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The Folkeskole (from Danish folkpeople and skoleschool ) is a type of school in Denmark , which originated in 1814. Today it combines preschool , elementary school and secondary school I, whereby no selection is made during the entire school period. Specifically, the Folkeskole is divided into a pre-school year, 9 years of elementary school and a voluntary 10th school year. A final examination takes place after the 9th and 10th school year. Since it is a public school, the Folkeskole is free. The Folkeskole is not the only educational institution, however, and there is the possibility of being taught in another institution or at home.

Historical background

The first education law in Denmark was passed in 1814. At that time, the Church was still very influential in education. The urban schools had a higher level of education than the rural ones.

  • In 1903, the previously different school types in rural and urban areas were unified into joint schools. Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools developed.
  • To make it less differentiated, no exams were held in the middle schools in 1937. This gave everyone the opportunity for further training.
  • In the 1970s, schools were standardized - they shouldn't have any differences in educational level. However, there were two different performance groups within the schools.
  • Since 1993, performance groups have been dispensed with and attention is paid to internal differentiation.
  • The preschool class has also been compulsory since 2009.

Over time, the Danish school system placed more and more emphasis on internal differentiation rather than external.

Overview of the Danish school system

Preschool education

It is the responsibility of the local authority to provide day care for children between six months and six years of age. 66% of newborns to two-year-olds are cared for in such day-care centers, and the number of 3–5 year olds is as much as 94%. Such crèches have the obligation of their institution to lead an education plan with which social or linguistic skills of the children are promoted.

Primary and secondary school (Folkeskole)

The first nine years of primary school and kindergarten, called 0th level in Denmark, are compulsory, with 81% of all pupils completing this training at Folkeskole. Another 13% attend private schools (self-governing institutions, around 70% of which are co-financed by the state) and no more than 4% attend boarding school ( Efterskole ). The Folkeskole also offers a tenth school year, which is not compulsory. Nevertheless, more than 50% of the students complete this tenth year of school or devote themselves to other advanced training.

higher School education

When young people who are 18 years of age or older enroll in a youth training course or other further training, they receive financial support from the state. Currently 80% of the students graduate from a higher education each year, which can be divided into the following two branches:

"General upper secondary education"

The goal of this training is to be independent citizens with a democratic and social awareness and a sense of globality. The following four training programs are offered:

  • The 3-year Upper Secondary School Leaving Examination
  • The 3-year Higher Commercial Examination
  • The 3-year Higher Technical Examination
  • The 2-year Higher Preparatory Examination

"Vocational upper secondary education and training programs"

Through the combination of theoretical and practical training units, students are trained in the industrial or commercial sector. You can choose between twelve different programs, which last between 1.5 and 5.5 years. Then they are able to enter the labor market as qualified workers. The following programs are available:

  • Automobiles, airplanes and other means of transport
  • Civil engineering
  • Construction and user service
  • Animals, plants and nature
  • Body and style
  • nutrition
  • Media production
  • Business
  • Production and development
  • Electricity, management and IT
  • Health, Nursing and Education
  • Transport and logistics

higher education

There are four institutions that offer higher education in Denmark.

  • Academy of Vocational Higher Education (erhvervsakademier)

Focus: business, technology and IT

  • University Colleges (professionshøjskoler)

Focus: economy, education, technology, care. All with a focus on professional practice

  • Universities

Focus: Research-based study programs

  • University level institutions

Focus: music, performing arts

The subjects in the Folkeskole

Humanities Creative subjects Natural sciences Third language
Danish (at all school levels) Sport (in all school levels) Mathematics (in all school levels) German (7th - 9th grade) or ...
English (3rd - 9th grade) Music (1st - 6th grade) Science / Technology (1st - 6th grade) French (7th - 9th grade)
Religion in all school levels except in the year in which the confirmation takes place Art education (1st - 5th grade) Geography (7th - 9th grade)
History (3rd - 9th grade) Works and housekeeping for 1 or more years between 4th and 7th grade Biology (7th - 9th grade)
Social Studies (8th and 9th grade) Physics / chemistry (7th - 9th grade)

In addition, the following educational programs must be carried out: traffic education, health and sex education, family education and career orientation.

Danish as a second language:

  • In Denmark, the municipal associations are responsible for offering language training to bilingual children living in Denmark who have problems with the Danish language. For bilingual children in need of support who are not in day-care centers (such as kindergartens), 15 hours of language training can be claimed per week. Language training should begin in August of the calendar year in which the child turns 3 years old.
  • For children attending day care centers, the extent of language training is determined depending on the options available in the center.
  • If experts identify a need for special needs, it is the duty of the parents to enable the child to participate.

Goals of the Folkeskole

In cooperation with the parents, the Folkeskole provides the learners with knowledge that prepares them for their later educational path. The Folkeskole familiarizes the students with Danish culture and history, gives them an understanding of other countries and their customs and shows them the connection between people and their environment. The aim is a holistic development of each individual learner. The Folkeskole prepares students for their rights and responsibilities in a free and democratic society. Every school must ensure that the quality of its education corresponds to the goals of the Folkeskole. Both students and parents work with the school to achieve these goals.


