Montessori Schools Surge in Popularity Amidst Public School Closures in Norway

Oslo, Norway – Montessori education is gaining traction in Norway, particularly as the country witnesses a significant number of public school closures. An in-depth analysis from Utdanningsdirektoratet (Norwegian Ministry of Education) reveals stark trends in the education sector over the past decade, highlighting the shift towards fewer and larger schools, and a notable increase in private Montessori institutions.

Public School Closures and Centralization

The last ten years have seen a substantial reduction in the number of primary schools across Norway. Data indicates that there are 216 fewer primary schools today compared to a decade ago. This trend is largely driven by financial pressures and declining student populations in smaller municipalities.

Key Findings from Utdanningsdirektoratet:

  • Decrease in Schools: The total number of primary schools dropped from 2,957 to 2,741 over the past ten years.
  • Larger Schools: The average primary school now enrolls 232 students, an increase of 24 students from ten years ago.
  • Public School Dominance: Over 90% of the schools that closed were public, and only 10% of these closures saw the establishment of a new private school in the same year.
  • Higher Costs: Municipalities with smaller schools incur higher per-student costs compared to those with larger schools.

Trends and Implications

Annual Closures: On average, 45 schools close each year. In 2022, 32 schools were shut down while only 12 new schools opened, illustrating a net loss of 20 schools for that year.

Geographical Disparities: The closure rate is highest in less central municipalities with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. These areas have seen a 5% reduction in school numbers over the past two years, compared to a 1% reduction in more populous areas.

Student Impact: The closure of small schools often results in longer travel distances for students and increased operational costs for remaining institutions. A survey showed that fifth graders in 2020 had an average travel distance of 2.7 kilometers, which increased significantly in less central areas.

Rise of Montessori Schools

In response to public school closures, many communities have turned to Montessori schools. Over the past decade, Montessori schools have increasingly filled the educational gaps left by the closure of public schools.

Proliferation of Montessori Schools:

  • Expansion: Montessori schools now operate in 88 locations across Norway, representing nearly one-third of the country’s 278 private primary schools.
  • Replacement of Public Schools: In 60% of cases where a private school replaced a closed public school, a Montessori school was established.
  • Enrollment Growth: Over 5,000 students are currently enrolled in Montessori schools, out of nearly 31,000 students in private primary education.

Understanding Montessori Education

The Montessori method, founded by Dr. Maria Montessori, emphasizes self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. This educational approach nurtures a child’s natural curiosity and fosters a love for learning.

a child playing with a toy
Photo by Sebastian Pandelache

Community and Educational Impact

Montessori schools, often located in suburban and rural areas, integrate natural landscapes into their curriculum, providing hands-on learning experiences. The prepared environment in Montessori classrooms is designed to facilitate independent learning and exploration, supporting the developmental needs of children.

The rise of Montessori schools in Norway reflects a broader trend towards educational frameworks that respect and nurture individual potential. As public schools continue to close, Montessori education stands out as an innovative and effective alternative, offering a promising option for parents and communities across the country.


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