As an international family relocating to Denmark, Danish education might appear confusing. How much you do know about folkeskole? We help you figure it out.
Text: Josephine Wan
Since sources regarding Danish schools in English always only cover the official information, let's look further into Danish school life, and what to expect.
Primary and secondary schools
Children start zero grade in Folkeskole (primary and secondary schools in Denmark) at the age of six and finish ninth grade when they are about 15-16 years old. Most pupils go to the same school throughout these 10 years, though some change schools for different reasons. Sometimes, pupils also change schools or classes to form better relationships with their fellow pupils. One of the values Danish schools hold in high regard is the well-being of children. Homework and exams are often not the focus. Instead, they put the children’s happiness and well-being first.
Danish pupils do not wear school uniforms, and they call their teachers by first names. It is common to bring their own lunchboxes (madpakker) for lunch. As soon as they finish eating, they run outside to play. Pupils in Danish school have a remarkably simple and relaxing school life. A good day for them is to be with their friends, eat lunch together, play together, and learn something new together. Most pupils do not have homework to bring home, a good family life balance is vital within the Danish culture.
Social relationships are essential for pupils’ school life and well-being. Teachers focus on creating a good team spirit and respect amongst the students so that no one is left alone or feels left out. Classwork is often is done in a teamwork setting, where students all contribute, help each other and present results as a group.
“Social relationships are essential for students school life and well-being.”
Diversity and inclusion
Many Danish schools have special arrangements in the school like mates (makker) for new students who join the school. They are assigned a mate who will be with them for the first few weeks, so they are not alone during break and help them settle in. The mates enjoy assisting new students, and they have received training in how a mate can help. This enables a good start at the new school while they adapt to a new environment and make new friends.
Children are encouraged to learn through thought, discussions, observations, and discovery. This helps improve their knowledge as an individual and learn how to work as part of the community. This prepares them for being independent and cooperative at their tertiary education later in life.
For international families
Reception class (Modtagelsesklasse) is available in most Danish public schools, and the purpose is to introduce the Danish language and the Danish education system to non-Danish speaking children. For more information, you can visit https://international.kk.dk/artikel/reception-classes-public-schools
Unlike international schools, Danish schools are free. If you haven’t been relocated to Denmark with the help of a relocation service, and are still searching for a job – government schooling is a practical, economical option.
You can always contact the schools for enquiries – you may contact the school principals directly. Their email addresses can be found on school websites. They are usually immensely helpful in answering your questions, and they may also suggest you pay them a visit, so they can talk to you face-to-face and show you around.
There are many Facebook groups you can join before moving to Denmark. Become a member and post your questions, there are lots of helpful parents that are willing to help and give advice. Do not worry about asking questions in English, most Danes don’t mind, and they want to help. See this as an opportunity to reach out to locals moms and dads in the area, a problem shared is a problem halved.