Scan Magazine, Issue 94, November 2016

Page 60

Scan Magazine  |  Special Theme  |  Nordic Education Special – Danish Efterskoler

Two good friends and feeling secure Karise Efterskole has a clear vision of the basis for learning about life and academia when you are a young person with an intellectual disability. By Thomas Bech Hansen  |  Photos: Karise Efterskole

Leaving home for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for many young people. But if flying from the nest not only involves leaving family and home comforts behind, but also entails a whole new life approach, the task ahead is extra challenging. This is the case for many pupils arriving at Karise Efterskole – a boarding school in the south of Zealand in Denmark specialising in programmes for pupils with Down’s syndrome, ADHD, autism and similar conditions. “We believe that you can only learn once you have two good friends and feel secure. We try to help create this basis, and once it is in place they are ready to learn,” says the school’s principal, Nikolaj Rysager. “These youngsters come here thinking they cannot learn, and many never had a single friend. We believe that the reason they have learnt nothing is 60  |  Issue 94  |  November 2016

that they have been in the wrong environments, which haven’t taken their special needs into consideration.” Through conversation, being together a great deal and mixing academic education with physical activity and everyday chores associated with living under the same roof, the school emphasises a culture that builds bridges into adulthood for around 90 pupils per year. “As with any young person, they must leave their parents. Through shared activities and support and challenges in equal measure, they develop greater trust in the world. They begin to realise that they too can have good friends and positive experiences,” explains Rysager. The school offers courses of either one or two years. Drop-outs are rare and, afterwards, many pupils opt to continue

learning in a similar yet further advanced setting via the local upper secondary programme for pupils with special needs. According to Rysager, the aim is to give the pupils motivation and confidence to fulfil their lives, and to do so in a way that suits their talents. “We believe that, no matter who you are, you can contribute to society. It’s about valuing human qualities. The message we want to send out, in turn, is that society could and should open up and be more inclusive. Working 37 hours a week and being competitive with China is not the only way to be.”

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