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INTRO Let this supplement elucidate everything Denmark has to offer

By Ben Hamilton Benjamin Franklin wrote in a 1789 letter that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.


But besides being surprised that his private correspondence was made public and immortalised for all to enjoy over the ensuing centuries, as an esteemed polymath he would have been enthused to know we could start adding another item to the list in the early 20th century: education. The Brits even cut top flight football during the great wars, but going to school? Forget about it, kiddo! You best learn your nine times tables – they could be vital for counting the number of tanks in a Panzer division – and it’s never too late for some rudimentary German. FOOD FOR THOUGHT That neatly leads us to another great statesman of our time, Winston Churchill, and we’re sure that newcomers to this country would agree with his observation that education in Denmark is a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. In our last Education supplement, we bombarded you with difficult questions, because at some point tough decisions need to be made. What are the benefits of an Englishlanguage education (besides the incredibly cheap fees! – see page 12) compared to a Danish one? Should your child start thinking vocationally at the age of 16 or continue along the academic path? Is efterskole beneficial to the child’s development or just an excuse to get stoned for 12 months? But this time we are taking the food for thought option. The more informed you are about Danish education, the better your decisions will be. PACKED WITH INFO This supplement is less a laborious trawl through the various stages of education – they’re still there, but this time simply divided between parental involvement (pages 4-5), daycare (pages 6-7),


further education (8-9) and higher education (10-11) – and more an introduction to some of the topics worth brushing up on. This gives us a chance to cut deeper into the system: firstly with a round-up of the news relevant to the sector (12), and then with some thought-provoking features on language skills and university admissions (14-19) and interviews with two leading experts in the field (20-23). GET BUSY LEARNING There is a lot to celebrate, as the Danish school system is considered one of the best in the world. Higher education and training in Denmark ranked sixth in the World Economic Forum’s league table 2017-2018 and fifth in the 2019 Universitas 21 rankings following a solid year in which it closed the gap on the Nordic region’s top dog, Sweden. But there are also pitfalls, as wrong decisions are often regretted later in life. Becoming an expert on Danish education is an investment in your child’s future. And it could all start by reading this supplement.


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For expat couples an international school makes sense, but it can be a hard sell when your partner is Danish

By Stephen Gadd The international parents you meet are normally split into two groups: the lifers and the expats. The lifer, more often than not an individual, will normally opt for the Danish public school system for two reasons: affordability and respecting the wishes of their Danish partner. More than likely they moved to Denmark as a refugee of love and their income is average or lower than average. The result is children who are as Danish as full-blooded peers. The expats, more likely a couple, will normally opt for an international school for three reasons: again affordability (with the state subsidy, the schools are cheap compared to private options in other countries – see page 12), networking, and language/curriculum concerns given their children are likely to continue their schooling elsewhere. More than likely they moved to Denmark for work. The result is children with an experience under their belt and maybe a second language. FREE AND COMPULSORY In Denmark, education is free unless you choose a private school or boarding school. It is also compulsory for everyone between the ages of 6 and 16 or 17.



Whether this occurs in a public school, private school or at home is a matter of individual choice, as long as pre-set standards are met. It is the education itself that is compulsory, not school. The law guarantees a free choice of public schools within the local authority area where you live. However, as in many other countries, some schools have a better reputation than others and can be full or have long waiting lists. PUBLIC SCHOOL The Danish Public School (Folkeskole) is a comprehensive school consisting of both primary and lower secondary classes. Primary school covers classes 1-6 and lower secondary classes 7-9, with an optional 10th class available in some cases. The folkeskole is unstreamed and the formation of classes is based on the child’s age and not in subject-specific proficiency. Classes usually consist of approximately 21 pupils. The number must not exceed 28, although under certain exceptional circumstances, a municipality can give a dispensation for a class of up to 30. The Folkeskole is governed by an Act of Parliament which lays down the foundations and objectives governing its activities. All municipal primary and lower secondary schools share a common aim, standard

requirements concerning the subjects taught at the specific form levels, standard regulations concerning the so-called Common Objectives for the teaching in the individual subjects, as well as standard regulations concerning the leadership and organisation of the school system. The Act also lays down clear rules for parent/ school co-operation, and parents are expected to take an active part in their children’s schooling. Schools are obliged to report on pupils’ progress at least twice per year. However, it is the responsibility of the individual municipal boards to determine how schools are to be organised within the legal framework. The boards can also set their own additional objectives for schools. This has the advantage that a child who changes schools will, on the whole, find the new routine similar to the one he or she has been accustomed to. PRIVATE SCHOOLS Denmark has a long tradition of private schools encompassing the idea of “a school for life based on the living word”. Unlike many other countries, Denmark subsidises private schools heavily – to the tune of 76 percent of each student’s costs. Approved schools receive the funding regardless of the ideological, religious, political or ethnic motivation behind their establishment.

However, getting into one of the more prestigious ones can be difficult, as the waiting lists are often long. Private schools categories: 1 Small independent schools in rural districts (friskoler) 2 Large independent schools in urban districts (privatskoler) 3 Religious or Congregational schools 4 Progressive free schools 5 Schools with a particular educational aim (e.g Rudolf Steiner schools) 6 German minority schools 7 Immigrant schools INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS This might be the ideal solution for a foreign national living in Denmark who wants an international education for his or her child. There are a number of them around, especially in the Copenhagen area. International basic schools are private elementary schools approved by the Ministry of Education and the teaching is in languages other than Danish – either for the whole school or for divisions within it. They often teach a curriculum which leads to an internationally recognised accreditation, such as the International Baccalaureate or the Cambridge education system. MUNICIPAL INTERNATIONAL BASIC SCHOOLS From school year 2015/16, new legislation allowed municipalities to set up international basic schools. Municipal international basic schools admit children subject to compulsory education whose parents are foreigners residing temporarily in Denmark due to their employment and whose parents wish to have their children enrolled at the school.

If there are unfilled places at a municipal international basic school, it may also admit Danish children and other foreign children who live or reside in Denmark, and whose parents wish to have them enrolled at the school. The local council may decide that the education provided at the municipal international basic school should be certified internationally. It is, however, a precondition that the education continues to be up to what is generally required in the Folkeskole.

A focus on learning

Based on the local council’s decision, the language of instruction at a municipal international basic school is English, German or French. Further information about municipal international basic schools can be had from local school authorities in the municipality. GETTING INVOLVED Unlike some countries, in Denmark it is usual for parents to be actively involved in their children’s education at all levels. They even sit on national educational policymaking committees. From the early days of daycare, it is stressed that parents have overall responsibility for the development of their children. All public schools (ages 6-16) have a governing body composed of representatives of pupils, employees and parents and parental representatives comprise the majority on the board. Contact between parents and pedagogues/teachers is always encouraged, whether it is via the internet, through informal chats or pre-arranged school visits, or at the annual or bi-annual parent-teacher meetings.

I  nternational S   chool for students ages 3–16 Phone: +45 45 57 26 16 Email: Cirkelhuset, Christianshusvej 16 DK, 2970 Hørsholm

Cambridge International School


WHO SAID THE TWOS WERE TERRIBLE? The daycare institutions where infants evolve into model citizens

By Stephen Gadd Pre-school education can cost an average annual salary in some countries. In London, for example, it’s not uncommon to have to pay in the region of 20 to 30,000 pounds a year, leaving many parents with no other option than staying at home to oversee the terrible twos and threes themselves, before gratefully handing their children over to the state system to take care of the fearsome fours. For many internationals, therefore, it is with unbridled joy that they learn that 70 percent of the costs of daycare are subsidised by the local municipality. Suddenly the twos and threes are more tiredout than terrible! A PROUD HISTORY Denmark has a long history of pre-school education stretching back to the 1820s, when the first schools were set up to instruct the children of working families where both parents went out to work. Initially, they were places to look after children but between 1850 and 1900, private educational institutions appeared that had pedagogical objectives as well. All children under the age of six are legally



entitled to attend a daycare facility. This term covers institutions such as crèches, daycare institutions, nursery schools and ageintegrated institutions.

able to obtain a financial subsidy to pay for the place. There is also the possibility of obtaining an aided-place subsidy if the parental income is below a certain level.

