Constitutional & Legal Foundations
Just after independence from Denmark, the Storting committee was organized in 1815 to address all school matters. Before independence, Luther's focus on schooling was supported by ordinances in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and consequently, some schooling was available to children of all social classes for the purpose of religious development. These ordinances recognized that children needed to be literate to read scriptures and to learn specific religious knowledge for Christian confirmation into adulthood. Norway was one of the first countries in Europe to have compulsory education. With the 1739 School Ordinance, schooling was required, even of children in the countryside beginning at the age of seven. The motivation for this ordinance was the religious development of all Norwegian children, including those located away from any sizable town. The provision in this ordinance that required the creation of permanent schools was unworkable though in tiny communities that could not afford them. As a result, local parishes took responsibility for providing schooling and traveling schools were established in which teachers would spend a few weeks at a time in various locations. Mostly, children were taught to read and study religious principles. Children were rarely taught to write, and most attended school for just a few years. Schooling was widely available at this time though, and Norwegians prided themselves on their rate of literacy. By 1800, it was believed that almost all Norwegians were literate, a remarkable achievement given that the literacy rate for all of Europe did not exceed 50 percent for adults until about 1850. For the most part, higher education institutions did not exist prior to Norwegian independence. Some alternative forms of schooling were available. The developing industrial revolution in Norway at the time of independence required vocational training opportunities. Thus, traditional apprentice systems were replaced with schools focused on seamanship, handwork, drafting, and mining.
National school policy continued to be developed and refined and became more secular and extensive with time. The 1848 Folk School Law mandated the creation of a least one folk school in each town, that teachers meet certain qualifications, that 60 students per day is the maximum allowed per teacher, that children attend school from age 7 until confirmation, and that each town have a school commission consisting of town clergy and council appointees. Most important, this law expanded the educational content offered. While only reading and religious instruction were taught previously, now subjects such as writing, singing, and math were to be taught in all schools. By the end of the nineteenth century, laws establishing elementary and secondary schools were passed.
The modern school was developed in three stages of reform, each stage was established through national legislation. The compulsory school (Grunnskole) was revised in 1969 into a nine-year mandated program. Two stages, stage 1-6 (barnesteget) and stage 7-9 (ungdomssteget) were created. The next step of the reform involved the upper secondary school (Videregaende skole), which lasted from one to three years and incorporated a wide variety of courses with a focus on higher education preparation or vocational training. The last reform stage involved the development of the tertiary level of education. The University of Oslo was the only university in Norway until 1948. Three additional universities were eventually established, and in the 1970s, regional colleges grew at a tremendous rate. These colleges allowed for greater access to higher education across Norway and served local needs for education, research, and development.
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