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Locals turn towards international schools

We investigate an emerging trend among Danish parents sending their children to international or bilingual schools.

Photographs: iStock

Text: Monika Pedersen

Denmark has a robust educational system from nursery to university level, as education is valued and accessible. Denmark has an impressive range of primary school options for a small country with ‘folkeskole’, bilingual and international, and special schools for students with diverse needs. Most children attend a regular Danish primary school (folkeskole).

International options

There are international schools whose entire curriculum is taught in English, but bilingual schools have an international and Danish curriculum to learn both languages.

There are many well-known international schools all over Denmark. Some of these include Copenhagen International School (CIS), Institut Sankt Joseph, and Rygaards in the capital. Similar schools are located in Northern Zealand, like North Zealand International School. Over in Jutland, there are many thriving schools like Ikast Brande International School and many others stretching as far as Aarhus, Aalborg, and Billund. And, of course, not forgetting the island of Fyn. Lolland International School opened its doors this August in Maribo, Lolland. It is a landmark school, as it is the first free international school in Denmark.

Thomas Mulhern, CEO of Globally Locally, who was influential in the Lolland school project commented, that international bilingual schools provide ‘integration and internationalism at the same time.’

Who considers sending their child to an international school?

Danes are looking for an alternative option for no reason other than being curious and wanting something different. And it is a ‘gamble’ worth taking, for an international school has a very different dynamic to a regular ‘folkeskole’. There is greater diversity, and this provides students with a global society within a classroom setting, which encourages an appreciation of different cultures and traditions.

International schools appeal to Danes who have worked abroad and are relocating back to their home country. They wish to sustain the same sort of setting and curriculum for their children.

International schools have students who arrive and leave outside the regular times of an academic year. This continual mobility creates an embracing community, as everyone has experienced being new and wanting to be a part of something, so the welcome into the class is very warm, and absorption into groups is very swift. This ensures a positive transition.

An international option also allows families who are likely to move abroad again to sustain educational continuity for their children. They will be able to slot into the next international school with ease.

Families where parents are of different nationalities are also likely to select an international school or bilingual schools, as there is often the desire to maintain links with other internationals. However, there is also the opportunity to maintain their native Danish language while building on their English and third languages. One such parent who was also working for an international engineering company felt an international school gave ‘global insight and knowledge. Since her mother is Portuguese and her father is a traveller, we wish her to know more about the world as such.’

"The ability to play uninterrupted for long periods promotes higher levels of concentration and focus."

The future

Denmark has an expanding international population and many international companies. While this is the trend, the desire to have a wide range of options is appealing. This is reflected in the growing number of international and bilingual schools and their long waiting lists!

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