The development of the child is prioritised very highly, so as well as providing a safe environment for childcare, the institutions co-operate with parents to support the development of the individual’s self-esteem.

CHILD-MINDING IN PRIVATE HOMES In the local-authority regime, child-minding takes place in a private home and a childminder can take care of up to five children. Children are assigned to individual childminders by the local authority. If two or more child-minders work together, they may be permitted to look after up to ten children.

DAYCARE FACILITIES Because daycare is a legal requirement, the local authority is obliged to provide facilities for any child aged 26 weeks and up to school age. These can be organised in various ways – either as local-authority child-minding, local-authority daycare centres, independent daycare centres, private child-minding, or an approved private daycare centre.

There are also private child-minders whose work is governed by an operating agreement between them and the local authority. The local authority subsidises the individual child and supervises the scheme.

In cases where parents work far away from their home, it might be desirable for them to have their children cared for in a daycare facility under another local authority. This is also possible.

DAYCARE CENTRES These are institutions such as crèches, nursery schools and age-integrated institutions. They cater for children from birth to school age. They can either be run by the local authority or by private individuals.

When a child is admitted to a daycare facility through local authority allocation, the local council subsidises the cost of the child’s place, and the parents make up the difference. There is also a sibling discount if more than one child in a household is in the same institution.

Independent daycare centres are owned and run by private individuals under the terms of an agreement with the local authority. They are subject to local authority supervision and receive subsidies from the local authority to cover its costs.

If parents want their child to attend an approved private daycare centre, they may be

Approved private daycare centres must be licensed by the local authority. However, the

centres themselves decide who to admit and children are not referred to them by the local authority. They also receive a local authority subsidy per child. In agreement with the local authority, daycare centres can be operated as outsourced daycare centres. These institutions must comply with the same requirements as the local authority daycare centres.

The curriculum must also show how the daycare facility works to ensure a good and stimulating environment for the children in its care. This environment must be considered from a child’s perspective and the children’s own experiences of that environment taken into consideration.

EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS Since 2004, there has been a legal obligation for all daycare facilities to develop and implement an educational curriculum. There are two prongs – one for children up to 2 years old and one for children aged 3 up until they start school.

It’s up to the individual daycare facility to decide on its own approach. The leader of the facility is responsible for preparing and publishing the curriculum and for carrying out an annual evaluation. This includes documenting whether the approaches and activities chosen meet the objectives outlined within the themes. The curriculum must be approved by the local council, who are also responsible for monitoring its implementation.

The curriculum sets out the goals for the daycare facility regarding what the children should be learning. It also as describes the methods and activities used to attain these goals and includes a methodology for evaluating the curriculum. Six themes have been highlighted as follows:

INTERNATIONAL OPTIONS Since 2017, two facilities in Copenhagen have been offering English-language daycare. The service is tailored towards expats living in the municipality who expect to move away from Denmark again within a few years. At least one of the parents must have a job in Denmark.

1. The comprehensive personal development of the child 2. Social competencies 3. Language 4. Body and motion 5. Nature and natural phenomena 6. Cultural expressions and values

Børnebyen Vandværket, which is near Vesterport Station, offers nursery (0-3) to 12 children and kindergarten (3-6) care to 24. Idrætsinstitutionen Bavnehøj, which is the Sydvest district near Enghavevej, offers kindergarten care with a focus on physical education to 24 children.

We teach the love of learning As a parent, you don’t just want a school with strong academic value. You want a school that helps your child thrive in each and every way. You want a place where children from all over the world feel welcome and find new friends. A school that offers exciting after-school activities in addition to the renowned International Baccalaureate curriculum, the IB.

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And Hellerup also has two English-language facilities: Sunrise International Preschool and Stepping Stone. Sunrise International Preschool on Norgesmindevej caters to children aged 2-6 at a location that is respectful to other people, animals and the environment. Stepping Stone on Ehlersvej has reopened following its renovation. Located in a charming manor house it offers a ‘home away from home’ to its young charges.



Making a decision to follow the crowd to gymnasium, or plunge into a career so early, can come back to haunt you

By Stephen Gadd It’s never too late to get an education is the sort of adage you might expect somebody like Benjamin Franklin to have said, but no, it was nobody famous. Nevertheless, is it true? Theoretically, of course it is, but sometimes reality bites. Sometimes, to get an education we need an education. It’s not fanciful to imagine that we might have opted to leave school at 16 to take an apprenticeship, and then, by the time we’re 30 and eyeing a degree to further our career, we realise we need the equivalent of a high school diploma to qualify. This is why the decision we take when we finish elementary schooling at the age of 15-17 is probably the most important one we will ever take on our educational journey. Upper secondary education Upper secondary education typically starts at the end of full-time compulsory education and caters for students aged 16-19. Unless a private school is chosen, it is free of charge.



At present there are 18 international uppersecondary schools in Denmark offering the International Baccalaureate (IB). A prerequisite is that the international course offered must be able to provide access to higher education in Denmark. Stepping stone to higher education Students can take several different routes at this level and there are four academicallyorientated programs available (see factbox). These four programs prepare young people for higher education and ensure that they acquire a general education, knowledge and competences by means of the subjects they study and through the interaction between them. THE CHOICE AHEAD The STX and HF programs consist of a broad range of subjects in the humanities, natural science and social sciences, whereas the HHX program focuses on business and socioeconomic disciplines, in combination with foreign languages and other general subjects. The HTX program is focused on technological and scientific subjects, in combination with general subjects.

Each of the programs has a range of compulsory subjects. Additionally, in STX, HHX and HTX, each school offers a number of specialised studies packages normally containing three subjects and offers elective subjects for students to choose between. In HF, students choose from among the elective subjects offered by the individual school. All the programs contain multi-subject courses which serve to strengthen students’ preparedness for further study. ADMISSION CRITERIA To be admitted to one of the three-year upper secondary education programs (STX, HHX, HTX), students must have completed nine years of Danish basic education or have received corresponding teaching and have taken the primary and lower secondary school compulsory final examination. For HF, a student must have completed ten years of Danish basic education and have taken examinations in Danish, English, mathematics, a second foreign language (French or German) and physics/chemistry. If for some reason a student has not taken the required examinations for admission to STX/ HHX/HTX or HF, an admission test can also be

taken. Students who have not attended a Danish school can be admitted following a concrete assessment as to whether their qualiďŹ cations correspond to those required by students who have attended a Danish school. They may also be required to take an admission test. STUDENT INVOLVEMENT The needs and wishes of the students are taken very seriously and they have the right to form a student council and are also represented on the school board. The school must also ensure that students are involved in the planning of class teaching. Schools are obliged to provide academic guidance and guidance on higher education and careers. CHOICE OF FOUR The 3-year Upper Secondary School Leaving Examination (STX) The 3-year Higher Commercial Examination (HHX) The 3-year Higher Technical Examination (HTX) The 2-year Higher Preparatory Examination (HF) VET PROGRAMS: FOUR MAIN SUBJECT AREAS 1. Care, health and pedagogy 2. Administration, commerce and business service 3. Food, agriculture and hospitality 4. Technology, construction and transportation


Master your future – Higher education in Denmark

By Edward Owen

It’s no secret that higher education is neither cheap nor free in many parts of the world. And within the European Union, it’s a mixed bag of free and paid-for education. Denmark offers not only free education to EU citizens, but also has an excellent range of choice with programs taught in English – especially at master’s level. Non-EU citizens are required to pay tuition, and the amount varies greatly depending on the institution and the program of study. However, there is still a good chance to make significant savings in comparison to studying somewhere like the UK, where prices start at 80,000 kroner per year. In comparison, programs can be found in Denmark for approximately half the amount. With more than 22,000 international students in Denmark, you certainly won’t be alone. Our step-by-step guide to higher education in Denmark is an introduction to all of the things you need to consider to really know your options. CHOOSING A SCHOOL Key point: Some universities specialise in specific fields whilst others offer a variety of programs. First things first, you need to find a course and a university that is right for you. Nationally there are eight universities. Within the Copenhagen area alone you will find six of these institutions within a reasonable commuting distance, although it is also not unheard of for Copenhagen-based students to travel to SDU in Odense. Whilst all of the major universities offer postgraduate programs taught in English, the same option for undergraduate programs could sometimes be described as limited. If you are starting with an undergraduate program, see the factbox for a brief description of each school. THINK AHEAD Key point: Check the program’s content against the job market If you plan to stay in Denmark or not, you should investigate how you will be able to apply your studies once you have graduated. Do this before enrolling. The most important thing at this point is not only to think about what you would ‘like’ to do, but also to understand the potential job market. The Danish job market is competitive and rather keen on overt compatibility between your studies, experience and the role you may be applying for.



