Education and Schools in Denmark

Education in Denmark is of an exceptionally high standard. Schools across the country are subsidised by the government and, as a result, have modern facilities and are high-quality staff.

Expat children will need a Danish identity number (CPR number) to be enrolled in a school. Expats will likely receive information from their local municipality about education provision in the area when they register their children.

Public education in Denmark

Primary and lower secondary education

Under Danish law, all children are obliged to receive 10 years of education beginning in the August of the year in which a child turns six (known, somewhat confusingly as Year 0 to Year 9). Although it is not a requirement that children receive their education in a school, most do. 

All municipalities in Denmark provide free education for all children between six and 16 legally residing in Denmark, without any admission requirements. Certain schools, known as Folkeskole, provide an optional “pre-school” introductory year as a stepping stone between kindergarten and primary school, and an optional “10th year”. Parents can enrol their child at any municipal school that has places, which can be either in their own neighbourhood or another school in their municipality or a neighbouring municipality.

For the most part, children in Denmark are taught in mixed ability classes and are continuously evaluated. The curriculum involves a range of subject areas including the humanities, practical and creative subjects, mathematics and science. Teachers write individual learning plans for the pupils that are updated regularly.

Schools in Denmark usually start at 8am. The younger pupils finish at around noon or 1pm, while older pupils finish at around 2pm or 3pm.

Not many expat children speak Danish when they arrive in Denmark, but this is not a barrier to enrolment in a municipal school. In order to address this issue, municipalities are obliged to offer Danish language and culture courses to new arrivals.

Upper secondary education

Upper secondary is the stage of education in Denmark that students undertake after compulsory education and before higher education, usually between the ages of 16 and 19. Students can follow a general academic course (STX) in a gymnasium, a higher preparatory (HF) programme in a gymnasium or adult education centre, a higher commercial (HHX) programme in a college specialising in business and commercial courses, or a higher technical (HTX) programme in a technical college. There are additional opportunities for vocational education and training.

Private and international schools in Denmark

More than 85 percent of parents choose to send their children to their local municipal school, but some choose a private school for their children. Private schools in Denmark are self-governing institutions required to provide education to the standards of the municipal schools. There are many different types of private schools and some are based on a specific philosophy, pedagogical line or religious belief. Continuation schools, or Efterskoler, are private residential schools for pupils in years 8 to 10. In addition to normal subjects, emphasis in these schools is typically on social learning and fields like sports, music, nature or ecology.

There is a growing number of international schools in Denmark. International education is recognised as a key factor in attracting and retaining expats.

Most international schools in Denmark are in and around Copenhagen, but the rest of the country also has good coverage. Many of these schools have English as their primary language, while others teach primarily in German or French.

All schools in Denmark that are approved by the government receive the same level of funding as municipal schools. One consequence of this is that fees for attending an international school in Denmark are heavily subsidised and, relatively speaking, can appear inexpensive compared with independent schools in other countries. Schools only receive state funding for children registered by the beginning of September each year. Late registration attracts higher fees for the year, often more than twice subsidised fees.

Access and waiting lists vary from school to school. Some can offer immediate access for some classes while others run waiting lists three years ahead for early years education. It is important for expat parents to check with individual schools as soon as possible – though inclusion on a waiting list can involve an initial fee.

The two main curricula followed by English language schools in Denmark are the International Baccalaureate and the Cambridge International Curriculum. Both provide routes to the International Baccalaureate Diploma or to A Levels, which in turn provide access to higher education, both in Denmark and throughout the world.