Too cool for school

Lisa Skogsøy, School News Reporter

What is the biggest difference between the U.S. and Norway?

    I have gotten this question a lot since I came here, and I have explained it several times. I figured it was time to write it down for others who would like to know.

    Perhaps you’re thinking, “It can’t be that different, right? I mean, school is school no matter where you go.” Well, that notion is partially correct. School is school, but there are a lot of ways to go about doing it. In Norway, we start first grade when we are five or six years old. We don’t have preschool or kindergarten, so when children are about nine months old, they go to daycare while parents are working.

    We have ten obligatory years of school, and after tenth grade we graduate. There are no private schools from first to tenth grade, and you are not allowed to drop out. You are probably wondering what happened to the 11th and 12th year, or maybe you are thinking, “Oh lucky, they get to skip two years.” WRONG. After tenth grade you have the choice to either get a job (but the only thing you are qualified for is a job at the grocery store), or go to “Vidregående” school that is 11th grade to 13th grade. Jepp, you got it right, I said 13th grade. Or of you go to vocational school then you’re done after your 12th year.

    If you want to go to University, you need to take something called (translated) college prep. You can choose what you want to focus on: either math and science, history and social studies, or language arts and social studies. I am taking language arts and social studies. I still have math and history and stuff, but my program subjects (language arts and social studies) take up most of my hours.  

    The biggest difference between American high school and Norwegian schools are the periods. On my first day of school here I was so confused. Why are all these people walking the hallways? It was so chaotic, and I had no idea where I was supposed to go, or how to get there. In Norway, we go to the same classroom all day with the same people. We go to our lockers between classes, but we always go back to the same classroom. Instead of the kids changing classrooms, the teachers change classrooms. Also, we can have a subject for longer than one period. For example, last year on Mondays I had school from 8:30 am until 3:30 pm, and the last three periods I had math. On Tuesday, I had school from 8:30 am until 2:00 pm with two free periods in the middle of the day, and I had Norwegian in the morning and gym in the afternoon that day.

This is an example of a normal 11th grade schedule:

    Another difference between American high school and Norwegian school is the grading system. In the U.S. it is fairly easy to get an A, as you just need to do your homework. And if you get a bad grade, you can fix it by doing extra credit work. In Norway our grade is not measured by points. We have a grading scale from 6-1 where 6 is an A and 1 is an F. Extra credit does not exist. If you get a C on a test, it is written in stone. At the end of the year, the teachers find the average of our grades. The tests in America are also way easier. In Norway, multiple choice tests are almost nonexistent.

    At the end of the year, we get drafted for exams. It is the biggest fear of all Norwegian students because on our transcript, there is all our averages and on the side, is a very visible exam grade. So, if you screw up on your exam, it can ruin your entire transcript. The exams are also very different from American exams. They are not set up like a big test. You can get oral or written exams. On written exams, you have five hours to write a long essay. If it’s math however, then it’s like a long test. When we get drafted, everybody hopes not to get Norwegian because we have two written languages, so we would have to do two separate exams. Somehow, it’s harder to get a good grade because the expectations are so high.

    There are several more differences between the two school systems, but I think that that roughly sums up the major differences. (We don’t have a bell by the way, the teachers have that job).

    And this is what’s gonna shock you the most… I am doing this school year… all for fun. I get no credit for this year. Peace out.