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EDUCATION

Schools in Denmark favour rules on mobile phones

A high proportion of Denmark’s schools have chosen to implement rules against smartphones in classrooms, after the government decided against national legislation on the area.

Schools in Denmark favour rules on mobile phones
File photo: Kasper Palsnov/Ritzau Scanpix

The three parties with the largest number of MPs – the Social Democrats, Liberal (Venstre) party and the Danish People's Party – all said earlier this year that they consider rules on phones at school to be up to local authorities. The former two parties said they were open to a discussion of a national measure on the matter in future, but not at the present time.

Only 12 percent of schools in Denmark now lack rules on mobile phones, according to a series of spot checks by the Ministry of Education.

33 of the 271 schools asked by the ministry said they did not have rules on cell phones in classrooms, while 224 said they did have specific rules. 14 answered ‘other’ or ‘don’t know’ in response to the question.

Minister of Education Merete Riisager said that clear rules were necessary for effective teaching.

“This is very, very positive, because it is clear that calm is necessary in classrooms so that children can learn, while break times should be for company and exercise,” the minister said.

The issue has been discussed in Denmark, one of the world’s most digitally-advanced societies, after France earlier this year passed a law banning schoolchildren from taking phones into class.

READ ALSO: How France's mobile phone ban in schools will work (or not)

A previous study by the ministry found that students in colleges and academies were more likely than schoolchildren to be distracted by using their devices in classrooms.

Riisager said that less rigid rules for older students are a possible explanation.

“This is perhaps because students are older, and teachers and lecturers are maybe reticent about making strict rules, but young people also need calm,” the minister said.

23 percent of elementary schools responding to the ministry survey said that they collect students’ mobile telephones at the start of the day, while very few further education institutions have such a practice.

Riisager repeated her view that it should be up to individual schools to decide on the rules they wish to apply.

Danske Skoleelever, a politically independent interest organisation for school students in Denmark, said it was against more schools confiscating mobiles at the start of the day.

“Mobile telephones should be used as an active resource in teaching. But that should be done alongside learning about digital behaviour, with lessons about both how to behave (online) and when to put smart phones aside,” the organisation’s chairperson Sarah Gruszow Bærentzen told Ritzau.

READ ALSO: Schools can decide own smartphone rules in Denmark: MPs

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EDUCATION

EXPLAINED: How does the school system work in Denmark?

Education is compulsory in Denmark for everyone between the ages of six or seven and 16. But where you are educated is the choice of the parent, with options of private, state-run or 'free' schools.

EXPLAINED: How does the school system work in Denmark?

The Danish education system is distinguished by a relaxed relationship between pupil and teacher. Teachers are called by their first names and children often work in groups and are encouraged to challenge the established way of doing things.  Exams or assessments are often oral, with some written tests.

Most children in Denmark attend state-run schools, which are free. These are called folkeskole and gymnasium. 

Folkeskole

Folkeskole consists of one year of pre-school grade or class (0. klasse), nine years of primary and lower secondary education (1.-9. klasse) and a one-year voluntary 10th grade. Exams are taken in 9. klasse and it’s then optional as to what path the teenager (usually aged aged 16) chooses. At the end of 9. klasse, students must sit exams in seven subjects. Some of these are oral exams only.

Gymnasium

Gymnasium or upper secondary school is the equivalent of the English sixth form. 

Students can study a range of subjects in gymnasium at different levels, called a line of study (studieretning). The course contains some compulsory subjects such as Danish, English, mathematics, basic science, and history. Students can then choose a number of other subjects such as music, art, philosophy, and social studies. 

Gymnasium is for three years and results in exams called studentereksamen, which are necessary for attending university. There are however some two-year courses at gymnasium, called HF.

Vocational training (erhvervsuddannelser)

Rather than attending gymnasium after 9th grade, pupils can choose from over 100 different vocational courses that result in an apprenticeship. Some of the courses can lead to higher education, depending on the vocational training.

10th grade
 
For those pupils who are not sure whether to choose gymnasium or vocational training, there is the option to go onto 10th grade, where they can continue studying some subjects before making the decision. 10th grade or 10 klasse can be completed at folkeskole or an efterskole.
 
