Denmark has compulsory education. All children must receive a minimum of ten years of teaching. However, parents can choose whether their child should receive education in primary school, i.e. in public school or basic school, or whether they want to teach the child themselves.
Most children in Denmark begin their education in public school. Public school is free for all children and lasts 10 years. The children start in kindergarten when they are about six years old. Here, children learn letters and numbers. After kindergarten follows 1st – 9th grade.
A public school usually has three sections or stages: primary school from kindergarten through 3rd grade; middle school, from 4th to 6th grade; and lower secondary school, from 7th to 9th grade.
After the 9th grade, you can choose to continue with the 10th grade, before moving on to higher education or directly into
employment. 10th grade is optional, but about half of all students choose to include it. Some students attend the 10th grade at their own school, if it has a 10th grade. Others choose to attend the 10th grade at a boarding school, where they live and go to school with other young people.
The framework for public school is established in the Public School Law. Among the things covered by this law are the purpose of the education, the subjects taught, the number of hours students must attend, and the way collaboration with parents will take place.
The purpose of the public school is, in cooperation with the parents to give students the knowledge and skills to
• prepare them to educate themselves further and make them want to learn more
• familiarize them with Danish culture and history
• give them an understanding of other countries and cultures
• helps them to understand how man and nature affect each other.
An addition purpose of public school is for each student to develop in a multifaceted way. This means that the student should have not just academic knowledge, but develop personally and socially as well.
Public school must also teach children cooperation. For this reason, teaching is often structured for students to learn to work together in groups and solve problems through collaboration. The teaching also includes excursions and school camps with teachers. Here, the children learn new ways to work together and spend time with each other.
Students should also learn to think critically and independently. They must learn to defend their opinions. Therefore, in most subjects, the education provided ensures that students can discuss the material they learn, and understand it in relation to their everyday lives.
The public school must prepare students to share responsibility, rights and duties in a society based on freedom and democracy. For this reason, the school must be characterized by intellectual freedom, equality and democracy. Often the students are taught these values within the subjects of history, Danish, and social studies. Most schools have a student council. A student council consists of one student from each class. The student council is primarily helps to determine issues that are part of the students’ own school day, such as the food in the cafeteria. The school may also ask the student council’s opinion on major decisions at the school such as the remodeling of a new school library. Two representatives from the student council are also on the school board.
The Ministry of Education has set some common goals for the curriculum of all subjects, and all teachers are required to achieve these goals. Teachers often work in teams, i.e. they work together in groups. For example, a team may work together on how to teach certain classes or how to solve problems in education.
Students are generally divided into classes, and each class has one or more teachers who are responsible for contact with students, parents, class, other teachers and school management. In some schools, you may switch teacher when you get to the middle school level, and again at the lower secondary level. Students often have the same classmates throughout their school life.
The individual teacher must make a student plan, which is the teacher’s assessment of how the student is doing academically in a subject. The main teacher will also assess how the student is doing socially, i.e. how well the student works together with other students and with teachers. In the student plan, the teacher also describes what the student needs to focus on in the coming year.
If a student needs special help, such as in reading or math, the school offers lessons that are tailored specially to the needs of the student. The student can get help either in class or possibly in a special support center at the school, but the student must always study the same subjects and topics and learn the same material as the rest of the class.
If a student needs special support for more than 12 school hours per week, the student must be offered special education, where the student is taught with other students who may need to be taught in ways that are different from the ones used in class. Special education must be organized, so students make it through the same subjects and topics as in their regular classes.
In the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, all students must be tested in various subjects. The aim is to test how each student is doing academically. These tests are called the national tests. Testing is done for
• Danish/reading (2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th grades) • Mathematics (3rd and 6th grades)
• English (7th grade)
• Physics/Chemistry (8th grade) • Biology (8th grade)
• Geography (8th grade)
Students can also take a test in Danish as a second language. The test in Danish as a second language is optional and targets the 5th and 7th grades, but you can also take the test at other grade levels.
If it is discovered that some students have problems with one or more subjects, these students need extra help to improve. The results of the tests can also be used to see how the class and the school is doing compared to students and schools in the rest of the country.
From kindergarten through 7th grade, children receive no grades in public school. However, from the 8th grade public school students are graded on a number of subjects at least twice a year. 9th grade students are tested in many subjects. After the 10th grade, students can also take tests in many subjects. Tests can be both oral and written.
Students are graded. The grading scale used in Denmark is called the 7- point scale. The highest score is 12, and the lowest grade is -3. The 7- point scale is used everywhere in the Danish education system.
Cooperation between school and home is an important part of the task in the public school. The goal of the collaboration is to support student learning. Studies of learning show that students learn better, when they go home and talk about what they are learning in school, and when school ensures that parents know what is going on at school.
Most schools invite parents at least once a year for an interview with the child’s teachers. These are called school-home conferences. In high school, students are usually involved in the conversation. At the school-home conferences, the child’s teacher or teachers speak with the parents and possibly the child about
• how the child is doing socially in class
• what the child’s academic level is
• the student plan, and what to focus on in the coming months • any help the parents can provide, if there are problems.
A school-home conference usually lasts about 15 minutes. Some schools employ a home-school counselor, who may be a teacher or an educator, for example. The home-school counselor’s role is to strengthen the dialogue and the cooperation between school and home in order to strengthen students academically and socially.
Parent meetings and class council
In most schools, parent meetings are held once or twice a year. The teachers explain how they have planned the school year and how work is done in the class. At parent meetings they also discuss rules parents want to apply in the classroom, for example, regarding birthdays, lunches or well-being in the class.
At parent meetings, a class council can also be chosen. A class council has multiple tasks. The members can organize class parties or camps; they can deal with social problems in class, if there are children who are being bullied; or they can ensure that, for example, criticism of conditions at the school are brought before the school board.
The School Board
Every public school must have a school board. As a minimum, a school board consists of representatives for parents, staff and students. The parents constitute the majority of the school board. The school board determines, among other things, how parental cooperation will take place. The school board may also help determine how the money for education to be used, for example whether to put extra money into reading or special education.
School board elections are held every 4 years, and all parents of children at the school are eligible to vote
Free elementary and continuation schools
About 82% of children of each class attend public school. About 15% of children attend independent private schools (such as religious private schools or private schools).
Independent Elementary Schools
Independent elementary schools are independent institutions that may be, for instance, Christian (e.g. Catholic) or Muslim. These may also be schools experimenting with unconventional teaching methods. For instance, you can group the teaching on various subjects so that you learn Danish for a period of time, German in a different period, and math in a third. Especially in the big cities, more and more parents send their children to independent elementary schools. A number of independent elementary schools are established in areas where a public school was previously closed down*. The teaching in independent elementary schools must match the general requirement of public schools.
Usually you have to pay for your child to attend an independent elementary school. Most independent elementary schools receive financial support from the public.
In the 8th, 9th, or 10th grade, young people may choose to go to a boarding school. A boarding school is a school where students live and get their education. In 8th grade only a very small part of a class will choose to go to a boarding school. In 9th grade, approx. 13% of a class will choose to go to a boarding school, while about 42% choose to attend the 10th grade at a boarding school.
In continuation schools, the students study common subjects, such as Danish, English, math, and physical education. Moreover, they can choose a number of elective courses, such as drama, music, electronics, IT, or cooking. The elective courses vary from school to school, and they are often creative or practical subjects. Many young people choose to go to a boarding school to try something new, meet new classmates and try to leave home for a while, and maybe think about what they will do for their continuing education.
Going to a continuation school costs money. It is, however, possible to get financial support for a stay under special circumstances.