Upper secondary school (gymnasium), years 10–12 is optional in Sweden. There are eighteen regular national programmes of three years to choose from, six of which are preparatory for higher education such as university, and twelve of which are vocational. The Education Act prescribes that access to upper secondary education in Sweden is to be free of charge, irrespective of geographic residence and social and economic conditions. Students are to have access to books and study materials at no cost.
Participation in upper secondary education is therefore very high, as almost every young person starts upper secondary education. Education in schools is to be equivalent. The main task is to provide all students with sufficient knowledge in order to manage future studies and working life. For students with intellectual disabilities and who find it difficult to participate in ordinary teaching, upper secondary schools for people with intellectual disabilities are available.
According to the Curriculum for upper secondary school, the main tasks of the upper secondary school are to impart knowledge and to create the preconditions for students to acquire and develop their knowledge. Education should support the development of students into responsible persons who actively participate in and contribute to professional and societal life. Further on, the school should impart the more unvarying forms of knowledge that constitute the common frame of reference in society that is based on fundamental democratic values and the human rights we all share. Students should also be able to orient themselves in a complex reality and a rapidly changing world.
Preventing early leaving from education has been a priority for the Government the last years, and a number of initiatives have taken place, presented in the section 6.3.