Small island schools perform well


Karl Jan Solstad

Last week, the Nordic Council archipelago cooperation arranged a seminar on the topic of small island schools. One of the speakers was Norwegian professor emeritus Karl Jan Solstad, who presented his research from Vågan, a municipality among the Lofoten islands in Nordland Region, northern Norway.

Map of Nordland Region in Norway with its municipalities, Vågan is no 40, marked in yellow

Norwegian municipalities are eventually closing small schools and transporting pupils by bus to larger schools. The tendency is that the size of schools closed down is getting bigger, and relatively, more of these schools are situated further away from the new school to which the pupils are transferred.Providing a better education is the reason given by politicians, in spite of strong local mobilization against closure.

Vågan has some 9,000 residents and nine schools in grades 1-10 with 1,063 pupils 2015-16. Two schools are large (having many pupils): Kabelvåg (327) and Svolvaer (544). The remaining seven are considered small: Digermulen (19), Gimsøy (18), Hennningsvaer (52), Laukvik (45), Laupstad (20), Skrova (13), Sydal (26).

Professor Solstad shows the feelings about and arguments for and against small schools of headmasters and teachers, parents and pupils. Most astonishing, he shows that the results of pupils in small schools are better than in large schools.


Results from National  8th grade, 2014-15 and 2015-16, Reading, Mats and English, All of Vågan, the two large schools (Svovaer and Kabelvåg) and the “small schools, arithmetic average and number of pupils.

The report from Vågan can be found here and his presentation from last weeks lecture is streamed here (it starts at 1:44).

Professor Solstad’s presentation was mindblowing but there were other, most interesting presentations including distance learning in the Åland Islands (presented by Kaj Törnroos) (42:00), “Understanding the big in the small” by Gunilla Karlberg-Granlund (1:25) and Lena Möllersten’s work as a networking headmaster of small schools in the Stockholm archipelago.


Kaj Törnroos


Gunilla Karlberg-Granlund


Lena Möllersten

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