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The importance of 'Dannelse' in student learning

Children attend school for purposes that extend beyond learning how to read and write. At Rygaards School, a private school in Hellerup, hosting both a Danish and an international school, we focus on what we in Danish call 'dannelse.' This word translates into forming or evolving; in other words, it's not just about learning and acquiring new skills but also about developing as a person.

Photographs: Rygaards School / iStock

Text: Claus Offersen

At Rygaards the focus is not only about ensuring high-quality development of both hard and soft skills, but also personal characteristics. It's about helping children learn, develop, and prepare for an ever-changing world. From the very moment they step into the school, to the first moment they raise their hand to engage in class discussions, to the very moment they leave, every day is about taking a step in that direction.

There are many school options, some similar, and some different; so, how do you choose the right school for you and your child? That's the question parents ask themselves when considering where their child will start their educational journey. Denmark has a sound education system, but there are some differences in how schools engage their students and thus participate in their learning and overall development.

Rygaards has an excellent reputation for its high academic standards but also for its community spirit and values–programme. As the Principal says, "academic standards are high, but we believe it is equally important to offer our students a rich educational experience and a nurturing atmosphere. We want each one of them to feel personally valued and to think of us as their second home. Kindness and mutual respect are key values throughout the school."

Values–programmes and emotional intelligence

Looking at society, both in Denmark and abroad, it's clear that our children need to prepare for a global, competitive, and ever-changing world. Right now, as we are dealing with the impact of the coronavirus, we all have had to adapt and find new ways to live, work, and contribute – it's in times like these that our community and values play an essential role.

The virus is just one example of the challenges we encounter throughout life; we live in an environment that requires critical thinking, creativity, and innovative solutions to problems we don't even know yet. Therefore, pupils should receive an education that not only makes them great students but life-long learners and well-rounded individuals. Inspired by our founders, our history, and Christianity, Rygaards' values–programme aims to do this by strengthening the pupils' emotional intelligence. Each year, we highlight four values, which play a role in student projects and class themes. Among others, these values include trust, thankfulness, hope, courage, responsibility, friendship, and empathy. To give examples of how values are incorporated, when working with courage, students created comics with themselves as superheroes with powers to achieve their goals. When working with thankfulness, the children created game shows about what they are grateful for. By engaging and emerging the children into an environment centred around values, the knowledge from class materials gains a deeper meaning.

"Children attend school for purposes beyond learning how to read and write; they attend school because of 'dannelse' - to become life-long learners and well-rounded individuals."

A strong community - two schools under one roof

The community at Rygaards is, in many ways, very unique. Rygaards is home to a Danish and an International school. During more normal times, the beautiful park-like campus can often be seen full of children of all ages and nationalities playing together, forming new friendships. Sometimes, they will also work together on school projects, one example being our Lenten Campaign. Lent is a Christian celebration where one either gives up something or adopts something that leads to a positive impact. The Assumption Sisters, who founded Rygaards school in 1909, believed in making a positive impact through education, which is also one of the 17 UN Sustainability Goals. Therefore, this year's Lenten campaign aims to have students working together, raising money to build schools across the globe, and thus helping other communities. A diverse and value-driven community empowers the pupils to grow while making a positive impact - all as part of their overall learning and development.

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