Ungdomsskole
 
For those children from the age of 13, who are not suited to a folkeskole setting, ungdomskole offers a more practical way of teaching. The aim is for all pupils to complete the school leaving exam after the ninth grade but it is also possible for pupils to do an internship at a company alongside teaching.

Free schools

The idea of free schools in Denmark was headed by the theologian, poet and linguist N.F.S Grundtvig (1783-1872) and teacher Christen Kold (1816-70). Grundtvig and Kold were critical of the state education system and believed learning should be something that is life-long and related to an individual’s role in the world, rather than for the purpose of exams or employment.

Today, about 13 percent of school-age children attend free schools in Denmark.

There are three types of free school: friskole, efterskole and højskole. Many of them are in rural areas, especially on Fyn, where they were first established. There are over 500 friskoler, about 250 efterskoler and 80 højskoler.  

Friskole

These self-owned independent schools offer an alternative to the state elementary schools, folkeskole. The schools operate on their own set of values and holistic teaching practices, often set between teachers and parents. The schools are subsidised by the government but parents also pay a fee, around 900 kroner a month.

Efterskole

These are independent boarding schools where teenagers (usually aged 16 after 9th grade but can be from aged 14 after 7th grade), can spend one year or more, before gong on to gymnasium, vocational training or work. The schools often specialise in a particular subject such as sport, music or language. This is where students can complete 10th grade. 

Students from abroad can also attend an efterskole for a year and Danish families living abroad often send their children here to master the language and experience Danish culture.

The price is around 3,700 kroner a month for Danish residents but can vary, depending on the school.

Højskole

The final branch of free school is called højskole and is a boarding school for young people and adults to take a specialised course, which can range from two weeks to 40 weeks. Most long-term courses run for four to five months.

The schools offer almost any subject such as history, arts, music, sports, philosophy, theatre, photography and the schools decide individually on the content of the courses. There are no tests or exams at the end of the term and you don’t need any qualifications to join a course.

Every year over 50,000 people will take a course at a højskole, many of them on one or two-week courses, which cost around 2,000 kroner. Children are allowed to join family members on some courses.

Private schools

Around 15 percent of students in Denmark attend private schools. Some parents choose private schools because they are smaller, or because they have a particular educational approach. Others choose private schools for religious reasons or because they want an international school.  

Fees are subsidised by the government are usually cost between 1,000 and 4,000 kroner per month.

When do children start school in Denmark?

Most children start school the year they turn six. In Denmark, the oldest child in the year is born in January, with the youngest in December. The transition to school begins in May, with the new academic year beginning in August. Therefore there will be some children starting school in August who are five years old but about to turn six in the coming months, just as some will be turning seven in their first year of school.

How many are in a class?

The government has recently announced that classes in grades 0 to 2 (aged 6-8 years) at Denmark’s elementary schools (folkeskole) will be limited to a maximum of 26 children from 2023. The current limit is 28 students.

Although according to the Ministry of Children and Education, the majority of all classes in the country’s folkeskoler have an average of 20 or fewer students.

How long is the school day?

The school day usually starts at 8am and finishes between 1pm and 3pm. All children must exercise an average of 45 minutes a day as part of the school day, on top of sports lessons.

After school club

Skolefritidsordning, or SFO is for children in grades 0 to 3 (six to ten year-olds) where there are staff-led activities including sport, crafts, music, computer games, board games or simply playing with friends.

It is voluntary and paid for by the parent. In Copenhagen the cost is 1,665 kroner per month.

The club usually opens at 6:30am for before-school care and closes at 5pm.

There is a leisure club called fritidsklub for the 10-11 year olds and juniorklub for 12 to 14 year olds, which costs around 448 kroner a month.

Children aged 14 to 18 can attend a youth club (ungdomsklub) which is free.

Which school do I pick?

If you do not want your child to go to the local folkeskole in your district, you are free to enrol your child in one outside your school district or in a completely different municipality, as long as there is space. You have to digitally enrol your child at your chosen folkeskole.

 

If you want to sign up to a private or free school, you should contact the school individually. 

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