International or Danish: that is the question - The Post

International or Danish: that is the question

A diverse setting will broaden your child’s horizons, but at what cost to the world outside their window?

(photo: Pixabay)
October 18th, 2019 5:01 pm| by Ben Hamilton

Our educational journeys are beset by crucial decisions: what country were we educated in – so, are our qualifications recognised in Denmark, or did we waste ten years training as an atomic physicist? – what schools did we go to, what subjects did we study, and what language were we principally educated in?

Forget the 11-plus, this is the six-fuss!
Given that you’re reading this, we can safely assume you’ve opted on Denmark as the country to educate your children in, but the rest of the decisions are up in the air.

Combining two of them – the choice of school and language – the first one comes pretty early (as young as three, although six is more typical), although it can be delayed for a while.

But eventually a decision needs to be made, as choosing between an education at a Danish-language, free public school or an English-speaking, fee-paying international establishment will have far-reaching implications for the rest of your child’s education.

Danish education pros
Sending your child to a Danish school will make them Danish – regardless of whether one or both of the parents are internationals. That might sound like opinionated claptrap, but the homogenous nature of the Danes comes from their upbringing.

Unless they are sociopathic or chronically shy, they’ll have friends for life. Danish people are immensely tolerant because the group is only as strong as the weakest member. Sibling-like bonds are formed with classmates, and they learn to accept each other’s flaws and even like them. There’s a reason why the Danes like the Brits so much.

With friends comes a strong network that they can draw on for the rest of their lives. Most Danes tend to have children in Denmark because they enjoyed their experience so much (and because it’s mostly free!).

And going to the local school on your doorstep is convenient. It gives children a sense of belonging to a community, which makes it easier to advance in that environment as an adult.

Danish educations tend to be holistic, practical and strong on empathy and crafts. Your children will emerge as well-rounded and more than able at making Christmas decorations and home improvement.

International education pros
Sending your child to an international school will make them worldly – without even leaving the country. It will expose them to unbelievable diversity, cementing an open-mindedness that will stay with them forever.

By the time they finish school, they’ll have an enviable network of friends and contacts all over the world.

The exposure to different languages, cultures, religions and nationalities will make them knowledgeable far beyond what they learn in the classroom. If your child already speaks two or three languages, the school will give them a chance to flourish.

Heading to an overseas university, and potentially one of the world’s top establishments, is de rigueur at an international school. The careers advisors are highly experienced in offering advice on traversing the borders of Denmark.

Overall, with the school’s autonomy as a private establishment and universally-recognised IB curriculum you can rest assured that the school will deliver the kind of education it promised – regardless of any changes to the political landscape.

Danish education cons
Ultimately, if your child is Danish, you might feel that they have not absorbed as much of your country’s culture, idiosyncrasies and humour as you might have liked.

When you look at the curriculum, you might regret its limitations and assume you’re going to carry on winning Trivial Pursuit games with the family for the rest of your life.

Your child’s interests might be more predictable than eclectic – you worry how they will stand out in life.

You might find that going to the local school limits their horizons, and that they are apprehensive about testing themselves in new surroundings. Their contact pool outside their neighbourhood is mostly likely limited.

The Danish education system is changeable – the goal posts tend to move at lot. Whether it’s the length of the school day, the existence of homework, the syllabus or the quality of the teachers, it’s fair to say that in the ten years it takes to complete, the system barely resembles the one your child started.

Overall, in a country where janteloven is still prevalent, their higher education prospects might seem a little pedestrian.

International education cons
Despite the school’s best efforts, the students might feel a little disconnected from their local community – like all the local kids know each other, but they only have friends at school.

Long-term friendships are a rarity at international schools where very few pupils last the distance as new students come and go. The upshot, of course, is that children get used to this and get to practice at being personable.

Given the international background of most of their friends, many won’t remain in Denmark after graduation, which can be a painful experience. They will of course have lots of social media friends, but they might feel lonely.

If they are Danish or half-Danish, going to an international school might make them feel like an outsider in their own country. This could be exacerbated when they travel to their other ‘home country’ and are again treated like they don’t belong.

In conclusion
We hope you don’t infer we were trying to influence you one way or the other.

Ahead of you lies a difficult choice, but rest assured: sometimes either choice would have been the right one, and sometimes neither!