Furthermore, even programs taught in English can be tailored to the Danish job market. As such, you need to be aware of your trajectory before you embark on a program. In Denmark, if you have gone to university, it is the norm to study through to master’s level. This is often referred to as a ‘long education’.

FINDING ACCOMMODATION Key points: Start searching early and don’t be put off by short-term agreements. Also find a property where your CPR number can be registered (i.e get a contract).

THE APPLICATION PROCESS Key point: Don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

Unfortunately, this can be one of the most difficult aspects of attending university in Denmark – especially for international students. Copenhagen is the most competitive – no surprise given the concentration of schools.

Most universities will direct your application to the same online portal: ‘STADS’. This is operated by the Ministry of Education, not the universities.

Your first port of call should always be your university to see if they have any specific recommendations – like exclusive access to student dorms or ‘kollegier’.

You should register and obtain a log-in as soon as possible.

There are many online portals for accommodation. These usually offer access to adverts and listings for a small fee, but be sure to read exactly what you’re signing up for. You should also join every relevant group you can find on social media.

Via STADS you will select the university and study program from a list to create a new application. You can make more than one application during each intake. The specific documents required for an application will vary depending on the school and program requirements. STADS is not the most user friendly platform – allow yourself plenty of time when setting up a new application. Furthermore, do not leave it until the last minute to send an application – deadline days are notorious for online queuing and portal failure. In fact, for September admissions, try to apply by March. For schools that operate a second February, intake will often expect applications by mid-October. Once you are enrolled and are studying, you will continue to use STADS to view grades, apply for exams and carry out any other administration.

There is a high degree of turnover with shortterm lets. These may not seem ideal, but can be a good option to get started. As you meet more people at university, a good social network often leads to more opportunities. Deposits can be quite expensive with landlords asking for up to three months in rent. Beware of scams. Use common sense and avoid paying deposits in cash or via services where the transaction cannot be reversed, like Western Union. Be vigilant when making enquiries from overseas. Look for a property to which you can register your CPR number (social security). If you want to check who owns a property, go to boligejer. dk.

GETTING A CPR NUMBER Key point: You cannot work or open a bank account without a CPR number. The Central Person Register (CPR) is the Danish equivalent of a social security or national insurance number. To get one, you will need proof of your enrollment, accommodation (contract/ agreement) and registration certificate/residence permit. Whilst EU/EEA or Nordic citizens are not legally required to have one for a stay of up to three months, the CPR is absolutely crucial to life in Denmark as it enables you to work and open a bank account (check FINANCIAL SUPPORT Key point: International EU students should look for parttime work in order to receive financial support. Some foreign citizens may be entitled to State Education Support (SU) when studying. There are a number of different ways that you may qualify, and these generally fall under two categories: Equal status according to Danish rules and Equal status according to EU law. The typical stipulation to be aware of as an EU student is the ongoing requirement that you must be working part-time, 10-12 hours per week, and at least 43 hours per month. Universities usually have an SU office that can help you. Visit to find out more. TEACHING STYLE Key point: Don’t expect to just sit in class and listen. Each university will have a particular ethos, but generally speaking you can expect a significant amount of group work and participation in class. The onus will be on you as individuals and as a class to really engage. Whether studying at undergraduate or postgraduate level, students are usually encouraged to take charge of the direction of projects and to use the teacher as a consultant in a collaborative learning process. It may depend on the subject you study, and class sizes, but generally speaking you

should expect to make regular contributions in class.


EXAM FORMAT Key point: The ‘defence’ style exam is alien to many internationals. Don’t be shy, speak up and practise beforehand.

Copenhagen University (KU) • Specialty/focus: Offers a variety of programs in different subject areas • Undergraduate: All bachelors are taught in Danish • Postgraduate: A wide range of master’s programs are avail able in English

All kinds of exams are in use: formal presentations, random question and answer, take-home essays, semester-long group projects and so on. Traditional timed exams are less common. The most likely candidate to catch you off-guard, is the ‘defence’ style exam. This is normally used as a way of confirming grades for semesterlong group projects or a thesis. Despite handing in a written report as a group, you will also make a presentation in which each individual contributes, and then face extensive questioning as a group. These exams can last for several hours. It is customary for students to bring refreshments such as drinks and snacks, but do not be fooled by the laid-back vibe. This is an exam like no other and your performance as an individual will affect your grade (from at the top score of 12 to 10, 7, 4, 02, 00, and finally -3). Raise your hand, speak up and know your project inside out. STAYING IN DENMARK? Key point: If you plan on staying in Denmark you need to join an a-kasse and a union. Join an a-kasse while you are still a student. If you do not have a job immediately after graduation, you can receive financial support whilst you apply for positions. Also, join a professional union while you are still a student. These are very common in Denmark and your background will dictate which one you should join. Your union can help negotiate terms of employment and advise you on matters such as salary. As a student, you will receive a discounted rate of membership for both of these things. They can offer many services to help during your career. Good luck!

Copenhagen Business School (CBS) • Specialty/focus: Takes an international perspective on a broad range of subjects with a business focus • Undergraduate: Many taught in English • Postgraduate: Mostly taught in English

Technical University of Denmark (DTU) • Specialty/focus: Technical and natural sciences. • Undergraduate: Offers a small number of bachelor programs with only one taught in English. • Postgraduate: Master’s level programs are taught exclusively in English. Aalborg University – Copenhagen (AAU – CPH) • Speciality/focus: Offers a variety of programs in different subject areas • Undergraduate: Over 70 bachelors but just a handful taught in English • Postgraduate: Approximately 200 variants are available with more than half taught in English. IT University (ITU) • Specialty/focus: Information technology and the digital world • Undergraduate: Offers four programs. Two of these are taught in Danish, while the other two require ‘academic’ Danish language skills (see university webpage for definition) • Postgraduate: Five programs available – all but one are taught exclusively in English. Roskilde (RUC) • Specialty/focus: Offers a variety of programs within humani ties, humanistic technologies, social science and science • Undergraduate: A good number available taught in English • Postgraduate: A good number available taught in English University of Southern Denmark (SDU) • Specialty/focus: Offers a variety of programs in different subject areas • Undergraduate: A good number available taught in English (mostly engineering, business, social sciences) • Postgraduate: A wide range of master’s programs are avail able in English Aarhus University (AU) • Specialty/focus: Offers a variety of programs in different subject areas • Undergraduate: Just a handful of bachelors taught in English • Postgraduate: A wide range of master’s programs are avail able in English Aalborg University (AAU) • As above – primary Aalborg campus


Copenhagen the home of the cheapest international school fees in the world Median average only a seventh of the price you would pay in most Swiss cities By Ben Hamilton It surprises many people when they learn that the fees for Copenhagen International School are pretty much four times the amount payable for the other establishments in the capital, even though it’s often followed by the remark “But they’re the best”.

school fees in the world, as the median average is only 4,542 US dollars, with the cheapest school only costing 3,613 – which is way below most other cities. In Switzerland, a country where the expenses are often compared to Denmark, the median is 25,630 in Zurich and 23,414 in Geneva, while China leads the way with 31,253 in Beijing and 30,046 in Shanghai.

the second cheapest, trailing only Cape Town. Thank you to the state There is a very good reason why the international schools are so cheap in Denmark, as every private school gets a state subsidy of 76 percent. This means a child benefiting from a 3,000 dollar-a-year education is effectively getting 12,000 dollars’ worth.

not – in the UK, for example, it pretty much determines whether someone is uppermiddle class – it is great value for money.

