 years old. For more information go to the chapter about day care.

School attendance is compulsory from the age of 6 to 16, i.e. in the autumn of the year in which the child turns 6. Parents are obligated to ensure that their children of compulsory school age are registered and attend school. Pupils are in school for 180 days during the months of August - June. Compulsory education, including textbooks and materials is free of charge. Children living in Iceland that speak a language other than Icelandic have a legal right to special teaching in Icelandic. According to Icelandic law all students with a different mother tongue than Icelandic have the right to two hours a week of special teaching in Icelandic while they are getting a grasp of

the language. In each school the headmaster and the special education teachers see to the organization and the

implementation of the teaching. The special teaching may vary depending on the mother tongue of the student and how different it is to Icelandic.

Children that have another mother tongue than Icelandic may request exemption from Danish. This exemption is considered on an individual basis and those requesting exemption must prove that it is in the best interest of the child. This exemption is never given to younger children. With this exemption it usually follows that the child is also exempt from taking the National Standardized Examinations in Danish. This decision should be taken very seriously as not having credits in Danish may have an effect on what area of study students may pursue

in college. For further information contact your child's head master, or the Ministry of Education.To register your child in school you may go to the school that is nearest you. If you are not sure which school that is, contact

your local school administration office. The Reykjavik Education service Centre, has registration forms available in 14 different languages.

When you register your child for school you should have the following information:

  • Name and ID number of the child
  • Previous school records
  • Proof of a medical examination
  • Proof of having received all necessary vaccinations

The transition into the Icelandic school system may take time, and may be difficult. It is important to remember that children may experience culture shock just as adults do. Parents are the best advocates for their children, so do not be afraid to ask questions or express concerns. It is a good idea to be in regular contact with your child's teacher and headmaster. If communication is restricted because of language, ask that an interpreter be provided. The schools are not legally required to provide interpreters although they often do so if needed. The Reykjavik education service center has recently published an information booklet about the school system in 14 languages.

Education at the upper-secondary level is free but students pay a registration fee and the cost of textbooks. Students in vocational education also pay a materials fee. Education at this level is not compulsory but all students that have completed this level of education have the right to enter university. The school year is 9 months long and is divided into autumn and spring terms and traditionally takes 4 years to complete. Some schools offer summer school programs, evening programs and adult programs. Recently there was a change in the system and there are no longer certain schools assigned to certain neighborhoods, so students are free to apply to whatever school they choose. It is possible that an applicant does not get accepted for their first choice, so it is a good idea to have a few choices in mind. When choosing a school, shop around, ask questions, visit the school and take a tour, and then decide which one best suits your needs. Note: At the time of writing this only one school in the Reykjavik area Iðnskóli offers special programs for new immigrants. Schools in the Reykjavík area do not have dormitories while schools in the countryside offer room and board for enrolled students. There are about 40 of these schools in Iceland.

There are no loans available for students in upper-secondary school. There are however tax discounts available to parents. This discount is not automatic like child benefits. Parents must fill out the appropriate information on their tax forms. The amount of the discount is affected by any income that the student claims. For more information contact the Tax Office. Parents are obligated by law to financially see to their children until they are 18 years of age. Students between the ages of 18-20 years old that are studying or learning a trade may apply for an extension of support. The student makes this request at The State Social Security Institute.

The Icelandic higher education system dates back to 1911 with the foundation of the University of Iceland. In the past decade there has been an increase in the amount of institutions of higher learning. At the time of writing this there are 8 universities. Except for 3 of them they are all run by the state. Universities differ to the extent to which they engage in research and the number of programs they offer. While universities are free to set their own admissions criteria, in most circumstances a matriculation exam or its equivalent is necessary. Registration of 1st year students takes place from late May until early June. The application for foreign students, other than Nordic citizens is the 15th of March. Some of the universities also admit new students in the

spring. There are no tuition fees at state-run universities, only registration fees. Students must purchase their own books and materials. Students attending institutes of higher learning may be eligible for a loan from the Icelandic Student Loan Fund. The amount of the loan depends on the income of the student and if they have children. These loans must be paid back 2 years after graduation or discontinuing your studies. The Ministry of Education grants scholarships once a year to foreign students to pursue studies in Icelandic language and literature at the University of Iceland.Contact the ministry for more information.

The following individuals are eligible for a student loan:

  • Citizens of the EU and EEA-EFTA countries, who have worked at least 1 year in Iceland.
  • Students from Nordic countries who are permanent residents of Iceland, are registered students, and are not already receiving help from their own country.
  • Students that are from countries that have a reciprocal agreement with Iceland.
  • Foreign immigrants, legally residing in Iceland for 1 year that have worked here, or within the EU for at least 5years are eligible for a loan providing the course of study they are applying for is work related. The same applies for spouses and children under 21 years of age.

 

Universities and Colleges in Iceland

The University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands)

Suðurgötu, IS-101 Reykjavik

tel: (+354) 525-4000 fax: (+354) 525-5850

www.hi.is

 

The University of Akureyri (Háskólinn á Akureyri)

v/Norðurslóð, IS-600 Akureyri

tel: (+354) 463-0900 fax: (+354) 463-0999

www.unak.is

 

Iceland University of Education (Kennaraháskóli Íslands)

Stakkahlíð, IS-105 Reykjavík

tel: (+354) 563-3800 fax: (+354) 563-3833

www.khi.is

 

The Agricultural University (Landbúnaðarháskólinn á

Hvanneyri)

IS-311, Borgarnes

tel: (+354) 433-7000 fax: (+354) 433-7001

www.hvanneyri.is

 

Iceland Academy of the Arts (Listaháskóli Íslands)

Skipholt 1, IS-105 Reykjavik

tel: (+354) 552-4000 fax: (+354) 562-3629

www.lhi.is

 

Hólar University College (Hólaskóli)

Hólar Hjaltadal, IS-551 Sauðárkrókur

tel: (+354) 455-6300 fax: (+354) 455-6301

www.holar.is

 

Bifröst School of Business (Viðskiptaháskólinn Bifröst)

IS-311 Borgarnes

tel: (+354) 433 000 fax: (+354) 433 0001

www.bifrost.is

 

Reykjavik University (Háskólinn í Reykjavík)

Ofanleiti 2, IS-103 Reykjavík

tel: (+354) 510-6200 fax: (+354) 510-6201

www.ru.is