Since the Folkeskole classes are (performance) heterogeneous learning groups, the principle of differentiating the lessons is of great importance in order to guarantee all students the best possible education. The principle of differentiation aims to strengthen the qualities of each individual learner. To make this possible, the tasks in the class should be adapted to the students. The Ministry of Education has developed various assessment tests that every student must take at a specified time.

  • Reading (Levels 2, 4, 6 and 8)
  • Mathematics (level 3 and 6)
  • English (level 7)
  • Geography, Biology, and Physics / Chemistry (Level 8)

Based on these tests and the teacher's own observations, an individual learning goal plan is put together for each student. This sets out goals and tasks to be achieved throughout the year. In the Danish Folkeskole there are also no prescribed teaching materials or textbooks. The teachers therefore have the freedom to choose the teaching material according to the class. Another form of differentiation is teamwork. There is the possibility of forming learning teams for a shorter period of time in which students with the same learning level from different years and classes can work together. In this way the learners are taught from their own level of learning and can motivate each other. Recently, more attention has been paid to the more talented students. They can take part in learning camps or knowledge competitions and be taught in higher grades.

Rating System

The performance of the Folkeskole students is only graded from the 8th grade onwards. Text-based evaluations are carried out up to and including the 7th grade. A learning plan (“Elevplan”: pupil plan) is drawn up for each student once a year, whereby the knowledge and skills of the learners are assessed by teachers and in self-evaluation and used as a basis for further planning and organization of the lessons. These evaluations serve as orientation for the pupils and their parents. There is no standardized form of these evaluations, but teachers can access various materials on a national evaluation portal.

There are nationally conducted, computer-based tests that must be taken in the following subjects and grade levels:

subject Grade level
Danish (focus: reading) 2, 4, 6, 8
English 7th
mathematics 3, 6
geography 8th
biology 8th
Physics chemistry 8th

These tests are individually adapted during implementation, depending on the learner's level of learning. A final exam is carried out after the 9th grade. The subjects Danish (written and oral), mathematics (written), English (oral), natural sciences / chemistry (oral), as well as two randomly chosen subjects, one from the humanities and one from the natural sciences, are tested. In addition, the assessment of a project work taking place in the 9th grade can be included in the leaving certificate. After the 10th grade, a further examination is possible on a voluntary basis, with different (also individual) subjects and a combination of exams in the 9th and 10th grade can be chosen. Examination achievements are graded using a seven-stage evaluation system.

School and parents

One of the goals of the Danish Folkeskole is cooperation between parents and the school. Pupils and their parents are regularly (at least twice a year) informed of the learners' point of view. During these discussions, the personal and social development of the learners as well as their school performance is discussed. In the school conference (school commission) the parents have a majority. The school commission consists of 7 mandates from the parents, 2 from the student body, 2 from the teachers and the school director, whereby this person has no say in decisions. The represented students basically have the same rights as the other members. The monitoring and improvement of school activities are among the tasks and goals of the school commission. The national organization “Skole og Forældre” (School and Parents) gives parents another opportunity to get involved in school matters. The aim of this organization is to strengthen the positive school-parent cooperation. To achieve this goal, they offer various support programs and training opportunities for their members (parents of school children). The parent organization has political power by bringing its ideas to the Ministry of Education.

Classes and teachers

In 2008 the number of teachers at the Folkeskole was 50,972.


In 2008 there were 28,591 classes at Folkeskole, in which an average of 20 students per class were taught. According to the Danish Ministry of Education, classes should not have more than 28 students, only in individual cases up to 30 students per class are trained.

The role of the class teacher

Each Folkeskole class has a class teacher who takes the main responsibility for the subject-specific and social development of the students in his class. The class teacher also takes on a coordinative role. She plans and organizes the lesson as well as its aspect of differentiation, evaluates the learning success of the learners and the cooperation with the other teachers in the class. It also plays an important role in the school-parent cooperation. The entirety of the tasks is written down in the Folkeskole regulations. Most of the time, the role is taken on by a teacher who also teaches Danish.

Assistant teacher

Different socio-economic backgrounds of students represent an inequality in the school. One method that the Danish Ministry of Education has launched to reduce these inequalities between students is the use of assistant teachers. She supports the teacher in the class as well as students with special needs.

Private schools

Around 13% of all Danish primary school students attend private schools. The private schools are divided into the following categories:

  • small, independent schools in rural districts (friskoler)
  • large, independent schools in city districts (privatskoler)
  • religious schools or community schools
  • progressive free schools
  • Schools with a specific educational goal, such as the Rudolf Steiner Schools
  • Schools for the German minority
  • Immigrant schools

The private schools are recognized and financially supported by the state, regardless of their ideological, religious, political or ethical motivation behind their institution. Some private schools are very new, some a bit older, but it is typical of private schools to be smaller than public schools. All that is required of the private schools is that they correspond to the requirements of the public schools, or that the content roughly corresponds. The Ministry of Education advises private schools to allow learners to take the Folkeskole final exam in order to have quality control. The final decision, however, does not lie with the government, but with the parents of the students.

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