Norway

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Norway is in the top rank of nations in the number of books printed per capita, even though Norwegian is one of the world’s smallest language groups. Norway is one of the world’s richest countries in per capita terms. It has an important stake in promoting a liberal environment for foreign trade. A small country with a high dependence on international trade, Norway is basically an exporter of raw resource semi processed goods, with an abundance of small and medium sized firms, and is ranked among the major shipping nations. The country is richly endowed with natural resources such as oil, hydropower, fish, forests and minerals and is highly dependent on its petroleum sector.

Area: 323,802 sq km
Population: 4,676,305
Religion: Church of Norway 85.7%, Pentecostal 1%, Roman Catholic 1%, other Christian 2.4%, Muslim 1.8%, other 8.1%
Languages: Bokmal Norwegian (official), Nynorsk Norwegian (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking minorities
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Capital: Oslo
Currency: Krone

Background

Two centuries of Viking raids into Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity by King Olav Tryggvason in 994. Conversion of the Norwegian kingdom occurred over the next several decades. In 1397, Norway was absorbed into a union with Denmark that lasted more than four centuries. In 1814, Norwegians resisted the cession of their country to Sweden and adopted a new constitution. Sweden then invaded Norway but agreed to let Norway keep its constitution in return for accepting the union under a Swedish king. Rising nationalism throughout the 19th century led to a 1905 referendum granting Norway independence. Although Norway remained neutral in World War I, it suffered heavy losses to its shipping. Norway proclaimed its neutrality at the outset of World War II, but was nonetheless occupied for five years by Nazi Germany (1940-45). In 1949, neutrality was abandoned and Norway became a member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway’s economic fortunes. The current focus is on containing spending on the extensive welfare system and planning for the time when petroleum reserves are depleted. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the EU.

Economy

The Norwegian economy is a prosperous bastion of welfare capitalism, featuring a combination of free market activity and government intervention. The government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector, through large-scale state enterprises. The country is richly endowed with natural resources – petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals – and is highly dependent on its oil production and international oil prices, with oil and gas accounting for one-third of exports. Only Saudi Arabia and Russia export more oil than Norway. Norway opted to stay out of the EU during a referendum in November 1994; nonetheless, as a member of the European Economic Area, it contributes sizably to the EU budget. The government has moved ahead with privatization. Although Norwegian oil production peaked in 2000, natural gas production is still rising. Norwegians realize that once their gas production peaks they will eventually face declining oil and gas revenues; accordingly, Norway has been saving its oil-and-gas-boosted budget surpluses in a Government Petroleum Fund, which is invested abroad and now is valued at more than $250 billion. Domestic economic activity is, and will continue to be, the main driver of growth, supported by high consumer confidence and strong investment spending in the offshore oil and gas sector.

Geography

Norway comprises the western part of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The rugged coastline, broken by massive fjords and thousands of islands, stretches over 25,000 km. Norway shares a 2,542 km land border with Sweden, Finland, and Russia to the east. To the west and south, Norway is bordered by the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, and Skagerak. The Barents Sea washes on Norway’s northern coasts. Much of the country is dominated by mountainous or high terrain, with a great variety of natural features caused by prehistoric glaciers and varied topography. The most noticeable of these are the fjords, deep grooves cut into the land flooded by the sea following the end of the Ice Age. Norway also contains many glaciers and waterfalls. Due to the Gulf Stream and prevailing westerlies, Norway experiences warmer temperatures and more precipitation than expected at such northern latitudes, especially along the coast. The mainland experiences four distinct seasons, with colder winters and less precipitation inland. There are large seasonal variations in daylight. In areas north of the Arctic Circle, the summer sun may never completely descend beneath the horizon, hence Norway’s description as the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” During summer, inhabitants south of the Arctic Circle still experience sunlight nearly 20 of the day’s 24 hours.

