Icelandic educational system at a glance

The Icelandic Education system is built up in four main levels, pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools, and universities. The Ministry of Education creates general policy and the national curriculum for the first three levels in addition to all levels of musical education schools.


School policies are decided at the municipal level in concert with the ministry. They provide general guidelines on what the community will emphasize in school. Each school prepares their own school curriculum and schedule, which is made available on the website of each school.


In Iceland everyone has equal access to education regardless of gender, residence, disability, financial situation, religion, and cultural economic background. Most schools in Iceland are publicly funded afforded equal access to quality education. Some schools have prerequisites for admission and limited enrolment. Universities, secondary schools, and continuing education schools offer different programs in various fields and professions. In this way, students can take individual classes before committing to a long-term program.


 Most universities and some secondary schools offer distance learning options, which is also true of continuing education schools and regional education and training service centres throughout the country. This supports increased accessibility to education for all.


For additional info on studying in Iceland, please visit island.is. You find more about each school level here below.

Accordion Content

Pre-school, for children under the age of six, is not compulsory. Parents apply for a pre-school spot for their child in the municipality in which the family is a legal resident. Some municipalities have also contracted private preschools. In Iceland, municipalities may also supervise providers of in-home childcare.


Primary school is compulsory. Compulsory primary education means that children and young adults aged 6-16 must study in primary schools. Age is based on the child’s birth year and not the birthday and each school year runs from August to May, meaning a single school year spans two calendar years. Parents must enroll their children in primary schools and ensure that they attend school.


More about pre- and cumpulsary schools here.

Everyone who has completed primary school, received an equivalent general education or reached the age of 16 can begin their studies in a secondary school.


Students who are completing the tenth year at primary school, along with their guardians, will receive a letter from the Ministry of Education in the spring containing information concerning registration for secondary-school day-school programme.


Read more about secondary schools here.


Universities are responsible for their own activities, in so far as they are not provided for in laws, regulations and other administrative instructions.


Icelandic universities are centres of knowledge and part of an international educational and scientific community. There are seven Universities operating in Iceland. There are four state universities and three private, non-profit organisations.


Those who intend to study at a university must have completed a matriculation examination (the Icelandic University Entrance Examination) or equivalent examination. Universities are permitted to set specific entrance requirements and to have students sit an entrance examination or status examination.


Here you can read more about universities in Iceland.


Icelandic is the national language of Iceland. Icelandic is closely related to the other Nordic languages. There are many opportunities to learn Icelandic.


Libraries in Iceland are publicly funded where everyone can access books and other materials from. Libraries are run by municipalities so there may be different fees and lending rules between libraries. 


Here you can read more about libraries and how to study Icelandic.

Going through the process of submitting your qualifications and educational degrees for recognition can improve your opportunities in the labour market and lead to higher wages.


When applying for recognition of your qualifications it is important that you provide satisfactory documentation certifying your studies, including copies of examination certificates, together with translations by certified translators. Translations may be in English or a Nordic language.


More about getting your qualification and education recognised can be found here.


Here you can view videos about the Icelandic school system in various languages.


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