Music Education in Schools (SE)

Municipalities fund primary and secondary education and have a great deal of freedom when it comes to organising the distribution of curriculum. So for example music could be taught in some years but not in others. At primary school, over nine years, music should be taught for at least 230 hours (out of a total of guaranteed hours of instruction of 6,665).

From the 7th to the 9th year of compulsory school, pupils may choose to join classes with a special emphasis on music. Besides continuing their general education, they will also receive lessons in singing and playing instruments, ensemble playing and music theory. There also exist a few schools, which offer extended music education at the lower compulsory school levels. Schools with special emphasis on music usually have entrance exams.

At upper secondary school level, pupils can choose to join an arts programme with music. They will, besides continuing their general education, receive tuition in singing and/or playing instruments and also have lessons in ensemble playing, ear training, music theory and choral singing. This programme prepares students for continuation into higher music education. However, the pupils also receive a general exam so that they may continue into other forms of higher education. Even the arts programmes of upper secondary school usually have entrance exams.

After finishing upper secondary school many pupils with a special interest in music will attend a people’s college with a music programme for one or two years to prepare for the entrance exams at the university schools of music.

It should be mentioned that Sweden has a well-developed system of municipal music and arts schools. In 2013 as many as 278 Swedish municipalities had such schools, and only twelve municipalities are without one. Out of the population of nine million people the schools have 363.000 pupils. This makes Sweden top of Europe, after Lichtenstein.  The municipal music and arts schools offer music education (and often also education in for instance dance, drama, visual arts and the media) for children and youngsters at a reasonable cost. Pupils are allowed to enter municipal music and arts schools from approximately the third year of compulsory school until they leave the upper secondary school. They will typically receive one lesson per week on their instrument and have opportunities to participate in ensemble playing. The teaching takes place during school time (the students are then allowed to leave their ordinary lessons) or after school. Often, teachers employed at the municipal music and arts schools will also work as music teachers within the compulsory school system, and hence meet the students on various arenas.

Political Framework

The Kingdom of Sweden is considered a parliamentary representative democratic constitutional monarchy, with the seat of government in the capital city, Stockholm. Sweden consists of 21 counties (“län”), which are subdivided into 290 municipalities (“kommuner”).

School System

The basic regulations for the compulsory school are set out in the Education Act and The Swedish National Agency for Education. Through the curriculum the government and parliament lay down the fundamental values that are to permeate the school’s activities and the goals and guidelines that are to be applied. Apart from these regulations governing the activity of the school, there are also the curricula. These are binding regulations containing the requirements the state imposes on education in different subjects.

Swedish municipalities have an obligation to provide preschool activities for children from the age of one until they start school. Attendance at Primary school (“grundskolan”) is compulsory and lasts nine years from the age of 7-16. However, if the parents wish, a child can start school one year earlier, at the age of six. Upper secondary school (gymnasium) is optional but nowadays most Swedish youngsters attend for three years from the age of 16-19. Between these ages pupils can follow one of two pathways, one, which prepares for higher education and the other is vocationally centred. After upper secondary school students can apply to a university in order to receive a tertiary education.

Grades are set using a national grading scale of six grades. According to the 2010 Education Act, Swedish grades are awarded A, B, C, D, E and F – where A-E are passing grades and F a fail. The grade should express to what extent the pupil has met the knowledge requirements stated for each subject and course. Knowledge requirements exist for all subjects at compulsory school and all courses at upper-secondary school. The knowledge requirements outline what is necessary for acceptable knowledge, and for different grades. Pupils will get graded in the 6th-9th year in all subjects and in the 7th year when it comes to language.


For the compulsory school, the Government determines the school’s fundamental values and tasks, the overall goals and guidelines for the education, and the ordinances for the curricula. The knowledge requirements for the compulsory school are regulations drawn up by the National Agency for Education.

Teaching in music should aim at helping the pupils to develop knowledge which makes it possible to participate in musical contexts, both where they play and listen to music. Teaching should give the pupils the opportunities to acquire music as a form of expression and means of communication. Through teaching, pupils should be given the opportunity to develop knowledge in using their voices, musical instruments, digital tools and musical concepts and symbols in different musical forms and contexts.

Teaching should give pupils the opportunities to develop sensitivity to music which makes it possible together with others to create, work on and share music in different forms. Teaching should give pupils both the opportunity to develop confidence in their own ability to sing and play, and also an interest in developing their musical creativity.

Through teaching pupils should develop the ability to experience and reflect over music. Pupil’s experiences of music should be challenged and deepened through their interaction with musical experiences of others. In this way, teaching should contribute to pupils developing their knowledge about and gaining an understanding of different musical cultures, both their own and others’.

Teaching in music should essentially give pupils the opportunities to develop their ability to:

• Play and sing in different musical forms and genres

• Create music as well as represent and communicate their own musical thinking and ideas, and

• Analyse and discuss musical expressions in different social, cultural and historical contexts.

Core content in years 1-9 are subsided under the following headlines:

• Playing and creating music

• Tools of music

• Context and functions of music

Knowledge requirements for grade A at the end of year 6

Pupils can participate in singing together and follow with certainty rhythm and pitch. Pupils can also play a simple adapted melody, base or percussion tune and accompany on a chord instrument and change chords with ease. In addition, pupils sing or play an instrument with good timing and in an appropriate style.

Pupils, based on their own musical ideas, can create music by using voice, instruments or digital tools and start from one simple musical patterns and forms and see how these can be put together and in major parts work as a composition.

Pupils can apply well developed reasoning to their own and others’ music making. Pupils can also express in a well developed way their own musical experiences and describe and give examples of how music can influence people. In addition, pupils can with good certainty distinguish and give examples of the characteristic features of music from different genres and cultures, and with good certainty give examples of instruments from different groups of instrument.

Knowledge requirements for grade A at the end of year:

Pupils can participate in singing together and follow with good certainty rhythm and pitch. Pupils can also play simple melodies, bass and percussion tunes with good timing, and accompany a chord instrument in an appropriate style and change chords with good ease. Pupils adapt their voices well to the whole by listening and to a high degree observe what is happening when making music. In addition, pupils sing or play an instrument in a genre with well functioning technique and in an appropriate style. Pupils can then work on and transform the music into a personal musical expression.

Pupils, on the basis of their own musical ideas, can create music by using voice, instruments or digital tools and explore and see how different combinations of musical building blocks can form compositions which have a functional form and an appropriate style. In addition, pupils can combine music with other forms of expression so that they interact well.

Pupils can also make well developed assessments of their own and others’ music making and make suggestions that lead to the development of the music. Pupils can apply well developed and well informed reasoning to the different functions of music, the importance it has and historically has had for individuals and society. In addition, pupils can with good certainty distinguish and compare characteristic features of music from different genres, epochs and cultures, and with good certainty distinguish between different instruments and groups of instruments, and describe their functions in different contexts.