According to the figures, the Middle East and Africa are generally the cheapest areas in the world for international education.

And were it not for its high fees, Copenhagen could very well celebrate having the cheapest international

Of the 56 cities included in the International Schools Database, Copenhagen was

In countries where prestige is attached to whether you were privately educated or

Calls for common exam A proposal submitted by KL, the interest group for the country’s 98 municipalities, suggests there should be a common exam for children who want an upper-secondary education. Presently, it argues, too many children think socially and attend gymnasium because their friends are doing so. A new system, it argues, would persuade more to think vocationally.

Interest in robots A robot school run by volunteers at Teknologiskolen in Odense, where kids learn about the coding behind the robots’ automation, recently received a donation of 2 million kroner. Meanwhile, another coding organisation, Coding Pirates, hasn’t looked back since its foundation five years ago. It has 83 chapters and 3,000 members nationwide, as well as a waiting list to join.

War on photo obsessives PM Mette Frederiksen and other leading politicians recently shared photos of their school photos on social media in response to news that parents are increasingly looking for the perfect school photo of their kids. Photographers are more frequently being asked to digitally manipulate school photos to make children have whiter teeth, have moles removed or even to look thinner.

Battling plastic Some 57,000 school children representing 92 of Denmark’s 98 municipalities, as well as Greenland and the Faroe Islands, recently took part in Masseeksperimentet, a component of Astra’s annual nature knowledge festival, which aims to tackle plastic pollution in water. One academic compared their efforts to collect and scrutinise plastic to having 57,000 research assistants.

Gender advice University of Copenhagen lecturers have been advised to pay more attention when articulating gender to the students in their classes. The advice came in September, prior to the start of the new semester, via an email sent by the Department of Arts and Cultural Science, which has since clarified that it was not issuing strict guidelines to the academics.

Claims on the title Aarhus was recently voted the best student city in Denmark, but Copenhagen isn’t giving up. It recently confirmed its intention to build 12,000 new student homes over the next 12 years and provide more temporary housing, initiatives to help graduates to find work, and plans to create a thriving student life with less stress and better well-being.

Record efterskole year Some 55 percent of tenth grade students (ages 15-16) went to an efterskole boarding school in 2018 – up from 42 percent in 2011, making it the highest proportion since records began in 2005. Additionally, 12 percent of ninth grade students went to an efterskole, which are credited with giving children a better idea of what they want to do with the rest of their life.

Mostly in urban areas A Balance Denmark study reveals that 81 percent of higher education students reside in either Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense or Aalborg, compared to just two-thirds of all vocational students. Of the country’s eight universities, only Roskilde is located outside the urban areas. The Education Ministry wants to spread more higher education out to the regions.

Investment for R&I The government recently set aside 1.5 billion kroner for green R&I, and it is well timed as a group of independent international experts recently concluded that while the Danish R&I sector has immense potential, its overall strategy is wanting. The report underlines that Denmark needs to significantly improve in regards to generating specific commercially-viable results.

DTU highly ranked For the fifth time in a row the ‘Reuters Top 100 for The World’s Most Innovative Universities – 2019’ has confirmed DTU as the most innovative university in the Nordic region. DTU rose nine places up the rankings from 57th to 48th. “It reflects a persistent focus from our researchers that research must be beneficial to society,” commented DTU.

Grading shake-up Mixing with the elderly Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, the Vejle Municipality in southeast education minister, wants to Jutland has given its backing to change the grading system an upcoming elderly care cenused by Danish educational tre in Gauerslund being built establishments. She would pre- with an adjoining kindergarten. fer a system that isn’t obsessed The proximity will enable the with weaknesses, which tends to elderly patients to mix with the presume a score of 12 and then kids – a scenario that local counsubtract for errors. Instead, she cillor Anja Daugård believes will wants the grades to have more be healthy for the senior citizens leeway to recognise exceptional should they still be around for the opening in 2023. work, even if it is error-strewn. EDUCATION GUIDE S P R I N G 2020 12

Above average scores Danish school students are still performing above average in the PISA report, which assesses the reading, maths and science skills of 15-year-olds in the OECD countries. With a score of 501, Denmark finished 14 above the average, with maths (509) leading the way ahead of reading (501) and science (487).

Earlier dyslexia tests Currently, children in Denmark have the right to be tested for dyslexia in the 3rd grade, even though symptoms can be seen as early as in kindergarten. Now, the government wants the reading disorder diagnosed earlier – at the age of six or seven if possible. The government will also adopt dyslexia tests for children and young people with Danish as a second language.

12 weeks of ski school It’s easy to forget that a lot of Danish children go to international schools, and in January their number was increased by four when the Crown Prince Couple’s children started a 12week semester at the Lemania Verbier International School. Conveniently, Verbier is their mother’s favourite ski resort, and she will be living in the area whilst they study.



Global Perspectives

values critical thinking life skills




At Skt. Josef ’s International School, we strive to have happy, knowledgable children skilled with the right character so that each child learns how to learn. Skt. Josef ’s, located just 25 minutes from Copenhagen Central Station in historic Roskilde, provides quality international education for children aged 5 to 16 (Year 1 to Year 11). Skt. Josef ’s International School

Frederiksborgvej 10, Roskilde

+45 4635 2526


PRIVILEGED PARLEZ: Are some secondary languages more secondary than others?

THE BITTER TRUTH The reality today is that Danes are gradually becoming worse at speaking foreign languages. “In the past, we typically studied three languages at high school: Danish, English and another one,” continued Andersen. “This number has fallen substantially: from about 40 percent of high school graduates studying three languages to 4-5 percent. This decline is why our centre was created.” Holmen’s opinion, meanwhile, is that the survey “might have been a true picture of language skills in 2016, but it’s a picture that resulted from earlier interest in foreign languages, which has been declining over the last 15-20 years. It is a historical picture that’s fading.” SCANDINAVIAN FAMILY DRAMA So for self-confidence in 2016, Denmark actually fell short of the gold, continuing a long standing sibling rivalry with Sweden in which their neighbours invariably end up taking first place. Only 3.4 percent of Swedes said they do not speak any other language.

George Orwell’s prognostication in his novel ‘1984’ that we would all end up speaking ‘Newspeak’ wasn’t that far off the mark, but don’t let that linguistically stunt you, contend academics

By Soma Biró

“DENMARK among best EU countries for foreign languages” said the subject line of an email I received last month. Inside, it went on: “Only 4.2 percent of people in Denmark can’t speak another language; an impressive 95.8 percent CAN.” Perfect breaking news for CPH POST, I thought, or so it would’ve been had I received the mail in 2016 – when Eurostat compiled the data. It was updated in 2019, true, but that might have just been the adding of a missing ‘e’ to ‘Grece’ (a change to the metadata), since the actual numbers are still seemingly about four years old. The email came from the Knowledge Academy, which has given a fresh coating and a new life to this EU survey – perhaps in order to raise awareness about the lack of foreign language skills in the UK? (We’ll return to the Brits later on.) In any case, I took this blast from the past and used it as a springboard to examine Denmark’s current relationship with foreign languages. In my quest, I encountered two experts on language skills in Denmark: Mette Skovgaard Andersen, the head of the Danish National Centre for Foreign Languages (NCFF), and Anne Holmen, the head of the Centre for Internationalisation



and Parallel Language Use (CIP) at the University of Copenhagen. And unsurprisingly both of them had some fascinating insights to offer. Their comments are the main ingredients in what follows, so let the feast begin! CONFIDENCE VERSUS REALITY The data is part of the Adult Education Survey of Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU. Taking a look at some of the details behind the impressive numbers, 41.2 percent of Danes reported speaking two languages, and 24.6 percent a total of three. Only 29.9 percent speak just one foreign language. The survey focused on people between the ages of 25 and 64, and their language knowledge was selfreported, which means nobody got tested. “What we can really deduce from this data is that Danes themselves think that they are mightily good at speaking foreign languages. That might not always correspond to what others experience,” said Andersen.

