Danish secondary schools socialise parents as well as children. But don't mention exam results.by Sally Laird / July 20, 1999 / Leave a comment
For the past six years we have lived in Ebeltoft, a picturesque small town on the east coast of Jutland. We knew next to nothing about Denmark before we came here, spoke not a word of the language, and-living on the campus of an international film college whose lingua franca is English-might never have progressed beyond the words for bread, beer and herring were it not for our daughter, who attends the local school.
To the extent that we have been integrated into the community, it is thanks to Skelhojeskole, one of the town’s two folkeskoler. The Danes set great store by the folk school, which sees children through from the age of six all the way to 16 or 17, when they leave for good or go on to university. Thus many children will have the same classmates, and the same class teacher, for ten years. The class, rather than the school, is the locus of belonging. My daughter, aged nine, speaks of The Class with something approaching reverence. It is here that the child is socialised and integrated-and not just the child, the parents too.
Four times a year our daughter’s teacher invites us to attend a class function: sometimes an outing or a dinner involving all the parents and children; sometimes a parents-only evening at which the curriculum and the children’s progress are discussed. Great effort is made to ensure that these occasions are hyggelige-convivial and cosy. Tables are laid in the staff room with coffee and pastries. The teacher-a wise and humorous woman who is married to the mayor-tries to get everyone involved.
On the last two such evenings we were arranged in groups to play a special kind of game. The first game involved discussing what kinds of skills and knowledge we would like our children to possess by the age of 17. Every group was given a set of cards, on each of which was printed a potential aim: “Will know about the Great Wall of China,” or “Will be familiar with the works of Hans Christian Andersen.” Together, the group had to arrange these in order of importance. We then had to subdivide them further, according to whether the school, the parents or both combined were responsible for ensuring that each aim was reached.
My group consisted of a tax inspector; a local building entrepreneur; a pregnant mother-of-three who works in the…