Originally settled by Norwegian and Celtic immigrants in the 9th and 10th centuries, the Republic of Iceland is located in the North Atlantic just south of the Arctic Circle and is the westernmost country in Europe. Iceland was an independent country for 300 years until it fell under the rule of Norway and Denmark. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland limited home rule and full independence on June 17, 1944. The official language is Icelandic (Old Norse), although classes are taught in both Icelandic and English.
As an indication of the importance of education, virtually all Icelanders are literate and read more books per capita than any other country in the world. The ability to read and write is not new to the people of Iceland, as much of the history of the area has been recorded since its first settlers. The country initiated compulsory education as early as 1910 for children between 10 and 14 and, in 1946, extended compulsory education to the ages of 6 and 16. Iceland's education system is overseen by the country's Mennta- og menningarmálaráðuneytið.
Primary and Secondary Education
The school year is nine months long, beginning in late August/September until early June.
Compulsory education is 10 years and is offered at grunnskóli (compulsory schools). There are three types of grunnskóli: schools that offer all 10 years, schools that offer years one to seven, and schools that offer years eight to 10. Compulsory education is the responsibility of local municipalities. Following successful completion of grunnskóli, students are awarded a Grunnskólapróf (Compulsory School Certificate).
Following grunnskóli, students have the choice of several different types of upper secondary schools: menntaskóli (grammar school), fjölbrautaskólar (comprehensive secondary school), iðnmenntaskólar (industrial vocational school), sérskólar (specialized vocational school), and technical secondary school. All are 4-year programs, although there are some 3-year vocational and technical programs. Menntaskóli and fjölbrautaskólar award the Stúdentspróf upon successful completion of the program. Iðnmenntaskólar, sérskólar and technical secondary schools award the Sveinspróf upon completion of the program. Students in vocation programs can take additional coursework to qualify for a Stúdentspróf.
Post-secondary education requires the Stúdentspróf for admission. The University of Iceland, established in 1911, is the oldest and largest post-secondary institution in the country. All public institutions are free, while private institutions charge tuition and fees.
There are several first university degrees: the baccalaureatus artium (bachelor of arts), baccalaureatus scientiarum (bachelor of science), baccalaureatus educationis (bachelor of education). They are all 3-year programs. Baccalaureatus degrees in nursing and physical therapy are 4-year programs.
Second-level university programs prepare students for professions. They are 1.5 to 2 years long for students who hold a baccalaureatus and four to six years long for students who hold a stúdentspróf. Second-level university programs award the kandidatspróf (candidatus) or a meisterapróf (master's degree).
Doctoral level studies require classwork and defense of a dissertation. Generally, doctoral programs require a kandidatspróf, meisterapróf or equivalent for admission. Upon successful completion of a doctoral program, students are awarded a doctorspróf or doctor philosophicus.