This might be a painful blow to relive for Denmark – partly because they lost the Thorsteinson War to Sweden in 1644, and partly because the Swedes has also beaten them in Education First’s English proficiency index twice since this EU survey – in 2018 and 19. Denmark took fourth place in the most recent iteration of that ranking, falling behind the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. In the glory days (2017), DK stood tall at the top of the podium. A SOMEWHAT REALISTIC PICTURE Both language professionals I spoke to contend that the Danish placement relative to other EU countries (second best) seems like a realistic picture even in 2020. Andersen backed up this aspect of the data: “Of course we are better than many other countries, at least at English. But this makes good historical sense – we are a much smaller country and it has been necessary for us to learn other languages.”

Indeed, 75.6 percent of the respondents either said they are ‘good’ or that they are ‘proficient’ at the foreign language they know best. Only 24.1 percent claimed to be a basic level, which in this survey means to “understand and use the most common everyday expressions”. This incompatibility between confidence and reality reveals itself, for example, at universities, contends Andersen: “When Danes start and have to read academic texts in English, they actually have a problem fully understanding them. There have been studies conducted about this.”

Mette Skovgaard Andersen

FEATURE WHAT DID DANES DO SO WELL? What code did Danes crack to get to this relatively good position (even if they are in the process of getting worse at foreign languages)? One explanation I got from Andersen is the early introduction of languages in primary schools, where “we have pushed English down to 1st grade and German to 5th grade”. Holmen pointed to the Danish school system’s focus on speaking, making students put their knowledge to actual use: “I think that the introduction of communicative teaching, which sets communicative skills as its goal, has done a lot of good – especially regarding English – in making students fluent language users. And I think this rubs off on the other foreign-language subjects as well. We started introducing this to primary schools about 30 years ago.” And then there is pop-culture, adds Andersen: “Young people are constantly surrounded by English – when they play computer games or watch TV, for instance – and they are being told that English is important. Of course, once they gain some English skills in this way, they naturally begin to gravitate more towards English.” HOW YOU DOIN’? Certainly, whenever I discuss Danish language skills with others, I bring up the lack of dubbing: most films, TV series and other shows are aired in their original languages – usually English. Thus, Danes grow up reading Danish subtitles and listening to English, while Germans grow up thinking Matt LeBlanc can actually say: “Na wie geht’s denn so?” (It must be added, however, that dubbing can occasionally enhance the original contents – watch Steve Martin’s Pink Panther in Hungarian and cry with laughter, and you’ll know what I mean). LANGUAGE NEPOTISM Another explanation might be that when Danes learn another language they usually learn English or German as they are, like Danish, both Germanic. But the same choice would be true in Hungary, for example, even though Hungarian is a Uralic language and in the same family as Finnish and Estonian. Hungary is third worst on the list. But while Holmen conceded that the Hungarian example made good sense, there are “a very large number of Danish words derived from German. So if a teacher conducts language comparisons, students’ vocabularies suddenly undergo a marked expansion. And this, of course, is something that happens with languages related to our own.” WHY THE DECLINE? Holmen and Andersen both concur that foreign language skills are actually declining in Denmark, and the impact of English

has played a major role. “There is an implicit sense that we can get by with English: that it is enough to educate a whole bunch of people to speak English. It has had the effect that English has assumed primacy and pushed other languages to the sidelines. I don’t think this was intentional – it’s just what happened as young people are exposed to a massive amount of English,” contended Andersen. “Also, we cannot get young people to understand that foreign languages are actually an important skill that one can use in a lot of different ways and contexts. You don’t need to have foreign language skills as your main skillset, but basically all professions would gain from such skills as it would allow people to acquire knowledge from other languages – in all fields.” HALLO? YOU THERE? YOU’RE BREAKING UP Andersen questions whether the Danish education system could be a more seamless experience, as children finish their elementary schooling aged 16 and start considering their university options at an upper-secondary establishment.

“A big problem is that the different levels of education don’t communicate very well with each other: I’m talking about primary school teachers who graduated from Provisionshøjskolerne, and high school teachers who come from universities. The connection between these two teaching traditions is not optimal,” said Andersen “The reason is that these teachers are educated very differently. At Provisionshøjskolen, there’s a lot of focus on being a teacher – that’s the highest priority for them. The subject they’re learning is also important, but less so. So they actually don’t get too much language even though they choose to study language. They are first and foremost teachers. At universities, on the other hand, you get a lot of knowledge but not about pedagogy. So there are different attitudes as to the nature of the subjects they teach. Thus, young people come to feel that things don’t really fit together. And I think this demotivates them. They run into situations in which some of what they learned before turns out to be wrong later on, or they are told they are going to learn something and then they end up learning something entirely different.” EDUCATION GUIDE S P R I N G 2020 15

FEATURE needs other language skills as well: right now mostly Afghan languages and Arabic, whereas it used to be predominantly Russian.”


‘Brother John’], which exists in 15 different languages?” continued Holmen.

One area that could influence some change in the larger scheme of things is high school – the gymnasium upper-secondary schools for students aged 16-19.

“There are so many of these easy tasks appropriate for kids aged 6-7 – when they are still quite open and you can spark an interest in them. You shouldn’t plague them with correctness at this point. The teacher doesn’t need to know all the languages her students speak, but she can have a pedagogical approach regarding how to respect them, how to speak about them, and how to include them in comparisons etc. This can be mastered without having to learn 25 different languages. And this applies to everyone: we need to have a way to relate to other languages, even if we don’t speak all of them.”

Holmen recommends a change in the way subjects are offered to students: “In high school, you have packages of subjects that you choose between. It’s important that foreign language subjects are placed so that they become an attractive option. There was a tendency to place high-level English in a package with social studies. We could work with that: we could put another foreign language there as well. And social studies could collaborate with the language subjects regarding the content of the lessons: students could deal with some interdisciplinary topics.” So, for example, a social studies assignment about Germany that would require German language skills to be properly completed? “Yes. This might be the way forward since it illuminates the fact that languages can function in many different ways and contexts, granting access to many different types of knowledge.” KIDS AND CURIOSITY Holmen believes one of the causes of the decline occurs when kids are first introduced to the language. She thinks changes need to be made at this stage too: “I think it’s very important to build a strong curiosity for languages early on in primary school. In this process, it’s vital that all languages in the classroom are considered legitimate – particularly all the minority languages. Because if all the students’ languages are legitimate, then all the other languages become interesting.” “One could work with language awareness, for example – so kids can reflect on language. You could do something like have students learn a certain thing in several different tongues: how do you say ‘Hi’ in all the languages spoken in that classroom or how to sing ‘Mester Jakob’ [‘Frére Jacques’ or



LOSSES AND GAINS To recap once more: yes, Denmark is doing well compared to many other countries, while in reality it’s becoming worse compared to its own history with foreign languages. In that light, it’s worth asking the question: what do people gain from having the ability to speak several tongues or, turning the other side of the same coin, what do they stand to lose if they let such abilities deteriorate? ENGLISH: A REAL HOLY GRAIL When it comes to English, according to Education First (the international education company), studies show that good English skills raise the chances of getting a higher salary as well as the level of success in one’s professional life. EF also states that there is a proven link between a country’s English skills and quality of life: including average lifespan, education and GDP. And indeed, the number of English speakers around the world exceeds 2 billion – a large market to have access to. MILITARY MEANS But it’s not all about English, of course. Holmen talked about how Denmark profits from contact with the rest of the world in general, be it regarding international organisations, private companies, tourism, journalism or defence: “Indeed, the military also requires a lot of English proficiency as we are a NATO country. But it

OBJECTION VOTRE HONNEUR! Lawyers also benefit from having good foreign language skills. Holmen highlighted the need for French, for example: “There was a report a few years ago about the need for French in Statsforvaltningen [since replaced by the Agency of Family Law]. We have EU laws and agreements, and French is one of the official languages of the EU. There are some EU courts that operate in French. This means that from a legal standpoint we could profit from knowing some French. It’s not necessary to be able to understand, speak, read and write French – you don’t need to have a fully communicative set of skills here. It’s enough if you can read legal French. And this is quite sought-after.” EXPAND YOUR MIND Are Danes ethnocentric? Yes, many of them are, according to Andersen. “The ethnocentric worldview that many Danes unfortunately have becomes widened when their norms are challenged. Every time you learn a new language you get an insight into a new way of thinking and a new worldview. You see the world through different eyes – and I think we need to see through as many different eyes as possible – as a society,” she said. “If we don’t have sufficient foreign language skills, we miss out on all the knowledge that you can only access by knowing other languages. It’s not just about being able to say things, but about being able to consume insight from other nations – things that haven’t been translated or never will be.” Holmen agrees: “In terms of moving about in the world, in general, I think you enter into relations in a more respectful manner if you can speak other languages. And I think it’s very important to teach this to our children. Besides, we risk having an exclusively AngloAmerican view of the world because those are the only texts we can read.”

