Primary, Secondary and Higher Education System in Denmark (Danish Education System)

People who are not Danish and eagerly want to know about the system of education in Denmark, this article can meet their least demand. All of the information here is collected from the websites of the Government of Denmark and other sources.

Education is free and students get paid in Denmark

Most education in Denmark is tax-financed and the country provides cost free education for students. Danish citizens do not have to pay any tuition fees for education; In fact, they all get paid by the government if they enroll in a university or institute. Don’t you believe it? It is like the government is paying students a handsome salary for going to your college classes.

The amount a student in Denmark gets paid by the government is about $900. The country also provides handsome scholarships for international students every year.

Attending classes after obtaining a degree is also considered important in Denmark

Danes, the inhabitants of Denmark, know very well how important education is in their life; and you might be surprised that those who have obtained a degree admit for extra classes to improve their respective skills; some of them sign up for further education because they consider pursuing degrees and certificates as ornaments to them.

From daycare to primary schools: An emphasis on social skills

Daycare in Denmark

In Denmark, parents or legal guardians take children to public daycare as early as 9 months old. At the age of three years old, 98 percent of Danish children are enrolled in public kindergartens. These kindergartens are staffed by professionals with early childhood education training who teach basic academic concepts such as letters and numbers, as well as social rules such as sharing and helping others. Most part of a school day is dedicated to ‘free play’ and ‘outdoor activities’.

Primary school students in Denmark | Photo: Nordem
Primary school students in Denmark | Photo: Nordem

Primary education (Folkeskolen)

In Denmark primary school is a ten-year period of basic schooling that includes a kindergarten Grade 0 class, Grade 1 to Grade 9, and an optional Grade 10.

The primary school in Denmark is a comprehensive school that provides both primary and lower secondary education, i.e. the first (grades 1 to 6) and second (grades 7-9/10) stages of basic education, or in other words, it serves students aged 7 to 16/17. It consists of the Folkeskole, private elementary schools, and continuation schools. At the age of six, Danish children begin formal education.

In Denmark, the educational approach avoids class rankings and formal tests; students work in groups and are taught to question the status quo. Teachers are referred to by their given names. The focus is on problem solving rather than memorization in primary education in Denmark.

Types of primary schools in denmark

There are three kinds of primary schools in Denmark, they are— folkeskole (public folk school), private schools and religious primary schools.

Tuition-free government ‘folkeskole’ are available to all Danish children until the age of 16. Some parents prefer private schools because they are smaller or have a specific educational philosophy.

Religious primary schools are also available in Denmark. Students in Denmark can be admitted to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim schools according to their religion.

Paid international schools in English, French, and German are also available. All schools must adhere to the basic requirements for primary education established by the national government.

Nationwide test

Danish children take a nationwide test near end of primary school to help them choose the next step in their education.

Choosing a secondary education: Academic or trade school?

There are three common forms of secondary schools— Gymnasium, Trade-school, and Efterskole.

Students with strong academic abilities frequently choose a ‘Gymnasium’ for secondary education, where they can focus on languages, sciences, mathematics, or other subjects that will prepare them for university.

More practical students may prefer a Trade-school where they can learn high-paying skills such as metalworking, electrical technology, or mechanics, or a business school where they can learn about accounting or software development.

Denmark High School, a Danish secondary school, celebrated their April students of the month today | Photo: Denmark High School, May 11, 2022
Denmark High School, a Danish secondary school, celebrated their April students of the month today | Photo: Denmark High School, May 11, 2022

Students who have not strong academic abilities or are not willingly to admit gymnasiums or trade schools postpone their decision for a year, enrolling in an (after school program) where they live away from home and study topics of interest such as theater or sports in addition to their academic requirements.

Higher education: students get paid

Danes can choose from a variety of tertiary options after finishing secondary school, including a traditional university that awards bachelors, masters, and PhD degrees; a university college that awards bachelors degrees in hands-on subjects like social work; or a public arts and architecture academy, such as The Royal Academy of Music.

Not only a Dane, but also an international student can apply for limited support income program
Not only a Dane, but also an international student can apply for limited support income program

The government of Denmark pays for full-time students to attend college and university. Danes over the age of 18 are eligible for state funding for up to six years of post-secondary education through the Statens Uddannelsestøtte (US) or limited income support program. 

Through the Statens Uddannelsestøtte students in higher education get paid about $900 per month. You can consider it as someone who goes to college or university and gets a salary from the government.

Danes frequently begin working in their future jobs while still in school, either as a paid praktikant (intern) or as an apprentice.

Not only Danes but also international students can apply for Statens Uddannelsestøtte program.

Denmark guarantees high-quality education. Furthermore, Danish universities are well-known for their innovative research in fields such as medicine, biotechnology, energy, and environmental sciences.

Lifelong learning for fun and profit

In Denmark, education does not end with graduation; at any given time, one out of every three Danish adults aged 25 to 64 is enrolled in some form of continuing education course.

Many Danish employers pay for additional training for their employees, and there are also public and private providers of classes that help build business and professional skills. Unemployed people in Denmark are frequently required to take courses to prepare them for re-entry into the labor market.

Denmark has one of the highest levels of public and private investment in the development of new qualifications and skills in Europe. The goal is to keep a highly qualified and educated workforce capable of succeeding in a global knowledge economy.

Of course, not all education is professional in nature. Many adults in Denmark take cooking, painting, foreign language, music, or dance classes for recreation. Many of these classes are free or low-cost because they are funded by the government. 

Folk High Schools: A fundamental part of Danish culture

Adult education is not a new concept in Denmark: folkehjskoler or højskoler (folk high schools) have been helping ordinary people develop the skills they need to thrive as citizens since 1844.

The schools were inspired by Niels Grundtvig, an influential Danish educational leader who believed that providing higher education to rural people was just as important as cultivating the urban intellectual elite. Other Scandinavian countries widely adopted Grundtvig’s ideas.

There are now 70 højskoler in Denmark, with many specializing in subjects such as film, design, sports, theater, and politics.

The schools are entirely voluntary, with no grades or exams required. Many offer “live-in courses” for a week or more, and while tuition is not free, the cost of attendance includes room and board.

How many universities and other institutes are there in Denmark?

Denmark is home to eight universities, nine art and performance institutions, including the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and eight university colleges that offer professional bachelor degrees in fields such as nursing. That is quite impressive for a country with a population of only 5.7 million people.

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