Music Education in Norway

I. Political Framework. 2

II. School System and Structure. 3

III. Music Education in Schools. 8

IV. Music Curricula. 9

V. Critical Comment and Future Development 14

I. Political Framework

Norway is a democratic constitutional monarchy. Executive power is exercised by the King and his council, and the cabinet, led by the prime minister of Norway. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Norwegian parliament (“Stortinget”), elected within a multi-party system.

II. School System and Structure

The Norwegian school system can be divided into three parts: Elementary (primary) school (“Barneskole”, age 6-13), lower secondary school (“Ungdomsskole”, age 13-16), and upper secondary school (“Videregående skole”, age 16-19). Both, elementary and lower secondary school is compulsory for all learners aged 6-16. Learners almost always have to change school when they enter lower secondary school and upper secondary school, as most schools only offer one of the levels.

When the learners enter lower secondary school, at age 12 or 13, they begin to get marks for their work. The scale is running from 1 through 6, with 6 being the highest and 2 the lowest passing grade.

III. Music Education in Schools

All learners have music as a subject in the compulsory school system every school year from 6 until 16. Kindergarten is not compulsory but it does provide music training. In primary school (years 1-7) at least 285 hours (60 minutes units) should be taught and for lower secondary school (years 8-10) 85 hours. The municipalities fund primary and lower secondary education and have a great deal of freedom when it comes to organising the education. For example they are allowed to decide not to have music all of the years but to make a free distribution of hours between the years.

The organisation and the content of music as a compulsory subject is the result of a major national curriculum reform project starting in the mid-1990s. The objectives and the areas of study within the music curriculum are organized around forms of activity: making music, dancing, composing and listening, and modes of cognition: experiencing and understanding. There is no clear dividing line between the forms of activity and the modes of cognition; they interlock and supplement and support one another.

Approximately 20% of the learners between ages 6 and 16 have instrumental and vocal training in music and culture schools, for the most part outside school hours, but also as an integrated and added elective of a normal school day. Music or culture schools are compulsory by law in every municipality. From ages 16-19 young learners can choose music as an important elective within the upper secondary school system. The number of upper secondary schools providing this option has been rising in all regions during the nineties.

At the tertiary level learners can study music as part of teacher education, as preparation for a performing career, as a scientific study programme, and a number of other ways.

IV. Music Curricula

The Ministry of Education has laid down the curriculum for the 10-year compulsory school, see here. The subjects have been structured into main subject areas for which competence aims have been formulated. These main subject areas supplement each other and must be considered together. Satisfying a learning target in one area also gives competence in the others. For music the following three areas is formulated: music making and dancing, composing and listening.

Subject-related Objectives for the Primary Stage (grades 1-4)

Music making and dancing
Pupils should learn songs and dances in different genres and traditions and practise singing and playing. They should gain confidence in their own singing and speaking voices and in singing, playing and dancing in musical and social interaction.

Pupils should be able to explore and play with sounds, texts and movement and compose simple forms in those materials. They should experience and understand that music can be made in different ways and gain confidence in their own creative abilities.

Pupils should learn to listen actively in various situations. Through their own active use of various modes of expression, pupils should show that they are gaining in experience and understanding. They should develop the ability to listen with interest and in awe, to live and recorded music, and show that they understand that music can affect us in various ways.

Subject-related Objectives for the Intermediate Stage (grades 5–7)

Music making and dancing
Through a wide-ranging introduction to our song and dance culture, pupils should learn to sing, play and dance with pleasure and feeling. They should develop and cultivate their ability to make music and dance alone and together with others.

Pupils should learn how musical ideas can be developed into simple structures and practice communicating them to others. They should develop their creativity by composing music and dances and gain confidence in presenting their own works.

Pupils should develop the ability to distinguish between the main elements of music and become familiar with different musical effects. Through their encounters with music, musicians and dancers, they should become acquainted with music from different times and places and develop the ability to listen with empathy and concentration. They should examine their own and others’ experiences and opinions of different forms of musical expression and show their knowledge of music in a variety of expressive activities.

Learners’ Achievements After Year 10

Making music

·       Use the basic elements of music, symbols for figures and chord progressions when playing an instrument

·       Choose the expression and presentation form when making music and give grounds for the choices

·       Rehearse and perform a repertoire of music and dance from different genres with the emphasis on rhythmic music

·       Use relevant professional terms when presenting work with selected music


·       Improvise on existing musical material as inspiration for his or her own composition

·       Write down self composed music using graphic or traditional notation

·       Create dance expressions based on the character of the music

·       Use digital recording equipment and music software to manipulate sounds and put together his or her own compositions

·       Elaborate on copyright rules in connection with the use of music


·       Recognise and describe musical styles from improvised music and rhythmic music

·       Discuss special characteristics of rhythmic music, art music and Norwegian, Sami and other cultures' music and elaborate on personal music preferences

·       Recognise and name various instruments and ensembles from various genres

·       Express and present reflection upon music as a form of art and expression and as consumer goods and entertainment

·       Elaborate on how music reflects features of social development and youth culture and how this may be expressed through various forms of rhythmic music, art music and Norwegian, Sami and other cultures' music

V. Critical Comment and Future Development

The ministry of research and education has implemented a strategic plan for 2007-2010 named “Creative Learning – Art and Culture in Education”. The overall objective of the plan is to develop competence in arts and culture, aesthetics and creativity among learners, pupils, learners and staff in kindergartens, primary and secondary education and higher education.