Anne Holmen


ON TO THE BRITS BABEL STILL IN CRISIS The Eurostat survey revealed that many of the citizens of Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ireland, Spain, France and Italy are unable to speak a second language. However, the king of them all when it comes to a lack of foreign language skills is Britain, the old colonial power who took everything but the languages, with 65.4 percent of Brits unable to hold up their end of the conversation using anything other than English. Thank god most of us speak their language, or otherwise we’ll never get that tower built. According to iNews, some blame this failing on curricula enforced between 2004 and 2014 that language learning was only mandatory for students for three years, from the age of 11 to 14. However, since 2014, it has again become compulsory in the final years of primary school as well. A TEACHER’S VIEW I met Susanne Richman, a Dane in her 70s who teaches in the UK, while she was drinking beer al fresco in front of the Old English Pub with her daughter Corinna. Richman, the widow of a Brit, has lived a large part of her life in the UK. She shared some of her thoughts on the British school system. “Perhaps there is not enough emphasis in the English curriculum on children learning a second language. They’re very focused on computers – more than languages. It’s computers, computers all the way,” she recalled. “We had German in my school and we dropped it because not enough students signed up for it, which is a shame. And now that we’re possibly leaving the EU, they think it’s perhaps even less necessary to learn other languages. Also, I think the education system in England needs to make it sound like it’s fun to learn another language – that it’s interesting and that you can gain knowledge about cultures this way. Instead of just saying ‘Pick a language’ – which is about as much advertising as you get in school. Believe me: I know, I work in one.” A LACK OF COMMUNICATIVE LEARNING I met Brian and Gillian Shipp in Raadhuspladsen on December 23. The British couple, both in their 70s, were on a Christmas trip to Copenhagen. Gillian told me that both of them tried to learn a foreign language growing up: “We were taught French in school.” “But not to speak,” Brian added. “Just learning the language. You didn’t learn conversation … well, very little.” Not much of the French they were meant to pick up remains with them today and, according to Brian, British teaching practices at the

time are to blame: “I just think that the English system didn’t allow for us to learn languages easily. Whilst you need to learn the grammatical side of it, there should be a lot more emphasis on the speaking. We didn’t have any interaction. It was all about the grammar.” GROUNDED IN REALISM Jonathan Simons, a UK government advisor specialising in education under the governments of Gordon Brown and David Cameron, has always urged realism. “The vast majority of people in the UK who end up going into the labour market will not need to speak a foreign language,” he told iNews. Quite simply, he has always contended, it is not worth it trying to turn the tide. However, Simons does concede that the “economic centre of the world is moving east” and it wouldn’t hurt to invest in some Chinese lessons – or other Asian languages, for that matter. Fortunately for most Brits, an immense number of people speak their language. “That’s made us lazy I suppose,” said Gillian Shipp, with husband

Brian adding: “Yes, that’s made us lazy but, you know, we’ve gained from it, really, because we can speak to a lot of people anyway.” JUST SAY IT! Richman attributes Britain’s failing to a widespread inhibition: “I think the English are frightened of not sounding authentically German, so they won’t speak German or any language because ‘No, no, if I don’t sound good I’m not gonna say anything’.” Gillian Shipp demonstrated this phenomenon herself when she told me: “I know one French phrase but I wouldn’t say it to you because it’s in an English accent and you wouldn’t understand what I’m saying.” Her husband, however, quickly demonstrated that even a Brit can mount this inner hurdle when he said: “Je m’appelle Brian.” Indeed, as Luis Von Ahn, the founder of the language learning app Duolingo, told iNews: “The people who are best at learning a language are the ones who don’t care about sounding stupid.” EDUCATION GUIDE S P R I N G 2020




Founded by Danes just four years ago, the Project Access global mentorship program has already helped thousands of disadvantaged candidates successfully apply to the likes of Oxbridge and the Ivy League

By Robert Eyfjord When Rune Kvist left his Danish high school, never did it cross his mind that he would one day study at the University of Oxford, particularly as he was not accepted into any domestic unis following his graduation. OXFORD VIA KENYA Kvist opted for a total change of scenery. Fastforward a couple of months and he was in Kenya, where he befriended a fellow ‘mzungu’ traveller – a British student at Oxford. “What I learnt from this guy – still my friend today – was that Oxford students were mere humans. Smart ones, sure, but not that different from me,” Kvist recalled to CPH POST. After his eye-opening African adventure, Kvist applied to Oxford. Much to his astonishment, he got in. His admittance quickly made him wonder how many other potential students



were out there, who would never dare to apply to world-leading universities. BORDERLESS MENTORSHIP Project Access is a non-political initiative created in February 2016 by Danes studying abroad. It relies on resourceful volunteers who have an aptitude for giving back. Kvist and Emil Bender Lassen were both board members of Danish Students Abroad when they, along with some close friends, conceptualised an extensive, borderless mentorship program. Kvist and Lassen – who attended the University of Oxford and King’s College London respectively – realised that there are access issues at many of the leading universities in the US and UK. They promptly assembled a team who would grow to collectively share a passion: to help bright, disadvantaged students into their preferred educations. SPEECH, SPREADSHEET, SUPPORT “Project Access was rooted in my own experience,” Kvist explained. “It didn’t start with a bold vision for a global organisation. It started with a talk at my local

high school during a Christmas break. Then I introduced a high-schooler to a friend of mine at Oxford. Then another one. Then we got a spreadsheet to keep track of it. Then a name for the organisation – and so on, and so on.” Adamant on combatting the underlying inequality of college admissions, Project Access soon developed into an award-winning organisation with over 3,500 qualified mentors focusing on educational mobility in 20 different countries, such as Peru, Brazil and India. “We’re called Project Access because we have a project to solve: education inequality,” added Kvist. “And we’ll stick around until it’s solved.” THE LURE OF EXPERIENCE Studying in Denmark certainly has its perks, as all Danish citizens can study for free. They can even apply for SU – financial support during the course of their education. Yet thousands of Danes seek to crack the books abroad, especially in the United States where tuition fees can be devastatingly high. According to DST, there were approximately 15,000 Danes studying abroad in 2017.

FEATURE There are many virtues of enrolling at a university with a strong global presence. A campus filled with students of unique and dissimilar backgrounds can create a vibrant, all-encompassing atmosphere. Ethnically-diverse environments do not only offer their foreign students an opportunity to learn from the host country, but also an incentive to share their native customs and traditions – forming a culturally enriching experience for all involved. The world’s most prestigious universities seem to have grasped the importance of cultural miscellany, with Harvard University reporting that the school welcomed 50.8 percent of its freshmen from minority groups in 2017. That means for the first time in its 382 years of existence, the majority of Harvard’s intake was non-white. BEST BEFORE LUCKY Spread across the globe, an abundance of innovative, academically gifted students from underdeveloped countries strive to obtain the best education possible, ever proving that intelligence is unbiased to where a person happened to be born. As the leading universities in the US and UK have such high endowments, many students are provided with financial aid throughout their studies. Alas, being able to offer a scholarship to the next Malala Yousafzai or Kelvin Doe is not an easy process – principally due to the low appliance rates from students of underprivileged social circumstances. “For us, giving the same tools to untraditional applicants, as those from a privileged background have, is a way of levelling the playing field,” Lassen pointed out. “It ensures that it is the best students that get into universities, not the lucky few.” CONTINUED RECOGNITION Project Access is now headquartered in London, having recently signed a partnership with the University of Cambridge. The deal entails Project Access providing guidance and mentorship to 200 of the university’s recently accepted students. Furthermore, the World Economic Forum recognises three of the group’s leaders as members of the Global Shapers Community.

