Education system in Denmark

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Education is compulsory in Denmark i.e. making sure children receive teaching; however there is no obligation for parents to ensure children attend school. Consequently, a vast number of independent and free schools are available as an alternative to state schools in Denmark. Historically, in rural areas across Denmark, the church was responsible for educating children in reading and writing and children from towns and cities received basic education from schools. Various laws and legislation during the 18th century, by the Church and state, which aimed to educate children into literate Christians, led to the introduction of the idea of compulsory education for children.

Private elementary schools or local authority run ‘folkeskoles’ (folk education) which provide basic education for children from the age of 6 until 16. The first ‘nursery year’ of folkeskolen is not compulsory for pupils, although most children do attend it. The final 10th year is also voluntary, and provides pupils with the option of completing their examinations. Throughout this basic education, pupils are taught together, without streaming and are not graded, tested or examined until they reach the 8th grade.

According to the New National Education Act (1993), basic education schools are required to not only educate pupils about their own culture but also to appreciate others, and to teach them the importance of nature. One of the main principles of the Folkeskole is the idea that pupils should develop a social understanding. The third principle of Danish basic education states that pupils should be prepared for the roles they will play in a democratic, free and equal society by educating them about their responsibilities and rights (Citizen in Denmark).

Parents also have the option of paying to send children to Primary and Lower-Secondary private schools where different sets of beliefs and values are promoted than in state run schools.

As an alternative to the Lower-Secondary school (grades 8, 9 and 10) at the folkeskoles, pupils have the opportunity to attend continuation schools (efterskoler) from the ages of 14 – 18 for one or two years. As the efterskolers are residential, rural schools they give young people the opportunity to live away from home or have a break from municipal schooling. Although parents do have to contribute to the fees, grants are allocated so that all young people have a realistic choice in attending.

Education for pupils age 16+ is compulsory. Those pupils who wish to further their education can either complete a 2-3 year vocational training course (erhvervsuddannelse) or 3 year Academic Preparatory Education (Upper-Secondary Education) which can be general or vocationally orientated. The first of these options prepares students for the labour market or for higher education. In vocational and general Upper-Secondary Education, pupils complete the Studentereksamen (upper secondary school leaving examination) and can enter employment or Higher Education.

Higher education in Denmark is separated into short (up to 3 years), medium (3 – 4 years) and long (4 years plus) courses. Comparing Denmark’s Higher Education structure with that of the UK, short term courses compare to our HNC/HND equivalents, Medium courses to our BSc and BA degrees, and Long to MA and MSc courses.


News From Denmark (visited 18-July-05)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark,520397&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL (visited 18-July-05)

Citizen in Denmark (visited 18-July-05)

Meet The Danish Efterskole (2000) (visited 18-July-05)

Upper Secondary Schools, Cirrus (Danish Ministry of Education) (visited 18-July-05)

Related Links

Danish Ministry of Education (visited 18-July-05)

Denmark’s official website,477789&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL (visited 18-July-05)

Work in Denmark
Information about education in Denmark with emphasis on education available for foreigners (visited 18-July-05)