Daycare and schooling
Thoughts about schooling are probably at the top of your list for those who move to Iceland with children. Icelandic schools tend to be small (by many standards) and situated in neighborhoods where younger children (6-16) can walk to without having to cross major roads. There are no yellow school buses in Iceland!
Childcare is subsidized by the government and available to all children from the age of one. The cost is reduced at the age of two when children attend kindergarten/preschool (leikskóli) and is free after the age of six, when most children enter first grade (grunnskóli). Education is free in Iceland, up to the university-level (excluding registration costs). While immersing young foreign children in Icelandic schools can be a tough transition language-wise, they adjust reasonably quickly. There are also international educational options that charge tuition (see below).
Education in Hafnarfjörður Information about schooling is only available in Icelandic, choose "Íbúar," then "Skólar og börn."
Extracurricular activities in public schools are often subsidized for children aged 5/6-18 (starting on 1 January) with leisure grants (frístundastyrkur). Grants are on a municipal level. You are required to apply for activities in the same city or town as your registered domicile. Municipalities decide which activities are subsidized, and the total support per child. To apply for these grants, you must have access to the municipality's electronic system, which requires both an ID number (kennitala) and an electronic ID.
Hafnarfjörður (6-18) – information in Icelandic.
Seltjarnarnes – information in Icelandic.
Akureyri– information in Icelandic.
Selfoss - type in frístundastyrkur in the search bar.
There are a few school options that are tuition-based for those who are more comfortable learning English. These schools accommodate a range of ages and teaching methods and are located in the Reykjavík area:
- Hamrahlíð College (MH), a member of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). Ages 16-19.
- International School of Iceland, accredited MSS, CES, CIS. Kindergarten-10th grade (age 16).
- The International Department of Landakotsskóli, Cambridge International School. Kindergarten-10th grade (age 16).
Before the age of two, daycare services are provided by "day-parents or day-mothers" (dagforeldri or dagmamma). The service begins with six-months olds for single parents and nine-months-old for cohabitating or married couples. The service is subsidized but still costs about 70,000 ISK per month (including food and diapers). The exact price will depend on the specific daycare provider you choose and varies between neighborhoods. It is essential to apply for daycare well in advance since there are often long waiting lists. You are allowed to choose the one that you like the best and can ask to visit the facility before committing.
Kindergarten is available to all children from the age of two until they start primary school at age six. Some kindergartens accept children from the age of one. Kindergarten is cheaper than a dayparent, but the exact price depends on which city or municipality you live in. You can expect it to be between 25,000 – 35,000 ISK per month for 8 hours a day, five days a week (including food). Children can stay at kindergartens between 4 and 9.5 hours per day, it is up to the parents. There is a discount for siblings. Placing your child in a kindergarten is optional, mandatory schooling starts at six years old. Waiting lists can be long, so it is recommended that you apply in advance on your municipal website.
Primary school is mandatory in Iceland from ages six to sixteen. Children may purchase a "hot lunch" at school for a fee, or bring their own. Classes are taught in Icelandic, although there are English and Danish lessons as part of the curriculum. Students study all subjects during primary school and choose their specialization in secondary school/junior college. School applications are through your municipal website. Home-schooling is not allowed.
Schooling hours depend on the age of the child. Typically the school starts at 8:30 AM and ends at around 1:30 PM. However, there are supervised after school programs (Frístundaheimili) at the schools for 6 to 9-year-olds where children may stay until 5 PM. These are very popular and are city-subsidized and charge only a minimal amount.
There are many different types of secondary schools in Iceland. Most offer a three-year graduation track after primary school. These are either vocational schools or prepare students for university. While secondary schooling is not mandatory, most choose to attend. Students apply for secondary schools that fit their interests or career objectives. Secondary schools specialize in topics such as sciences, languages, or sociology; or practical training or apprenticeships for a particular job—for example, culinary arts, guiding, musician, mechanic, electrician, and plumbers.
Here is a list of all secondary schools in Iceland. They are organized by which part of the country they are located, "Landshluti" and "Höfuðborgarsvæðið," which means the capital region.
The only English language speaking program is the two-year Hamrahlíð College (MH), a member of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) located in Reykjavík.
There are seven universities in Iceland, with about 5% of the students comprised of foreigners. Attendance is usually not mandatory, and the school fees depend on the institution, with most being free or only charging minimal administrative costs. Most Icelanders live at home while attending university. Some of the universities are gradually adding to their student housing, which is more apartment-like than a dormitory.