Folkeskole – a global top 10 school

Putting your kid through school in Denmark guarantees them an inclusive and quality education, despite concerns around linguistic deterioration.
Jeppe Jensen explains…

Folkeskole, aptly named the school of the people, is mandatory for 10 years with an optional eleventh year (see table below). This highly pedagogical and catchy phrase speaks to the institutions’ ability to be transitory, introducing pupils to the concept of learning how to learn. Although, many children already know how to sit still, learn, raise their hand, and respect fellow children, the challenge is to do this is in a group of 25 children crammed in a tiny classroom. A natural deterrent to the ability of one to focus. The optional year, 10th grade, is an individual choice, but can also be recommended by the school. Usually, students choose it to improve their grades in preparation for the next level of study or simply in order to mature on a more personal level.
At a national level, the Danish Folkeskole is regulated by the Folkeskole Act, which provides the overall framework for the schools’ activities. The aim is to contribute to the all-round academic, social, and personal development of the individual child by providing subject-specific qualifications and preparing pupils for living in a democratic society. Pupils and parents or guardians must accordingly receive information about their child’s academic and social performance at school at least twice a year.

More than just grades
Despite its challenges, there are many pros when it comes to Folkeskole. The system may seem lenient in terms of learning, but curriculum is not everything (and I speak as a teacher here). There are many skillsets to learn and Danes rank very high in the ability to learn, which has resulted in a consistent high ranking in OECD’s PISA test (a test conducted every third year to assess students’ abilities in specific areas). Denmark ranks 7th worldwide in Math and 15th in Science as well as in Reading. The students are above average in all categories, which is something to find comfort in.
Generally, the schools are good, and the teachers are dedicated. Pupils learn social skills as much as academic skills, which is equally important. A few years back, a Danish documentary compared a Danish class to a top school in China, and yes, in most areas of academia, the Danes lost. Hands down lost. But as soon as the students were asked to work together, the Chinese fell apart. They simply weren’t equipped for it. Danes are. Danes realise the importance of working as a team.

An open, diverse learning environment
Depending on the school, pupils are given either a PC or an iPad. Yes, you read that right. Every pupil receives his or her own personal electronic learning device. The Danish school system has realised that adding computer programmes to the curriculum offers students a chance to learn through playing “fun games” and adds to the abilities of the student. Naturally, this also opens Pandora’s Box as Minecraft, Block Star, Roblox, YouTube and other non-learning tools can be installed. This is where parents need to administer and somewhat control which Apps and programs are added. In most schools they use these devices to teach. Your child will learn how to create their own books, math equations, videos and much more. The schools genuinely try to administer the use of computers and combine them with more analogue learning strategies. Another pro in Danish schools is the ongoing battle against bullying. Crown Princess Mary is its national protector and it is a focal point for any school to stop bullying. Teachers are very attentive to it. The schools are also very diverse, culturally, and the idea is to teach students to be open-minded and accepting of other cultures.

A caution on cussing
So, what is the problem with linguistic deterioration you ask? Having been in Denmark for more than three days, you will surely have discovered that the infamous F-bomb is used on quite a regular basis. By all. At all times. And this starts in school. Children pick up words that older siblings or students use and incorporate them into their own language. And the versatility of that word is just astounding. It functions as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb enhancing an adjective and thus covers more ground than most Danish words dream of doing. The reason I am stating this, is that establishing it in a child’s vocabulary starts in the Introductory classes. As parents, we hate it, we loathe it, and we want our children to unlearn it – but the immense usage from other children is a tidal wave, we cannot hinder. And for that I am sorry. I do all I can to stop the slaughter of proper English, but realise I am attempting to stop a tidal wave through the means of a rusty sieve. Despite this endemic problem, Folkskoles are a sound schooling choice, but be sure to enroll your kid early to ensure that they attend the best available school in your area. Technically you’re supposed to have ‘free choice’ when it comes to choosing which Folkeskole to send your kid to, but ultimately you must select from schools in your kommune that have room. On the plus side, these public schools have the advantage of being free.

Meet the writer:
Jeppe G. Jensen – Teacher and father
Jeppe is an Upper Secondary Teacher, teaching both English and Film. He married an expat from the USA and is father to two kids, aged seven and four. He currently lives in Roskilde, but has lived in both Copenhagen and Elsinore. Jeppe has always travelled extensively. First with his parents, seeing almost every European country, then as a student, spending eight months attending Glasgow University. Jeppe and his family often travel on holiday to visit family in the United States. Education is something Jeppe values highly and wishes for everyone.