Nowhere in the Nordic countries is the drop-out rate from upper secondary schools higher than in Iceland. One of the MPs from the Conservative Party in Norway, Marianne Synnes Emblemsvag, mentions this in an article on the state of affairs in the Nordic countries. The article will be published on Monday in the web magazine Educational news.

The article says that the dropout rate in this country is about 18 percent. In other Nordic countries, it is less than ten percent. In Norway, it was 17.4 percent a decade ago but it has been reduced and is now 9.9 percent, similar to Denmark. Elimination, on the other hand, is lower in Finland and Sweden.


The article makes special reference to the gender difference in dropouts. Nowhere in the Nordic countries is it as common for boys to drop out of school as in this country. The proportion is almost 25 percent, twice as high as in girls, and has been unchanged for a decade. This is compared to Norway and says that the dropout rate among boys was over 21 percent a decade ago. This has been addressed and last year the drop-out rate was reduced to almost 12 percent.

It is stated that although the drop-out rate is high from book studies, it is even higher from internships. The drop-out has serious consequences for young people’s opportunities to gain a foothold in the economy. Employers usually prefer to hire people who have completed upper secondary school rather than those who have only completed primary school. There is a risk that young people who are neither in education nor in work will end up outside with bad consequences for the person in question and society as a whole. The MP also discusses various reasons for dropping out and mentions that it is increasingly common for young people, especially girls, to report mental difficulties. It is not clear what caused it, but to some extent, this may be due to a more open discussion of such issues than before.

Kristjana Stella Blöndal, Associate Professor at the School of Social Sciences at the University of Iceland, is an expert on these issues in Iceland. She says that the disadvantage of the Norwegian article is that it is not stated where the figures published there came from or what the criteria are. Comparisons of drop-outs between countries, including Iceland and other Nordic countries, are subject to various shortcomings, and many parties publish figures on the subject, including the OECD, the EU, the Nordic statistical institutes, and others. It is true, however, that the drop-out rate from upper secondary schools is unusually high in Iceland and more than elsewhere in the Nordic countries.

Circumstances here are different

Kristjana Stella says that figures used by the education authorities in this country are based on data published by Statistics Iceland. According to them, the drop-out rate of three upper secondary school enrollments from 2009 to 2011 after four years is 28 percent for the cohort that began studies in 2009, 26 percent for the cohort in 2010, and 27 percent for the cohort that began studies in 2011. The figures are similar even if six years or seven from check-in instead of four.

When comparing dropouts, however, it must be borne in mind that conditions are very different in Iceland and elsewhere in the Nordic countries. The upper secondary school system in Iceland is very flexible, as is explicitly required in the Act on Upper Secondary Schools. Students have access to schools of all ages and due to the credit system, they can easily change schools and fields of study. This is not the case in neighboring countries. The main concern abroad is that young people without upper secondary education do not get a job in the labor market and are therefore neither in school nor at work. It isolates itself from society and ends up on the outside, resulting in a variety of social problems. Here, young people who drop out of school have been able to find work relatively easily.

Kristinn Þorsteinsson, chairman of the Schoolmasters’ Association, agrees with Kristjana. “Comparisons are very difficult between countries where counting is different,” he says. “The employment situation in Iceland has contributed to dropouts, so that young people have been offered work without education. The school system here is very flexible and open. It is very easy for students to quit and come back. Nowhere are interns older than here, for example. ”


Kristinn still says she does not want to reduce the problem. Drop-outs here are too high and we need to achieve better results, and the education authorities have a clear will to do so. The coronary heart disease epidemic has had an effect and will increase dropouts, which is a special cause for concern as those who have now left school will not be able to go to work as before. On the other hand, the government has increased funding to bring more people to school. It works against it.