“The organisation has since grown into targeting specific groups, and what we hope to do is to make the process of applying a little easier for people who wouldn’t necessarily seek an education abroad – or an education at all.”

Nina Emilie Bechmann, a Danish student at Columbia University in New York, is spearheading developments in the US.

TIRELESS DEDICATION Since its inception four years ago, Project Access has helped more than 3,000 disadvantaged students prepare and apply to their dream university. Of the many inquiries they receive, the mentors only provide assistance to those with a realistic chance of getting into a university.

“Project Access was launched to help bridge the gap between top educational institutions and international students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Bechmann confirmed.

“Being a nontraditional student can be incredibly hard – and the hard part does not end once you finally get accepted into college,” added Bechmann.

“Getting into college is the first hurdle they need to jump, but many experience even more significant challenges once they start.” Project Access currently receives support from private charitable donors, but in the future its aim is to replace this with revenue derived from corporations and universities. A GREAT SUCCESS RATE Some 71 percent of the applicants in 2018 revealed they were accepted into one of their top three college choices after being mentored by Project Access.

This article was first published in CPH POST in early 1998 EDUCATION GUIDE S P R I N G 2020




According to its managing director Chris Shern, the Henley Business School’s Executive MBA program will change who you are, both personally and professionally

By Soma Biró You’ve probably walked past it a million times, but didn’t realise that the Danish headquarters of one of the best business schools in Europe resides right by the heart of the Nørreport beehive. The big old doors of Fiolstræde 44 and the sleek Scandinavian business interior, dominated by the colour white, immediately confirm you’ve come to the right place – that is, if you’re looking for the Henley Business School in Denmark. GREAT CHOICE FOR EXPATS Its managing director, Chris Shern, an American executive and long-time expat, talked to me about their triple accredited Executive MBA program. He outlined why it is a great choice for expats looking to advance to the next level of leadership as well as rooting themselves socially and professionally in Denmark.



How did Henley Business School and the executive MBA come about It was established as an independent business school over 75 years ago in the UK after World War II, when leaders realised they had to rebuild Europe. Part of that was rebuilding business and creating jobs and, in order to do that, you had to build more leaders. One of the three foundations of Henley is that, in order to build leaders, you have to build human beings. So Henley’s always had a great deal of focus on personal development. Another important foundation was to make it international. Finally,the third cornerstone of Henley is that learning doesn’t necessarily occur from content delivery – from some expert performing a one way communication – but that learning also occurs via your peers. These three fundaments are just as relevant today as they were before, especially with technology, digitalisation and the disruption of education. Today Henley is in the top 1 percent of business schools in the world. As for the Henley Executive MBA in Denmark, it started a little over 25 years ago: at Aarhus Business College. They realised that they couldn’t offer the skills necessary for executive leaders to be able to compete in a globalised world. So they created the IME foundation [of which

Chris is also managing director] and IME went into co-operation with Henley Business School and started offering the executive MBA in Denmark. Since then, we’ve graduated almost 2,000 executive MBAs in Denmark. How did you join the Henley team? I myself am a Henley MBA from 2002. At that time I was pretty junior in my corporate career in the airline industry and was an expat here in Denmark coming to the end of my 30s. I knew that an executive MBA could be a good foundation to be able to progress in my career. There are many MBA providers in the market and, as an expat, I needed to know that no matter where I went in the world, this degree would be recognised and have credibility. Also creating a network and learning from my peers – in 2018, the Economist ranked Henley as number 1 on the list of best business schools regarding the potential to network. And after I left my corporate career in 2014 – I was managing director of Scandinavian Airlines in Milan for South Europe – I returned to Denmark and was asked to join IME as managing director. How is this program unique – what do you offer that’s different? Firstly, the mentioned focus we have on personal

COVER development talking about the challenges we’re faced with today, you can see how technology continues to fill more and more of the agenda: big data, robotics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and so on and so forth. They continue to fill more and more of society and the workplace, so the essence of being human is going to be more important than ever. Thus, the focus on personal development and a human centric aspect of business and leadership are vital. A lot of programs might go: ‘Okay, it’s the new buzzword so we do personal development’, but Henley has been focusing on personal development for over 70 years. So it’s very integrated into every module – into how we work and how we lead. I would also highlight our teaching method: what we call the syndicate method – learning from your peers, who are all executives with years of experience under their belts. But you’re also learning from your own situation, meaning all of the assignments are based on your own organisation. In that way, you almost become an internal consultant in your own organisation. If you look at us purely in the context of the Danish market, this is the only truly international MBA that you can get here in Denmark. And you get the best of several worlds: you’re taking a British International MBA in Denmark and have workshops in South Africa, Asia, the US and the UK. During the local workshops you can build up a strong local network, while at the same time you have the possibility to build an international network with all the global cohorts. Can you tell me more about the personal development aspect of the program? Being a leader is about empathy and about understanding people’s situations and what motivates them and about what their values are. You truly have to see people. But in order to do that, you also have to have a deep understanding of yourself. It’s not about hiding behind things like “This guy is an asshole” or “this guy seems arrogant.” Usually, when people are like that, there’s something else behind it – that they’re uncertain or have an inferiority complex, for example. So it’s about understanding how you are as an individual and a human being. And when you are authentic and in touch with your values, it’s much easier to come into contact with people, to motivate and to lead them. So, guided by an instructor and together with peers, you look at particular professional situations and examine what happened, how you felt and how others perceived you. Opening up and being vulnerable with other business leaders is extremely powerful.

What are some of the main things one gains from this program? It gives you a toolbox – you get the foundations of business, be it marketing, strategy, process, finance, managing people and so forth. It also gives a much deeper understanding of what you’re doing as an executive because it is in many ways a generalist education – you’re getting a broad and deep insight into the main drivers of business. So what it gave me personally is a much better understanding of operating a business. I was in a corporate environment, so I could apply the things I learned at a corporate level, but it would’ve been easy to apply those things to the particular organisation that I was working on as well. Because it is a generalist education, it also gave me the ability to essentially go into any type of business environment and have an understanding of what’s going on.

Leadership in Times of Extreme Change’ on the topic) and heavily draw inspiration from it. Is this being implemented in Henley? Henley does incorporate aspects of different places in the world into their learning experience. And, in December, Henley held a global workshop with almost 50 executive MBAs who came to Denmark from all over the world for a workshop. We incorporated elements of Nordic leadership into the curriculum this way. That is, things that the Nordics are starting to be known for: e.g sustainability, sustainable capitalism, design thinking, Nordic food movement and hygge, and the human connection. It was called the Managing People workshop in the Henley executive MBA.

So it’s about having more skills, but with that comes also more confidence. It’s how you look at yourself as a leader and as a businessperson, while the title alone – having an MBA – also changes how the outside world looks at you. To be able to put MBA on my own CV gave me a big boost.

Why should expats consider this program? I understand the frustrations, the difficulties and the challenges of being an outsider, an expat, in Denmark. I myself had the typical immigrant mindset that you always have to be better – you can’t just be like everybody else. You’re different so you have to be better.

