This post is part of a series reflecting on my international study tour to Copenhagen, Berlin and London.
This morning we headed to Langelinieskolen, just as the skies opened up and it rained, thundered and hailed! We headed to the the old hospital which temporarily houses the year 7,8 and 9 students. Langelinieskolen has recently merged with the deaf school, which has recently seen a drop in numbers of students due to new laws on deaf students being able to integrate into all primary schools rather than attending the special schools. Students at this school remain in the same class as 6-10 year olds and then change to different rooms and teachers from age 11.
After spending some time with the students we had an opportunity to chat to Deputy Head, Hanne, about the school. Langelinieskolen has 800 students, with 10 leaders ensuring the school continues to run well. He spoke of the fact that there is not a lot of morale with teachers and the recent reforms have made it even more difficult for teachers. Over the last 40 years the wages for teachers has reduced, seeing many flee the profession. Recent changes have included teachers being mandated to stay on location at school even through non contact hours. In Denmark it was normal for teachers to go home and complete their work if they were not required to teach a class. This is currently being changed and staff will be expected to stay at school for the hours between 8am and 4pm regardless of if they are teaching or not. Of course this is causing problems for the admin as they now need to find places to accommodate staff with desks and computers. Interestingly where teachers have had many more freedoms than in Australia, they do not have car parks for teachers. It is expected that you will ride or walk, or you pay for the privilege of parking!
The afternoon was spent in Christianhavns Gymnasium. I was privileged enough to spend some time in Catherine’s class, as they presented in groups on the text they had just read about the spread of British and American English. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to students about life at Christianhavns Gymnasium. These students were in their first year of the senior secondary school and once again it amazed me how independent the students were. We compared the rules and strict way of life of Australian students to that of Danish students. Edith was confused about how students become independent in Australia if the teachers are always telling them what to do.
Students in Denmark are in control of their own learning. They take full responsibility for it and have to motivate themselves. If they are absent from school, the student needs to give an acceptable reason for not being there. Reporting occurs at the end of the year to students, but parents do not see the grades of students, unless of course they show them! I know this is post compulsory education here but as 15 year olds we would never trust our students in such a way. We moved on to discussing smoking and drinking and it is really becoming apparent that this is a large issue for students. Talking to these 15 year olds they talked about drinking at parties but recognised it wasn’t peer pressured. “Everyone does it but if you don’t feel like it nobody cares,” said Freya. Lisa spoke of how she took up smoking at 14 and got addicted. But she has given up again. The maturity of these students is something I have not seen in students of the same age in Australia.
Our final part to the day, still at Christianhavn, we had a presentation from students about student democracy at the school. The student voice was so apparent. And not the student voice such as I see at schools in Australia. These students were represented and had responsibility and respect. They work in partnership with teachers and management and used the purpose of the school council to ensure they were not over ruled. The student council works with the school to create a communication agreement, which sets out the rules for teachers and students. An example being that teachers must put homework due the following day on their LMS, Lectio by 4pm. And teachers have the right to ask students to close their laptops if they are not required.
The school council had also negotiated with company who guards parties organised with the school because they didn’t stand for what the students believe in and another example of the student council in action was the school had wanted to make it compulsory for all students to bring a laptop to school. The students didn’t believe it was fair and wanted all students to come to the school regardless of their economical background. The students felt they lost this discussion as the rule did come in but an agreement was written to say that students could seek assistance from the school to buy a computer, a compromise at least.
Our final presentation was from two students who were part of Operation Day Work and organisation run by youths for youths. Each year they raise money by working a day for 300 kroner, which goes to the project they have organised such as helping identify corrupt companies in the Sierra Leone diamond industry. Interestingly when asked how we could donate it was explained that this was not the concept. IT was about educating both Danes and the country where the project was happening. It was just as important to have students working for the day and educating them as it was to send the money to the project. The school fully supported students and gave them a day to work on the project.
The school was clearly proud of the voice their students had and were wanting to showcase that to us. The level of involvement from students was certainly high and they were clearly respected not just in the school but also the society. It is a rather stark contrast to Australia where we hand feed our students and smother them with rules (A generalisation I know but I compared to Denmark it really is noticeable). It makes me wonder how Denmark came to respect their youth so. Is it the welfare state and social democratic background or could a change to the way we educate in Australia bring a respected youth culture?