Denmark is generally considered a progressive country. Several factors, however—the late modernization, the parallel existence of very different lifestyles, the decisive political influence of a self-conscious class of independent farmers with its own educational ideas—help to explain the contradictory trends in educational development and the comparative absence of planning. Legislation has most often taken the form of national ratifications of existing developments and compromises.
After World War II, a whole range of educational reforms was passed for political, economic, and social reasons. The Act of 1958 unified urban and rural school systems and established the 10-year folkeskole with its two components: the elementary hovedskole (main school) and the optional lower secondary school, the realafdeling. The gymnasium (upper secondary school) was reformed by the Act of 1961. The first legislation on vocational education and training were the Act on Technical Schools and the Act on Labor Market Training in 1960.
In 1976, a new Education Act reshaped the school system as it exists today. It introduced nine years of comprehensive primary and lower secondary education for all, and an optional 10th year and an optional preschool year. The act permits local authorities to abolish the previous division between language and science in the eighth and ninth grades, and encourages individualized teaching in foreign languages, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. This is regarded as the last step towards abolishing streaming of children during their schooling. However, in upper secondary schools, children are still channeled into either an academic branch giving access to higher education or a less academic and more practical vocational branch.
The free school tradition remains alive and visible: Besides alternative primary schools, there are still about a hundred residential folk high schools that embody the ideas of Bishop Grundtvig. Rather than primarily rural, today's students come from a broad range of young people, as well as senior citizens. Group work and seminars dominate the instructional calendar. Furthermore, there are choices of free schools for 14- to 18-year-olds: Efterskoler (continuation schools) offer an alternative to tenth grade of the folkeskole, and ungdomsskoler (youth schools) are designed for school-leavers who lack particular skills.
Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceDenmark - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Primary Preprimary Education, Secondary Education