As for the network, some of the people I’ve studied with are contacts I’m still very close with today. There was a study that came out a couple of weeks ago that said Denmark is one of the most difficult places in the world to make friends. Coming here as a foreigner and being able to complete this MBA journey with Danes gave me a solid personal and professional network for life. So you didn’t have any issues socialising in Denmark? Absolutely not. Twenty years later there are people from this Executive MBA who are important parts of my professional network. You kind of become part of an exclusive club. Who is this program aimed at? It’s an executive MBA – it’s not for junior leaders or supervisors. You need at least three years of leadership experience. The average age is 38 with seven years of leadership experience. We usually have senior managers and CEOs of smaller companies as well as senior management teams. Because it is a generalist education, we do also have a lot of specialists enrolling who have advanced degrees – people who studied finance, engineering, law, or science. Maybe their carriers have taken them in a more commercial direction and they find that they don’t have those skills at all. In such cases this program is an excellent addition. You are quite taken by Nordic leadership (you wrote the book ‘Return of the Vikings; Nordic

I’m also in discussions with Henley about designing an elective around Nordic leadership – a trust based collaborative approach to leading.

At Henley, you get into a group of peers and when you’re sitting with them and not just dancing on the outside of Danish society, but really sitting around a table with Danes, discussing, arguing something in depth, you realise: ‘Wow, I’m just as good as these guys’ or ‘I’m even better’ or ‘I have something to bring to the table’ – this most definitely minimises that aspect of feeling like you are less as a foreigner. Also, consider the uncertainty of being a foreigner here: ‘What if I lose my job?’ With a Henley MBA you’ll know: ‘Okay, I’ll be quite marketable here – or anywhere else.’ How does the structure of the Henley Executive MBA look like? The entire program takes 21 months to complete. And you can take up to seven years of breaks. Life gets in the way sometimes and it’s hard trying to balance a private life, career and your studies. You can take a break and restart again – even in other places in the world if needed. Another special aspect of the Henley Executive MBA is that it’s split up into stages. If you start it and complete the first stage, but want to stop there for some reason, you receive a certificate in management without having to complete the entire program. Or, you can continue to stage two and get a diploma in management. And, naturally, you can continue to complete stage three and the entire program and earn the executive MBA. EDUCATION GUIDE S P R I N G 2020



Welcome back Mr Mackenzie: From CIS to China, and home again

Sandy Mackenzie, the new director of Copenhagen International School, has extensive experience working in school administration across the planet. His impressive CV reveals stints working as the head of schools in Atlanta and Shanghai. Not only that, but he has worked for CIS before – as the Head of Mathematics and DP Coordinator from 2002 to 2004, so he is more than familiar with the school’s ethos. Over the summer of 2019, he replaced Jennifer Weyburn, who has moved to become the Head of Packer Collegiate School in Brooklyn, New York. We caught up with Sandy to find out more about his background and future vision for the school.

Interviewer: Ben Hamilton Can you tell us a little about yourself. For example, where you’re from, where you were working before and whether you have a connection with Denmark? My home town is Edinburgh in Scotland although it is some time since I lived there. When I was a youngster, I came to Denmark on summer holidays to visit family friends. During that time, I tried to learn some Danish so that I could participate in conversations around the dinner table. After beginning my career as a mathematics teacher in Scotland, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to come to work at Copenhagen International School as Head of Mathematics. My leadership career began here in that role and I also became the IB Diploma Coordinator. My personal life took



me back to Scotland where I remained for eight years, tasking on the role of Deputy Head at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff. I then moved to Shanghai, China before living in Atlanta, Georgia, USA for the past five years. There, I was Head of Secondary School at Atlanta International School, a PYP-MYP-DP IB school with 90 nationalities in the community – so excellent preparation for becoming Director of CIS. CIS has now been based at its new home in Nordhavn for two and a half academic years. How does its premises compare to other schools you’ve worked at? We are so fortunate to have the most amazing facilities and resources in Nordhavn. As well as winning architectural awards, the building is a fantastic place for young people to learn. We are keen for every student to develop a global mindset and an international viewpoint. Literally they sit beside classmates from around the world and look out the window at containers that will transport goods around the globe. From the impressive atrium to the well-equipped theatre, three stunning gyms and purpose-built designed laboratories, teachers and students can design learning with all the best resources. I have worked in impressive, old schools and newly-built premises; the campus we have in Nordhavn is both visually stunning and designed with young people’s learning in mind. There is a combination of serenity and vibrancy that I have never experienced anywhere else. When the Metro station at Orientkaj opens in a few months’ time, the campus will become even

more accessible and connected to the city. Many people have observed that CIS is a school of the future: sustainable living in an holistic environment. What has particularly impressed you about the school? Although our building is state of the art, the truly impressive aspect of CIS is its people. When I walked through the doors during my interview process, I knew that I was at home. Teachers are dedicated to the holistic development of their students and genuinely care about them and their learning. Young people at CIS learn from each other and feel safe, secure and included so that they can develop their identity. The mission of the school is to educate champions of a just and sustainable world. One of the aspects of the school that continues to impress me is that we are living that mission every day. Many of our readers have Danish partners. What should they say to them to persuade them that an education at an international school like CIS is a better choice than the local Danish school? At Copenhagen International School, we have many students who speak Danish as a mother tongue and they continue to develop their language and literature skills in this language. In fact, almost every student at CIS studies Danish as a language and also learns about the culture of this small but fascinating country. We find that many Danish parents choose CIS because they want their child to be educated in an international, caring, inclusive environment where their child can develop their identity as

Looking to the future, what can we expect from CIS? We are currently developing a fiveyear strategic plan and vision for the school. The process to develop this vision will be collaborative: involving stakeholders and listening to their views. CIS has a rich 57-year history as one of the founding schools of the International Baccalaureate, and it is well known around the world to be forward-facing and progressive. We will build on this foundation of tradition and alignment with our host country to continue to provide the very best education for globally-mobile families and internationally-

minded Danes. The world has changed in recent decades; to be successful in the workplace in 2030, young people will need to be resilient, adaptable and skilled communicators who possess intercultural understanding and a global mindset. We will ensure that every student has the opportunity to develop as a champion to make this world more just and more sustainable. What would you advise parents interested in learning more about the school? Come to see us! Inside the walls of the school, there is a tangible sense of who we are –something special that is hard to find anywhere else. We would be delighted to arrange a visit; you can learn more at cis. dk.

An International Baccalaureate World School

Global Mindset - Global Education - Global Life

a Dane with a global mindset who has a sophisticated intercultural understanding.

We welcome students from ages 3 to 18

We offer the full continuum of International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes: PYP, MYP and DP, as well as Pre-K

We deliver an excellent, well-rounded education in a caring and supportive learning environment

We offer exciting trips, electives, and many more activities beyond the classroom

We have Morning Club and After School Care

We are affordable and offer scholarships

Our teachers are passionate and highly qualified

We pride ourselves on fostering reflective and purposeful learners, as well as responsible Find out moreglobal about citizens ISH, book a visit or contact us •

We are considerate, form warm relationships, and build and nurture our ISH Community The International School of Hellerup is a Not-For-Profit IB World School with over 500 students representing more than 50 nationalities from around the world.

Find out more about ISH, book a visit or contact us at + 45 70 20 63 68 I I



Come and experience our school, discover the benefits of the IB Diploma Programme at ISH, meet with teachers and students, explore course options and learn more about our scholarship programme. For more information please visit

International School of Hellerup, Rygårds Allé 131, 2900 Hellerup, Denmark

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The Henley Executive MBA is not just another MBA. There are reasons why Henley is in the top 1% of all MBA programs worldwide. With over 70 years of experience educating top business leaders, we have earned our triple accreditation and the #27 ranking in the world according to The Economist due to our systematic focus on personal development. The Executive MBA at Henley is not just a series of courses, but rather a journey that will help strengthen your self-awareness, thus cultivating personal and professional

competencies crucial to leading people and strategic decision making. Our educational program will give you a broad business understanding, practical tools to succeed and a network of business leaders that spans the globe. This is quite simply a life-changing developmental opportunity. To read more visit or contact us directly to hear if the Henley Executive MBA is the program for you. 

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CPH Education Supplement, Spring 2020  

The best investment you can make in your kid's future is becoming an expert on education

CPH Education Supplement, Spring 2020  

The best investment you can make in your kid's future is becoming an expert on education

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