Vocational education in Sweden

The upper secondary school offers both theoretical and vocational programmes for students 15-18 years old. All programmes include 3 years and give admission to university, given that 90 % of the course points are passed. 

Kristina Hessel – Komvux Malmö Universitetsholmen (Sweden)

There has been a political discussion leading to the present government reappointing certain theoretical courses as compulsory on vocational programmes, as it was presumed that when English, Mathematics and Swedish/Swedish as a second language on higher levels were optional in vocational education, it caused those programmes to decline as they, incorrectly, were believed to be a dead end.

Today some 35 percent of the adolescents choose one of the vocational programmes. 15 weeks workplace -based learning is part of the content and base for grading in some courses. This is not the case for adult learners, but still work practice is an important part for them as well.

The same national courses are being followed by all categories, but as the aim of adult education is compensational and the goal is to get people over 20 in gainful employment or further studies as soon as possible, adults don’t always need to study a full programme. For example, nurse assistants get a diploma after having passed all courses in programme specific subjects and specialization module plus Social science, Psychology and Swedish.

As a guarantee for quality in this area, a nationwide Health & Care College organisation attracts hundreds of schools to get certification to be approved to issue the diploma.

Another example is the Technical College association; a quality stamp on educations where municipality, education providers and companies cooperate to increase the attractiveness and quality in technical oriented educations.


Apprenticeship is a path that both young and older students can choose. Validation is frequently asked for and has become an integrated process in adult education. Blended learning and distance studies become more and more popular.

Adult education in Sweden

Adult education in Sweden decades ago used to engage “the talent pool” consisting of women in the labor reserve wanting to transfer from the kitchen to a vocation of their own, while nowadays supply of students often comes from citizens with a foreign background.

All stages of education in Sweden are open to private initiatives; financed by public means and operating under the same governmental curricula, courses and quality inspection as municipality driven schools.

15 % of the pupils in primary school have chosen independent schools and 26 % of students in upper secondary. The number is increasing.

Independent schools are regarded not as competitors to public schools, but complementary. The free choice is highly appreciated by both parents and students. What frustrates many people is the fact the three are big school groups operating in Sweden and making profit as any company. An often heard comment is: What’s the problem if a “free” school reaches as good or better learning outcome with less money compared to a municipal school?

Higher vocational education

Higher vocational education offers opportunities for adults to specialize in different vocational areas where the demand for qualified labour is high. When there is for example a lack of nurses, as in Sweden, nurse assistants with special skills are needed to relieve nurse colleagues. It is regarded important to make possible for those with a vocational education to have career opportunities and go for further education.

Originally published it on EfVET Magazine issue September 2018

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