The most prevalent form of handwriting used in primary education is the stavskrift, an unlooped modern cursive style popularized by J. A. Arnesen and S. N. Moriggi in 1973.
Norway’s education system is mostly state-funded and administered by local or regional municipalities. With compulsory school education from ages six to sixteen, the system is divided into three stages: barneskole, or primary school (grades 1–7, 6–13 years old), ungdomsskole, or lower secondary school, (grades 8–10, 13–16 years old), and videregående skole, or upper secondary school (grades VG1–VG3, 16–19 years old). The main language of instruction is Norwegian. English is a mandatory foreign language from first grade, and lower secondary schools also offer at least one other elective foreign language, such as Spanish, German or French.
Utdanningsdirektoratet, or the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (UDIR), the executive agency for Kunnskapsdepartementet, or the Ministry of Education and Research, is responsible for the development of kindergarten and primary and secondary education. The national curriculum, Kunnskapsløftet, is set by the UDIR. The Framework for Basic Skills, published by the UDIR in 2012, only specifies that students should have “functional handwriting.” Its focus is on the use of writing for expression, rather than the methods and models used for handwriting teaching, for which it provides no recommendations.
Currently, the most prevalent form of handwriting in education is the stavskrift. It is an unlooped modern cursive style, which borrows elements from continuous cursive writing. Students are taught uppercase and lowercase letters in trykkskrift, a simplified print script, in the first grade. In the middle of the second or beginning of the third grade, they are introduced to stavskrift, and they learn joining strokes between letters. This path may vary at the discretion of the teacher or the school, but in fourth grade (10 years old) students are expected to have well-formed and legible handwriting with a certain degree of fluency.
Traditional publishers in Norway, such as Cappelen Damm AS and H. Aschehoug & Co., produce books for teaching handwriting with two cursive models — stavskrift, and løkkeskrift, which was popular in the 20th century, and taught in schools until recently. Løkkeskrift is a looped cursive styles, based on English Roundhand.
Towards a semi-joined cursive
The current approach to handwriting teaching in Norway finds its roots in developments from the 1970s.
In 1973, typographer and calligrapher Jakob Rask Arnesen (1918–2008), a production manager in the schoolbook department at H. Aschehoug & Co., teamed up with pedagogist Sigrun Nygaard Moriggi to publish two series of books for handwriting instruction — Skriftforming and Skrift ABC. These books instructed students in two styles of writing, namely løkkeskrift, or loop script; and stavskrift, or cursive script. Both series became widely used, with Skriftforming being prevalent for about twenty-five years, and the most recent edition of Skrift ABC being edited as late as 2018.
The handwriting styles popularised by Arnesen and Moriggi supplanted formskrift, or cursive script, which had been used in Norway since 1947, when it was approved by the Kirke- og undervisningsdepartementet, or the Royal Ministry of Church and Education Affairs, for teaching in primary schools. Formskrift was developed by Alvhild Bjerkenes (1907–1981), who based it on simplified italic models from England, mainly the semi-joined cursive style of Marion Richardson (1892–1946), as shown in her book, Writing & Writing Patterns (1935).
Two years after the publication of Arnesen and Moriggi’s books, in 1975, the Grunnskolerådet, or the Primary School Council, laid down new guidelines for teaching handwriting. These guidelines recommended that students would first be taught trykkskrift, or simplified unjoined letters, and then in a second stage, they would learn how to write in cursive using both løkkeskrift and stavskrift. Students continued to learn løkkeskrift and stavskrift until recently, while educators debated which of the two approaches was more suitable.
Latest editions of the national curriculum (1997, 2006, and 2020) emphasise the need for students to have coherent and functional handwriting, without specifying how they should be taught or using what models. As a result of the growing focus on allowing students to develop their own personal handwritings, løkkeskrift has fallen out of favour, and today, only stavskrift is dominant in handwriting instruction.