Education in Norway

Organized education in Norway really dates back to the Middle Ages, to cathedral schools and Latin schools, but the various demands by the authorities achieved little in the way of practical results. Religion was the driving force behind the authorities’ requirement that all children should learn more than they acquired through their daily work.

Christian VI, King of Denmark and Norway, was fostered on pietism and during his reign several reforms were implemented, aiming at educating the people and adding to the Christian instruction they had received as children. Confirmation was introduced in Norway in 1736 and on 23 January 1739 the King issued a decree which is the basis for this year’s anniversary. This was the first collective plan for education in the country. Another anniversary can be celebrated at the same time. It is 250 years since the Christie Krybbee Skoler were established in Bergen.

These were schools for poor children, run by the church and giving priority to orphans. This is the oldest school in the Nordic countries, perhaps in the whole world, that is still in operation.

The Royal decree gave every child in the country a chance to learn and go to school, but it was strongly opposed by the country people themselves. Building and maintaining the schools meant new financial burdens for them. Moreover, they were embittered by the idea that the children were to be taken away from useful work, as in many cases their contribution was essential to survival. Nor had the king and his pietist advisors taken into account the fact that Norway was a long, narrow and sparsely populated country. In the face of the opposition, the requirements were reduced to some extent. In addition to religious instruction, the children were taught to read, write and do sums.

These sciences. is was said. were necessary for everyone, regardless of their station. The fight against analphabetism had begun. This fight has long since been won in Norway, hut it has been a long path strewn with difficulties from 1739 to today’s almost 4,000 elementary and lower secondary schools accommodating more than 500,000 pupils.

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