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EDUCATION

Why Copenhagen is (still) the cheapest city in Europe for international schools

For the second year running, Copenhagen has been ranked as the cheapest city in Europe and second-cheapest in the world for international schools.

Why Copenhagen is (still) the cheapest city in Europe for international schools
An illustration photo of a Danish public school. Photo: Keld Navntoft/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish capital has again been ranked the cheapest of all European cities in the International Schools Database, a comparison of international schools in cities across four continents.

Copenhagen was placed 72nd out of 73 cities for the cost of international schooling (the more expensive the city, the higher on the list), with only Cape Town in South Africa being cheaper. In Europe, Copenhagen was 29th out of 29.

In the price analysis, international school costs were compared for 29 cities in European countries and 73 cities globally.

The Danish capital is not generally considered to be cheaper than its European peers, which makes its low cost for international private schools remarkable.

In the Nordic country, both public and private schools, including international schools are all subsidised by the state. This is likely to be a key factor in international schools being relatively affordable in Copenhagen.

“We believe that Denmark has (comparatively) cheap international education available because in Denmark government-approved private schools (including international schools) often receive the same amount of government funding as public ones.

“This may explain why education is so affordable – comparatively speaking – in Copenhagen, as international schools in the rest of the world tend not to be subsidized (or are only partially subsidized) and the full cost of them is normally paid by parents,” Andrea Robledillo, co-founder of International Schools Database, previously told The Local.

That factor remains unchanged in 2020, Robledillo said on Tuesday via email.

“There has actually not been any significant changes regarding Copenhagen's ranking, either in Europe or the world. Even though we have been able to include many new countries and cities this past year, Copenhagen remains the cheapest city in Europe for international education, and the second cheapest in the world,” she said.

The 2020 edition of ranking includes 29 cities, compared to 21 cities in 2019. The new cities are London, Bratislava, Athens, Mallorca, The Hague, Algarve, Costa Blanca, and Valencia. Worldwide, 73 cities were included, versus 56 cities in 2019.

“Which, when you think about it, may be interesting in itself; Copenhagen remains the cheapest even when we count more cities from countries that one would think would be cheaper than Denmark,” Robledillo said.

Switzerland remains the most expensive European country for international schooling. The Swiss cities of Zurich, Lausanne and Geneva take the top three spots on the European overview.

Some schools and prices may not be included for individual cities, either because they do not make their price data available or because it was unknown to researchers. You can see the analysis in full here.

READ ALSO: How Denmark got its children back to school so soon after lockdown

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EDUCATION

EXPLAINED: How does the school system work in Denmark?

Education is compulsory in Denmark for everyone between the ages of six or seven and 16. But where you are educated is the choice of the parent, with options of private, state-run or 'free' schools.

EXPLAINED: How does the school system work in Denmark?

The Danish education system is distinguished by a relaxed relationship between pupil and teacher. Teachers are called by their first names and children often work in groups and are encouraged to challenge the established way of doing things.  Exams or assessments are often oral, with some written tests.

Most children in Denmark attend state-run schools, which are free. These are called folkeskole and gymnasium. 

Folkeskole

Folkeskole consists of one year of pre-school grade or class (0. klasse), nine years of primary and lower secondary education (1.-9. klasse) and a one-year voluntary 10th grade. Exams are taken in 9. klasse and it’s then optional as to what path the teenager (usually aged aged 16) chooses. At the end of 9. klasse, students must sit exams in seven subjects. Some of these are oral exams only.

Gymnasium

Gymnasium or upper secondary school is the equivalent of the English sixth form. 

Students can study a range of subjects in gymnasium at different levels, called a line of study (studieretning). The course contains some compulsory subjects such as Danish, English, mathematics, basic science, and history. Students can then choose a number of other subjects such as music, art, philosophy, and social studies. 

Gymnasium is for three years and results in exams called studentereksamen, which are necessary for attending university. There are however some two-year courses at gymnasium, called HF.

Vocational training (erhvervsuddannelser)

Rather than attending gymnasium after 9th grade, pupils can choose from over 100 different vocational courses that result in an apprenticeship. Some of the courses can lead to higher education, depending on the vocational training.

