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More than 25% of pupils in Iceland in compulsory education received special support

Staff writer |
During the school year 2014-2015, 12,263 pupils received some kind of special education or support, or 28.4% of all pupils.

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That is an increase of 60 pupils from the previous year. Never before has a greater number of pupils received special support since Statistics Iceland started its data collection on special education in 2004-2005.

However, the proportion of pupils who received support was slightly higher in 2013-2014, 28.6%. Of pupils receiving special support 61.5% were boys and 38.5% were girls.

The number of pupils with a foreign mother tongue receiving support for learning Icelandic has increased by 64.6% in five years to 2,374 pupils in 2014-2015, around 900 fewer than the number of pupils with a foreign mother tongue.

During the school year 2014-2015, 49,054 teaching hours per week were used for special education and support in compulsory schools. The number of hours has never been greater since Statistics Iceland started collecting these data for the school year 2004-2005.

There were 18,586 teaching hours undertaken by special education teachers (37.9%) and 30,468 by assistant teachers (62.1%).

The share of hours taught by special education teachers has decreased in recent years. It was greatest during the school year 2004-2005, 43.6% of all hours used for special education and support.

The number of pupils learning foreign languages in compulsory education has increased year by year and more younger pupils learn foreign languages. In 2014-2015 81.5% of pupils learned a foreign language, more than ever before since data collection started for the school year 1999-2000.

English is the first foreign language taught in compulsory schools and also the most commonly learned language. During the school year 2014-2015, 35,388 pupils learned English in compulsory schools, 82% of pupils; an increase of 1.1 percentage points from the previous year.

English lessons usually start in grade 4 but English is frequently taught in grades 1-3. Last school year 6,282 pupils in grades 1-3 studied English, or almost half of the pupils (46.4%) in these grades (6-8 years old). A decade earlier, 506 pupils in these grades learned English, or 4.0%.

Most pupils in Iceland start learning Danish in grade 7, at the age of 12. A total of 1,559 pupils in grades 1-6 learned Danish in 2014-2015 (5.9%), an increase from 1,102 in the previous year (4.3%). The number of hours allocated to Danish has not increased but rather the hours are spread over more grades.

In many schools pupils who know Norwegian or Swedish can select those languages instead of Danish. Last school year a total of 118 pupils selected Swedish rather than Danish and 79 pupils learned Norwegian. The number of pupils learning Norwegian or Swedish has changed little in recent years.

The number of pupils in compulsory schools learning three foreign languages has decreased since their number was greatest during the school year 2001-2002, 1,656 pupils.

Last school year, 522 pupils in compulsory schools learned three foreign languages or more. The third foreign language is usually taught as an elective in Icelandic compulsory schools, usually at the lower secondary level.

Spanish has been the most popular third foreign language at the lower secondary level since 2007-2008. Last school year 253 pupils in grades 8-10 learned Spanish, 119 took French and 112 learned German.

The average number of school days for all grades in 2014-2015 was 179.1, which is an increase of 0.9 days from the previous school year.

The main reason for the increase was a one day’s teachers’ strike during the school year 2013-2014. According to the law on compulsory schools from 2008 the annual school period for pupils should not be shorter than 9 months. The number of pupils’ school days during the school year should not be fewer than 180.

During the school year 2014-2015 pupils in grades 1-10 received a total of 340.6 lessons per week. The total weekly instruction time increased by 0.4 instruction hours on average since the school year 2013-2014.

On average, the legal requirement on the minimum number of weekly instruction hours was fulfilled for all grades.