In Norway the education system is divided into four parts:
(1) Elementary school (Barneskole, age 6-13)
(2) Lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, age 13-16)
(3) Upper secondary school (Videregående skole, age 16-19)
(4) Higher education
First two parts are obligatory in Norway, so if upper secondary school is optional, but usually chooses by students due to recent changes to society – few jobs available for the age group. What is interesting in Norwegian education system is the lower age limit to start your school – 6 age and from this time basic English is introduced. Upper secondary school gives you a chance to apply for general studies (studiespesialisering) or a vocational studies (yrkesfag) path. Typical courses in this studies are Norwegian, mathematics, natural sciences, English, IT and social studies as well as the languages German, French and Spanish. In vocational studies there are more maths and physics. Students graduating general studies are called Russ in Norwegian. Most of them choose to celebrate with lots of parties and festivities, which, impractically, take place a few weeks before the final examinations of the final year. I blame them for making noise during the nights when it is a typical sleeping time for me! Anyway, they enjoy a lot of parties which socially accepted.
Higher education is broadly divided into:
(1) Universities, which 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.
(2) University colleges (høyskole), which supply a wide range of educational choices, including university bachelor degrees, engineering degrees and professional vocations like teacher and nurse. The grade system is the same as it is for universities.
(3) Private schools, which tend to specialize in popular subjects with limited capacity in public schools, such as business management, marketing or fine arts. 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.
My school, BI Norwegian School of Management is the private university college and it was established in 1943 as a merchant school. Nowadays, it is the largest business school in Norway and the second largest in all of Europe (around 20 000 students). BI has a wide range of international activities both in Norway and abroad, this year around 300 foreign students are participating exchange studies. The School`s aim is to contribute to value creation and the growth of entrepreneurship by conducting high-quality research and offering educational programs of high quality and relevance. I can truly accept that they provide a high quality programs, especially in financial economics, which is a field I study here. I have taken a least five courses here, which is by most my colleagues here regarded as too much. However, I really appreciate the time spend with my professional teachers and good students on Multivariate Statistics and Econometrics, Applied Valuation, Multinational Financial Management, Investments and Advanced Corporate Finance. These courses give me a brilliant insight into financial economics, which is a bit different discipline from management and quantitative methods and IT systems I used to study in Poland. Fabulous teachers of these courses with their natural ability of efficient teaching encourage me to turn my career in financial direction and develop my skills through international certificates.
The things I like the most in Norwegian business studies:
(1) Professional teachers. I know I’m talking about this all the time, but this is truth. Most of the teachers in BI are foreigners with professional and academic background. Some of them are graduates from Harvard Business School.
(2) Something I call ‘Harvardian style’ of education. This means that final grade is basing not only on final or midterm exam, but also on participation in classes and what is the most time-consuming and provides the most fun – team working on cases. I’m not talking about simple and individual cases that I would solve in one or two evenings as it usually happened in my home university. First time, I experienced a real team working here and spent not hours but days together with other exchange students solving these, not really difficult, but time – consuming cases. I’d like say thank you especially for people working with me during this semester – Aminata Vanessa vel Lease, Bernadka, Carine, Citlali, Larisa and Aly, Franck, Gaspare, Michel, Marius from Germany and Marius from Ivory Coast, Sebastien, Mateusz and also for all people I met in the library during this hot period. You are very helpful and the work with you is a pleasure. Moving back on to the ‘Harvardian style’, the participation in classes is grading not for ‘airtime’, but for active attendance in discussions, which may develop your communication skills. Teachers have a habit to ‘cold call’ someone from the class and ask him some question, so every time I supposed to come prepared to the classes.
(3) Relationships between teachers and students. These are really informal and there is nothing bad or untactful if I say ‘Hallo Ulf!’, he responds me ‘Hallo Lukasz!’. Teachers are really open and always help whenever I ask about something and they treat me on the same level with Norwegian students and with themselves.
(4) Responsibility for all your activities. Every step you do in this school is depends on you, I mean I feel more responsible for my decision. The rules are clear here, so if I don’t participate in the course I may fail it. If I fail the course I will have to retake it in the next semester after fee payment. If I am late on classes I may not get inside and I will lose my presence during the course. People in Norwegian administration are very polite and helpful but restrictive, which is exactly opposite to Polish administration. So, I learnt a responsibility for my decisions easily.
The things I dislike the most in Norwegian business studies:
(1) Too much latitude among Norwegian students. In my opinion they are not serious during the classes, because they usually eat or chew snus, wear caps and place their legs wherever they want! When they have a presentation they keep their hands in the pockets and don’t restrict the rules of an excellent presentation. This was a bit shocking to me at the beginning, but later I just react with smiling, because I know that I have grown in different society and environment. Moreover, teachers never complain.
(2) Cost, cost, cost. Starting with xerocopies through cases and in books finishing. Yes, in Norway students buy books, which are very expensive (between 400 and 1000NOK). In library there are usually only three the same books including one you can borrow only for one day, ridiculous! Cases more often come from Harvard Business School, so in purpose to download them or just get an access, we are obliged to pay in dollars. At the beginning I was in even bigger shock, but finally we found an idea to share costs among team workers.
(3) Too much formalism. I’m considering mainly exams. Exams are conducted in different places located randomly in Oslo City, which is really inconvenient for exchange students, who don’t know Oslo at all. During the exam I am not allowed to use any other calculator than Texas calculator approved by BI. By the way, this calculator costs 500NOK, good luck! Finally, there aren’t retake exams, so if you fail or miss any exam, you will have to retake the whole course in the next semester, which obviously costs money.
At the end I want to mention about more differences between Polish and Norwegian education. In Norway it is quite popular to take a Master degree after gaining some working experience, so some students on my Master level are much older than me. In Poland it is not very popular and common, maybe because Bolonian system (distinction between Bachelor and Master level) is recent there. Grading system is absolutely different form system I know. In Norway we have grades from F (fail) through E, D, C (pass on average), B to A (excellent). There are often less courses during the semester, recommended is to take five of them, because in each course there is a hard workout. The classes last 3 hours each, which is enough to get bored ;)