Does Education Pay Off in Norway?

Developed as a world class economic and social system,
Norway presents a unique and exemplary national case. Sustaining this level of
development depends on the country’s high level educational attainment and
research culture to many.

A recent report from the Minister of Research and Higher
Education supports this projection. Accordingly, there will be a growing need
for people with higher education until 2020.

– “We will need at least 20 000 new places in Norway.
Several higher education areas are important for us to develop for sustaining
the welfare of our community, “says Minister of Research and Higher Education,
Tora Aasland. 

The report shows that there is a need for significant growth
in training capacity at universities and colleges. Projection figures for 2020
indicate that 245 000 people will be needed on the study track.

– The analysis shows that the largest demand will be for
teachers, scientists, economists and health care workers. “That is why we have
given priority to these areas in state budget,” says Aasland.

18,000 More Students

With the new action plan in the budget, there are 18 000
more quotas for students at Norwegian universities and colleges. The investment
is in excess of 2.5 billion NOK. Aasland states the report verifies the fact
that education is probably the most economically profitable investment any
country can make.

Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen has also stated similar
goals for development of vocational courses in high school.

– There is a need to get alarmed. If we are unable to get a
much better implementation of vocational education, we can lack of 65,000
skilled workers in Norway by 2030, says Halvorsen.

Better Vocational

The Minister also announced a number of measures to raise
the status of vocational subjects. Accordingly, it will be ensured to get more
young people to choose vocational courses in high school, and to get more of
them to complete their programs.

Currently, only 15 percent of the students complete their
education. Also applications for vocational schools have recently gone down. In
the last six years, 14 percent fewer girls and nine percent fewer boys applied
to vocational programs.

Too much Education

Aligning with these statictics, one of the most indisputable
claims in the public debate is that Norway needs more educated people, and
therefore that the more people who complete a university education, the better
development will be sustained. However, some scholars think educational
attainment level is too much in Norway and it does not actually pay off for
individual and society.

OECD’s Education at a Glance report, 2009 shows that both
the private and social economic returns of higher education are unusually low
in Norway. Only Denmark passes Norway in terms of low return among OECD

Supporting the research result, Torbjorn Hægeland, research
director at Statistics Norway ratifies that higher and vocational education
provide moderate wage benefits in Norway due to the smaller income disparity in
the Nordic model.

Based on the same data, some academicians in Norway ask
whether Norway really needs so much educated population for sustainable

Professors Ottar Brox and Thomas Hylland Eriksen  both told to that the education level
in Norway has been too high and all cannot have a master’s degree. Ottar Brox
thinks we are about to get an overuse of formal schooling.  Brox, who has been a professor, researcher and
author, does not like educational development in Norway.

– Society is not served by such a high level of education
that we have today, he says.

Apprenticeship Needed

Brox also thinks that the best way to develop professionally
is through working and that it is obviously possible to be professional in many
subjects with an efficient apprenticeship system instead of many years of
formal education. He adds, saying “I therefore believe that Norway should
revitalize the old apprenticeship system and be willing to spend money on

The well-known commentator, Elin
Ørjasæter agrees with Brox. In a comment on the website E24, she writes that
the education level is too high in Norway and doomed to end up as a bubble.

Facts and Figures about Education in Norway

Of a population of over 4.5 million, more than
900 000 people are currently undergoing education or training. In addition
approx. 1 million people participate in adult education courses each year.

Approx. 32 per cent of the population over 16
does not have education above the lower secondary level, 44 per cent do not
have education above upper secondary level, and 25 per cent have an education
at university and/or university college level.

Approx. 235 000 children have places in ordinary
kindergartens or family kindergartens (2006). Kindergartens are voluntary, but
it is a goal that every­

one who so wishes is to have the opportunity to
attend a kindergarten.

Approx. 607 500 pupils attend public primary and
lower secondary schools in the school year of 2006–2007. In addition there are
almost 10 000 pupils at private primary and lower secondary schools. Never
before has Norway had so many pupils at this level.

During the school year of 2006–2007 more than
180 000 pupils attend public upper secondary schools, while there are about 14
000 pupils at private upper secondary schools. In addition there are about 32
000 apprentices.

There are about 195 000 students at Norwegian
universities and university colleges (both public and private).

Approx. 143 000 students in Norway receive
support from the State Educational Loan fund. In addition approx. 14 000
Norwegian students receive support to take full studies abroad, whereas about 8
000 receive support to take parts of a degree or to participate in exchange
programmes abroad.

Education in Norway costs 6.6 per cent of the
gross domestic product, while the average for the OECD countries is 5.9 per
cent (2003).

Higher and Tertiary vocational education in Norway

Higher education is based on research and usually builds on
three years’ completed and passed upper secondary education.

There are eight universities in Norway, eight specialized
institutions at university level and 21 public university colleges. The
university colleges have an important role in decentralizing access to higher

Most institutions of higher education are state-run and are
responsible for the quality of their own instruction, research and
dissemination of knowledge. About 12.5 per cent of students in higher education
attend private institutions.

Tertiary vocational education is an alternative to higher
education and is based on upper secondary education and training or equivalent
informal and non-formal competence. Higher Education Entrance Qualification is
not required. The education consists of vocational courses lasting from half a
year to two years. Apart from the traditional schools of technical management
and maritime subjects which are publicly financed (by the county authorities),
most of the schools offering this kind of education are private ones.

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