10th grade
 
For those pupils who are not sure whether to choose gymnasium or vocational training, there is the option to go onto 10th grade, where they can continue studying some subjects before making the decision. 10th grade or 10 klasse can be completed at folkeskole or an efterskole.
 
Ungdomsskole
 
For those children from the age of 13, who are not suited to a folkeskole setting, ungdomskole offers a more practical way of teaching. The aim is for all pupils to complete the school leaving exam after the ninth grade but it is also possible for pupils to do an internship at a company alongside teaching.

Free schools

The idea of free schools in Denmark was headed by the theologian, poet and linguist N.F.S Grundtvig (1783-1872) and teacher Christen Kold (1816-70). Grundtvig and Kold were critical of the state education system and believed learning should be something that is life-long and related to an individual’s role in the world, rather than for the purpose of exams or employment.

Today, about 13 percent of school-age children attend free schools in Denmark.

There are three types of free school: friskole, efterskole and højskole. Many of them are in rural areas, especially on Fyn, where they were first established. There are over 500 friskoler, about 250 efterskoler and 80 højskoler.  

Friskole

These self-owned independent schools offer an alternative to the state elementary schools, folkeskole. The schools operate on their own set of values and holistic teaching practices, often set between teachers and parents. The schools are subsidised by the government but parents also pay a fee, around 900 kroner a month.

Efterskole

These are independent boarding schools where teenagers (usually aged 16 after 9th grade but can be from aged 14 after 7th grade), can spend one year or more, before gong on to gymnasium, vocational training or work. The schools often specialise in a particular subject such as sport, music or language. This is where students can complete 10th grade. 

Students from abroad can also attend an efterskole for a year and Danish families living abroad often send their children here to master the language and experience Danish culture.

The price is around 3,700 kroner a month for Danish residents but can vary, depending on the school.

Højskole

The final branch of free school is called højskole and is a boarding school for young people and adults to take a specialised course, which can range from two weeks to 40 weeks. Most long-term courses run for four to five months.

The schools offer almost any subject such as history, arts, music, sports, philosophy, theatre, photography and the schools decide individually on the content of the courses. There are no tests or exams at the end of the term and you don’t need any qualifications to join a course.

Every year over 50,000 people will take a course at a højskole, many of them on one or two-week courses, which cost around 2,000 kroner. Children are allowed to join family members on some courses.

Private schools

Around 15 percent of students in Denmark attend private schools. Some parents choose private schools because they are smaller, or because they have a particular educational approach. Others choose private schools for religious reasons or because they want an international school.  

Fees are subsidised by the government are usually cost between 1,000 and 4,000 kroner per month.

When do children start school in Denmark?

Most children start school the year they turn six. In Denmark, the oldest child in the year is born in January, with the youngest in December. The transition to school begins in May, with the new academic year beginning in August. Therefore there will be some children starting school in August who are five years old but about to turn six in the coming months, just as some will be turning seven in their first year of school.

How many are in a class?

The government has recently announced that classes in grades 0 to 2 (aged 6-8 years) at Denmark’s elementary schools (folkeskole) will be limited to a maximum of 26 children from 2023. The current limit is 28 students.

Although according to the Ministry of Children and Education, the majority of all classes in the country’s folkeskoler have an average of 20 or fewer students.

How long is the school day?

The school day usually starts at 8am and finishes between 1pm and 3pm. All children must exercise an average of 45 minutes a day as part of the school day, on top of sports lessons.

After school club

Skolefritidsordning, or SFO is for children in grades 0 to 3 (six to ten year-olds) where there are staff-led activities including sport, crafts, music, computer games, board games or simply playing with friends.

It is voluntary and paid for by the parent. In Copenhagen the cost is 1,665 kroner per month.

The club usually opens at 6:30am for before-school care and closes at 5pm.

There is a leisure club called fritidsklub for the 10-11 year olds and juniorklub for 12 to 14 year olds, which costs around 448 kroner a month.

Children aged 14 to 18 can attend a youth club (ungdomsklub) which is free.

Which school do I pick?

If you do not want your child to go to the local folkeskole in your district, you are free to enrol your child in one outside your school district or in a completely different municipality, as long as there is space. You have to digitally enrol your child at your chosen folkeskole.

 

If you want to sign up to a private or free school, you should contact the school individually. 

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