Culture

Both by virtue of governmental policy and public interest, cultural expression in Norway is taken very seriously. Many artists sustain their livelihood through grants and fellowships from the Norwegian government, and local and national governments are among the biggest buyers of art. The Norwegian cultural outlook is characterized by both a wish to be cosmopolitan and to be distinctly Norwegian. The growing cultural diversity in recent years has added impulses to the various cultural scenes. Regarding literature, Henrik Johan Ibsen (1828 – 1906) was the major Norwegian playwright largely responsible for the rise of modern realistic drama. He is often referred to as the “father of modern drama.” Ibsen is held to be the greatest of Norwegian authors and one of the most important playwrights of all time, celebrated as a national symbol by Norwegians. As in other countries, Norway has developed its own forms of popular, contemporary music. Since 2000, Norwegian popular music has generally been appearing on the international scene, initially through breakthroughs by Norwegian jazz and black metal artists, then followed by electronica and pop artists.

Education

Education in Norway is mandatory for all children aged 6-16. The school year in Norway runs from late August to mid June the coming year. The Christmas holiday from mid December to early January divides the Norwegian school year into two terms.

The Norwegian school system can be divided into three parts: Elementary school (Barneskole, age 6-13), lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, age 13-16), and upper secondary school (Videregående skole, age 16-19).

Elementary and lower secondary school are mandatory for all children aged 6-16. Before 1997, the mandatory education in Norway started at the age of 7. Students almost always change school when they enter lower secondary school and upper secondary school.

Videregående skole is 3 years of optional schooling, although recent changes to society (few jobs for 16-years olds) and law (government required by law of 1994 to offer secondary schooling in one form or another to everyone between 16 and 18 who submit the application form) has made it largely unavoidable in practice.

Secondary education in Norway is primarily based on public schools, and is attended by 96% of the students. Until 2005, Norwegian law held private secondary schools to be illegal unless they offered a ‘religious or pedagogic alternative’, meaning that the only private schools in existence were religious (Christian), Steiner/Waldorf and Montessori schools. The first “standard” private upper secondary schools opened in the fall of 2005.

Higher education is anything beyond upper secondary school, and normally lasts 3 years or more. To be accepted to most higher education you must have attained General Study Competency. This can be achieved by taking General Studies while in upper secondary school or through the law of 23/5 where a person must be above 23 years of age, have 5 years of combined schooling and work experience and have passed exams in Norwegian, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, English and Social studies. Some degrees also require special electives in 2nd and 3rd grade (eg. maths and physics for engineering studies.)

Higher education can be broadly divided into:

  • Universities, that concentrate on theoretical subjects (arts, humanities, natural science). Supplies bachelor (3 yrs), master (5 yrs) and PhD (8 yrs) titles. Universities also run a number of professional studies, including law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and psychology, but these are generally separate departments that have little to do with the rest of the university institution.
  • University colleges (høgskole), which supply a wide range of educations, including university bachelor degrees, engineering degrees and professional educations like teacher and nurse. Grades are the same as for universities.
  • Private schools, that tend to specialize in popular subjects with limited places in public schools, like business management, marketing or fine arts. Again, private schools do not loom large on the horizon, although the fraction of students attending private schools is 10% in higher education, compared to 4% in secondary and 1.5% in primary education.

Grading

Norway has and has had multiple different grading systems, both unique ones and ones that have been based on foreign grading systems. The formerly most common system of grades used at university level was based on a scale running from 1.0 (highest) through 6.0 (lowest), 4.0 being the lowest passing grade.

The way the new Bologna system was introduced implies that students who had started their studies while the old system still was in effect will graduate with transcripts containing grades from both systems (i.e. both numbers and letters).

Lower levels of education use a scale running from 1 through 6, with 6 being the highest and 2 the lowest passing grade. For non-final tests and mid-term evaluations the grades are often postfixed with + or – (except 6+ and 1-) and it is also common to use grades such as 5/6 or 4/3 indicating borderline grades. However, the grades students get on their final paper are either 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.

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