Cooperation between School and Home
It is the aim of the Danish Folkeskole to carry out its activities in cooperation with the parents. The Act on the "Folkeskole" is very clear on this point, requiring that parents and schools cooperate, and that students and parents be regularly informed about the school’s opinion on how each student is benefiting from his or her schooling. "Regularly" here means at least twice a year and refers explicitly to information about the student’s personal and social development as well as his or her academic achievements. A school board is to be set up at each independent school. 5-7 parents are to be elected by and from among persons who have custody of children enrolled in the school. Students are also to be represented on the school board. The students of the school are to elect two student representatives to sit on the school board. The student representatives are to participate on basically equal footing with the other school board members. The school board is to conduct its activities within the targets and framework laid down by the municipal board and is to supervise the activities of the school.
The Pre-School Class
The Folkeskole must comprise a one-year pre-school class. At the request of its parents, a child must be admitted to a pre-school class in the calendar year of his or her sixth birthday or - under certain circumstances - one year before or after the sixth birthday. The pre-school class’ programme of teaching is intended to lay the foundation for the school’s educational programme as a whole and create cohesiveness in the transition between a child’s daily life at home or in a day-care centre and their school careers as well as between the pre-school class and the following form levels. The teaching, which is not divided by subject at this level, has the following compulsory themes that act as a foundation for the teaching programme as a whole: language and methods of expression, the natural world and scientific phenomena, creativity, movement and coordination, social skills, and togetherness and cooperation. Binding descriptions of the contents and objectives connected to each of these themes have been established. Moreover, it has been determined that play is to make up a central element of the teaching, with emphasis being placed on the value of playing in and of itself and learning through playing and play-related activities.
School-Based Leisure Time Facilities
According to the Folkeskole Act, the municipalities have the possibility to decide whether leisure time facilities should be established at the municipal schools and to decide how the school-based leisure time facility should operate in their area. The daily management is carried out by a leisure time manager, who reports to the head of the school. The head of the school has the overall educational and administrative responsibility for the form and content of the school-based leisure time facility.
Inclusion and Special Needs Education
Denmark has signed the Salamanca Declaration, which calls on governments to facilitate Inclusive Education. This is reflected in the way special needs education is organised. In most cases, the student remains in a mainstream school class and receives special education in one or more subjects as a supplement to the general teaching. However, not all students benefit from remaining in the mainstream class. Therefore a student may receive special education that substitutes for the student's participation in the normal education in one or more subjects. A student may also be taught in a special class either within a mainstream school or within a special school. And finally a combination is possible in which the student is a member of either a mainstream school class or a special class, but receives education in both types of classes. Special classes may be organized for students with intellectual disabilities, dyslexia, hearing problems or the like.
The provisions of the Folkeskole Act (regarding aims, curricula, evaluations, tests, school leaving exams etc.) apply to all students. Accordingly, students with special needs are in principle met with the same expectations as any other student. Special needs education includes differential teaching, counselling, technical aid and personal assistance.
In Denmark, the local authorities are obliged to offer language stimulation training to the bilingual children living in Denmark who are in need of such training. On 1 January 2003, the maximum age limit for children offered language stimulation training by the local authorities was reduced from four to three years. Since August 2004, it has been compulsory for bilingual children to participate in language stimulation training.
The language stimulation has two main target groups. The first target group is bilingual children who do not attend a day-care centre. These children may participate in 15 hours of language stimulation activities per week. The second target group is bilingual children in need of language stimulation training who attend a day-care centre. The scope and length of the training of each such child are determined by expert evaluation.
Bilingual children in primary and lower secondary schools are offered training in ‘Danish as a second language’ if so decided by the school principal. If the bilingual student needs basic instruction in Danish, the student will be referred to teaching in a reception class, teaching in teams or individual instruction. Bilingual students who participate in the ordinary teaching, but who are in need of special support, are referred to supplementary teaching in Danish as a second language. The number of lessons is determined in accordance with the need of the individual child.
Furthermore, a limited number of bilingual children in primary and lower secondary schools are offered mother-tongue tuition. The expenses for mother-tongue tuition for bilingual children from non-Western countries are defrayed by the local authorities.
The 10th form
The 10th form is an educational offer for young people who, after finishing their primary and lower secondary schooling (9th form), feel the need for additional academic qualifications and clarification of their further educational opportunities before being able to complete a post-compulsory education.
The academic year can be organised as a whole year programme or a shorter-term programme. 10th form is comprised of a compulsory part and an elective part. There is compulsory education in Danish, English and mathematics amounting to half the total time of a whole academic year schedule. All students must participate in a compulsory programme of bridge building towards a post-compulsory education or combinations of bridge building and unpaid apprenticeships with a perspective of further education. The bridge building programme lasts two weeks for 10th form classes that last more than 20 weeks. Moreover, it is possible for a student to participate in up to 4 additional weeks of bridge building in connection with vocationally oriented education programmes or in combination with one of these and unpaid apprenticeships with a perspective of further education. The 10th form also consists of a number of elective subjects from which the student chooses.
The programme of teaching in the 10th form is based upon the individual student’s personal education plan, which is prepared during the 9th form. The education plan forms the foundation for organising the education programme so as to meet the needs of the individual student. The plan is to be used as a tool in the ongoing guidance of the students’ future educational choices. Teaching takes place in the Folkeskole, in certain areas this may be in specially designated 10th form teaching centres, which gather together all the 10th form students from a local area.
