Swapping toys for pencils: an earlier start to Danish schooling – The Post

Swapping toys for pencils: an earlier start to Danish schooling

From July, funding will be available to facilitate a transition to traditional education while the kids are still in kindergarten

Now children, when you’re quite ready, let’s start at the very beginning (photo: Marvirbar)
May 4th, 2018 10:18 am| by Ben Hamilton

Many new arrivals to Denmark are often surprised to learn that elementary schooling in Denmark is somewhat pedestrian. Serious classes don’t really start until the fourth grade – when most students are nine or ten years old.

During the first four years of public school, the primary goal is mastering the basics: learning to read and count. Social skills and personal development, the main focus of the daycare phase (up until the age of five or six), remain a high priority, with education often taking a back seat to learning about empathy.

But all that might be about to change, as children in their final year of kindergarten are increasingly swapping their toys for pencils and making an earlier start to their SFO (skolefritidsordning) education – the first four years of school (see factbox).

Funding from July
According to figures released by Ministry of Children and Social Affairs, 55 of the country’s 98 municipalities are now providing SFO introduction classes to their children in the final year of kindergarten. In 2008, the figure was just 28.

And from July 1, even more are expected to join, as 6.8 million kroner has been allocated to facilitating this early start to the SFO.

“I think it is important that the children are given expectations of what school will be like,” said Mai Mercado, the minister for children and social affairs.


SFO – after school club

– Every public school has a SFO (skolefritidsordning), an independent institution with its own head and staff, although it is administered by the school.

– Its primary role is providing an after-school club to the children, whose classrooms tend to be located nearby.

– It is attended by children in the first four years (kindergarten class and grades 1-3) and is often detached from the rest of the school (grades 4-9).

– It has its own playground and indoor workshops, and it is where the youngsters play after school classes (normally from 14:00-16:00) under the supervision of educators.

– Once the children start the fourth grade, their after-school activities will change, often involving them attending a club located remotely within walking distance of the school, which is specific to their cultural interests.