Global education at your doorstep: the flaw in the Danish school system

Three years ago, a report published by the economic and political think tank Arbejderbevægelsens Erhvervsråd (AE) concluded that the education sector was witnessing a gradual migration of students from public schools to private schools – more particularly international schools. .

And it would seem that this is confirmed by the waiting lists, as the majority of international schools have in Hellerup, the home of international schools in Denmark.

Almost one in five
The AE report concludes that an increasing number of children in Denmark have been attending the private friskoler since 2009.

In 2019, 18% of first-graders attended private schools, up from just 13% in 2009. A 5 percentage point increase was also seen among students attending private 8th-grade schools.

The general conclusions were clear. Children from high and middle income groups in Denmark are increasingly attending private schools, which has undermined the operational efficiency of one in five public schools.

The figures are backed up by 2017 data from Danmarks Statistik, which calculated that there were around 550 friskoler in Denmark for every 110,000 pupils nationwide, or around 17% of the school population.

In the same year, the current governing Socialdemokratiet party, when it led the opposition, identified friskoler as a serious opponent of integration and said it would like to see its funding reduced.

Friskoler has a reputation for being Muslim, but in reality there are only 26 such schools, 10 of them in Copenhagen, with around 5,000 students.

The cheapest in Europe
Discretionary income has grown rapidly among upper and middle income groups over the past two decades, yet private schools are incredibly cheap.

Thanks to the generous support of the state, which pays 73% of all their costs, Copenhagen has some of the cheapest international schools in the world, according to the latest report from the International Schools Database (ISD).

The report assessed the situation in 29 cities in 19 European countries, and Copenhagen was the cheapest.

The average annual fee payable at its international schools is 30,200 crowns. The cheapest was 25,000 crowns and the most expensive, the International School of Copenhagen (CIS), was 133,750.

“In Denmark, public and private schools (including international schools) are all heavily subsidized by the government. This may explain why education is so affordable – comparatively speaking – in a country notorious for its high cost of living,” the ISD report explains.

A global education
Just to clarify, that means parents in the cheapest school pay 25,000 crowns for an education that’s actually worth 92,500 crowns, and parents in the CIS pay 133,750 for an education worth 581,500 crowns.

By comparison, the annual tuition fee at Eton College is 433,000 crowns, although the actual value may be considerably higher.

Nevertheless, by considering the CIS as an outlier – a statistical anomaly – and calculating the results based on median averages and not mean averages, the ISD report was able to conclude that Copenhagen is the cheapest in Europe.

And it would seem that Danes are realizing the huge potential of international schools, where for a relatively small fee they can get a private education for their children, greatly increasing their chances of being admitted to an Ivy League university. or Oxbridge in the process.

Small classes, big perspectives
Public schools have historically laid the foundation for an egalitarian society like Denmark, and its people willingly pay higher taxes than most other countries in the world to support and maintain a decent standard of living for as many people as possible. possible.

Danish taxpayers have funded an expensive public school system, but parents are increasingly concerned that it will not live up to their expectations for their children in an increasingly globalized society.

Parents are able to see which schools are doing well in final exams at the end of ninth grade and decipher which schools are most responsive to the social welfare of their students, but is that enough given the size huge classes in most schools?

At international schools, class sizes are considerably smaller, often tripling the amount of individual attention for each student, and the academic outlook is more global.

International parents, on the other hand, can often feel alienated by the focus on Danish culture, especially if they have limited Danish skills. The rejection of all multicultural values ​​is a turning point.

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