New classification of educational attainment
The classification of educational attainment in Norway has not been in coherence with international guidelines. To meet with international standards as well as national interests, educational attainment has been re-classified.
The educational attainment of the population has been an important variable for scientific studies and analyses for decades. The variable 'educational attainment' is often used in combination with other variables. In an international perspective, educational attainment is used as a measure of human capital and as an indicator in surveys on living conditions. Statistics on educational attainment are often distributed to both national and international requesters to be used in different publications.
Educational attainment is often divided into three levels of education - compulsory education, upper secondary education and tertiary education. These levels of education are presented in studies of educational attainment in Norway in particular, but also in comparative studies in other countries.
Norway has always been rated highly on educational attainment in publications of education statistics. A large part of the Norwegian adult population has attained at least upper secondary education. To clarify and define the three levels of education is essential for evaluating the comparability of educational attainment between countries. Clearer guidelines have been put forward to better define compulsory education, upper secondary education and tertiary education in Norway.
Compulsory education and upper secondary education
Today, everyone who finishes compulsory education is registered as attaining this level of education, regardless of whether they pass or fail. Up until the late 1980s, individuals were only classified as attaining compulsory education if they passed. Those who failed and did not go on to pursue a higher level of education are registered as having 'no education or pre-primary education'. As this affects very few individuals, an effort has not been made to update these individuals according to the new standard for educational attainment.
Compulsory education in the new classification also includes individuals who do not meet the graduation criteria for upper secondary education. Previously, people who graduated from fragments of upper secondary education, regardless of duration or class level, were defined as attaining an upper secondary level of education. In the new classification of educational attainment it has been necessary to use a different approach for different periods of time to meet the criteria for attained upper secondary education.
All individuals who completed upper secondary education before the Upper Secondary Education Act was introduced in the 1970s are classified as attaining an upper secondary level of education, regardless of duration.
People who attained an upper secondary education between the introduction of the Upper Secondary Education Act and the Education Act of 1994 are treated in two different ways. People who completed one year of upper secondary schooling do not meet the criteria of attained upper secondary education and are therefore classified with compulsory education as their highest attained level of education. People who successfully graduated from more than one year in upper secondary education are classified with upper secondary education as their highest attained level of education.
Since the Education Act was introduced in 1994, graduates from three- or four-year programmes at upper secondary level have been classified with attained upper secondary education. Those people who pursued a shorter programme at upper secondary level have been registered with compulsory education as the highest attained level of education.
Using a different approach for different time-periods is important, as the educational system has changed in both content and duration over time. A one-year upper secondary programme in the 1970s was sometimes sufficient for achieving a high-school diploma - today's upper secondary curriculum does not allow for this.
All people who have successfully completed a post-secondary, non-tertiary programme will be classified as earlier, and remain registered with this level as their highest attained. In publications, this level of education is often included in upper secondary level of education. In addition, those students who have completed less than 120 credit points (ECTS) from tertiary education will not be upgraded, and remain registered with upper secondary level of education.
Tertiary level of education
To meet international guidelines it has been necessary to change the national definition on how much tertiary education is required to attain a tertiary level of education. A minimum of two years full-time study load, equivalent to 120 credit points, is defined as a tertiary level of education. Shorter programmes or study units less than 120 credit units at the tertiary level will be downgraded to post-secondary non-tertiary education.
People who pursued a single tertiary degree longer than four years, for example Medicine, were not registered as attaining a tertiary level of education before a total of five years or more were successfully completed. In the new classification they are registered as attained tertiary level of education once they have completed 120 credit units.
All changes to classification of tertiary education are effective from 1998/99 onwards. Before 1998/99, information on credit points was not collected and compiled by Statistics Norway. All people who completed tertiary education prior to 1998/99 will therefore remain registered with this level of education, regardless of course duration.
What are the consequences of changing the definitions and classifications of educational attainment in Norway, and how does the change influence statistics on educational attainment?
|Educational attainment in Norway, 16 years and over by level of education and age.
Former and new classification. 2005. Per cent
|Age||Level of education|
|Compulsory education||Upper secondary|| Tertiary education,
| Tertiary education,
|67 years and over||45.5||47.3||42.7||40.8||8.9||8.9||3.0||3.0|
Table 1 shows a comparison of the old and new classification for educational attainment for the population aged 16 and over in Norway. Although a reasonable amount of movement occurred between upper secondary and tertiary education, only marginal net differences at the tertiary level of education appear when comparing former and new classification of educational attainment. A larger net difference is apparent in upper secondary education, due to the downgrading of many people to compulsory level of education - 57 per cent of the population aged 16 and over attain upper secondary education using the former classification, compared with 42 per cent using the new classification. The proportion holding compulsory education as their highest level of education increases from 19 per cent to 33 per cent between the old and new classification.
|Educational attainment of the adult population (25-64 years) in OECD-
countries. 2004. Per cent
|OECD-countries||Attained level of education|
|Primary and lower secondary education|| Upper secondary
|Norway, former class.||11||56||32|
|Norway, new class.||24||45||31|
|1||Post-secondary non-tertiary education level of education included.|
|2||Year of reference 2003.|
|Source: Education at a Glance 2006, OECD.|
In an international perspective, table 2 shows educational attainment of the population aged 25-64 years across OECD-countries in 2004. Educational attainment in Norway is presented for both the former classification and new classification. Norway is in a leading position together with other Nordic countries, Japan, Canada and USA based on former definitions for educational attainment. The new set of definitions causes a lower ranking.
Using the new classification, 24 per cent of the population in Norway aged 25-64 years have compulsory education as their highest attained level of education in 2004, 45 per cent have upper secondary level as the highest attained level and 31 per cent have attained a tertiary education. The former classification shows 11, 56 and 32 per cent respectively.
See relevant article: Education statistics. Population's level of education, 1 October 2005.