Educational and Vocational Guidance
It is the aim of the topic of educational and vocational guidance and labour market orientation that the individual student acquires a broad knowledge of the educational and occupational possibilities and realises the value of completing a course of education. Through the teaching, the students should be given the possibility to prepare for their own choice of education and occupation and understand the choice as a number of decisions which have to be taken on the basis of one's own prerequisites, needs, attitudes and social possibilities. Educational and vocational guidance and labour market orientation is a compulsory topic throughout the entire period of schooling.
Individual and collective guidance from the 6th to 9th/10th form levels is to ensure the continuous work with individual education planning and prepare educational plans for the individual student. Each student acquires knowledge of his or her own competencies and potential, to the educational system and to the opportunities in the labour market with the aim of achieving a solid foundation for choosing an education or occupation. The educational planning is based upon the abilities and skills that the students have acquired through, among other things, the compulsory topics of educational, vocational and labour market orientation. The educational plan is finalised in the 9th and 10th form levels in connection with the transition to a post-compulsory education.
At every independent school, a school library is established as an educational service centre.
The school functions as a place for students, teacher and social educators to gather as well as a place for learning.
The school library provides educational and teaching material to be used by teachers as well as guidance in how to use these materials. Learning resources in today’s Folkeskole consist in part of physical material such as books, PCs, IT software, but also of virtual resources such as electronic databases and net services, which are made available for the teachers’ use in their teaching as well as the individual student’s all-around, personal and academic development and learning. The school library and the IT guidance support personnel are a pedagogical resource in the teaching process. They are available to participate as external sparring partners during the teachers’ team meetings, when the daily teaching and the next academic year are being organised.
The educational service centres provide a range of reading experiences to stimulate children’s desire to read. It is also possible for the students to borrow books and take them home to read in their leisure time. The educational service centres are required to cooperate with the public libraries and other external institutions. In this way students have access to even more learning resources.
Teachers’ Resource Centres
Every region has its own teachers’ resource centre, and many municipalities have also set up media centres. The regional resource centres serve the Folkeskole, the private schools and the Gymnasiums in the region. The resource centres/media centres in the municipalities mainly serve the Folkeskole. Their functions are: lending of books and other teaching materials, information on teaching materials, technical assistance to teachers in the production of their own teaching materials, exhibitions, lending of educational literature, media workshops, in-service courses for teachers, and library technical assistance to schools and other educational institutions.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, a number of the Ministry of Education’s action plans have concerned IT, and the technical foundation for integrating IT in teaching has thereby been created. In 2003 the Government adopted an action plan with the aim of strengthening Folkeskole students’ IT competencies, and it was determined that 75% of the total DKK 495 million that was allocated for the project would be earmarked for grants for purchasing computer equipment for the Folkeskole’s 3rd form classes, conditional upon municipal co-financing equalling at least the amount of the state grants. On the basis of this grant model, the municipalities have invested such a large amount that the total spent on IT purchases is nearing DKK ¾ billion. This has contributed to ensuring that in 2006 there were only 4.88 students per newer educational computers in the Folkeskole, and, for those students who were included in this grant programme (3rd and 4th form), the figure for the same year was down to 2.01 students per computer. The aim was to make the computer a personal tool for the students in the lower form levels. And, to ensure that the computers were used to the greatest possible extent, a requirement was placed on the schools to place the newly purchased computers in the students’ normal daily environment, instead of the traditional placement in designated computer rooms.
Another area of initiative has been in supporting the development of new internet-based educational material with DKK 60 million, as well as developing a national platform for all educational material, including both traditional and digital teaching tools. Many schools are now, to a greater extent, acquiring interactive whiteboards, more and more schools are experimenting with pod- and vodcasts as teaching tools, and almost all Danish municipal primary and lower secondary schools will, by the end of 2007, be using a Learning Management System (LMS) in their daily communication. The purpose of these technological upgrades is to support and stimulate the students’ learning processes and, at the same time, to provide the opportunity for differentiated teaching on a daily basis.
In recent years, investments have been made in projects aimed at supporting increased attention on the education of children and young people with special backgrounds or talents. This concerns students in the entire education system who, with the proper counselling and guidance, can be among the brightest. In a number of local and national initiatives, students receive the opportunity to be taught at higher academic levels, participate in academic camps or national and international competitions in subjects such as mathematics, science and chemistry, as well as in trade-oriented educations such as bricklaying, carpentry and hair styling. Specially talented students make up upwards of 25% of the total students in each age group. A national talent centre is under construction.
Educational Environment and Bullying
Students in the Folkeskole have the right to a good educational environment. Decisions regarding this are spelled out in the Act on the Educational Environment for Students. In the Act it is made clear that the leaders of the individual schools are responsible for ensuring the preparation of a written evaluation of the educational environment in terms of safety and hygiene conditions, as well as the conditions concerning the psychological and aesthetic environment at each school. An important factor in this regard is the extent of bullying that takes place at the school. The evaluation is to contain an overview of the school’s physical, psychological and aesthetic educational environments, descriptions and evaluations of possible education-environmental problems, a plan of action for solving the problems, and suggestions for guidelines designed to follow up on the action plan. It is the municipal board’s responsibility to ensure that the provisions in the Act are lived up to, including also the provision requiring the school leader to prepare an education-environmental evaluation, and that it is followed up on.
In an Executive Order from the Minister of Education, guideline regulations have been set forth outlining the disciplinary actions schools can legally take regarding the students, including students who bully other students. The individual school boards determine the rules of order for the school and can, within the framework of the Executive Order, determine the principles for the use of disciplinary action in the cases when the rules of order are not upheld.