Danish teachers scoff at new British education approach

But statistics cast doubt on who should have the last laugh

September 26th, 2012 11:35 am| by admin
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Headmasters in the UK plan on adopting the English baccalaureate (EBacc) system, which includes a three-hour written exam for all pupils, a strategy scoffed at by Scandinavian counterparts.

In Denmark, written exams have been exchanged for more student-friendly oral exams, and, in many schools and universities, students are allowed full access to the internet during their examinations.

Geoff Barton, a teacher at King Edward VI School in Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, England, praised facets of the Danish system.

“The Danish believe that every child should pass some kind [of exam], to make sure that every child knows the basics – it is an enlightened approach,” Barton told the East Anglian Daily Times.

That respect, however, apparently isn’t mutual. Danish teachers visiting Barton and his school in Suffolk were flabbergasted by the Brits’ approach.

“They thought [the EBacc] was the surreal ramblings of an educational nutter – some strange English humour,” Barton told the Times. “I think they couldn’t believe that it was so backwards-looking.”

Whether something looks backwards or not depends on your frame-of-reference, of course, and recent statistics on European educational systems gathered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests Denmark may not be in any position to judge.

Denmark is a leading country in terms of money spent on education, but that cash infusion does little more than put Denmark in the middle of the bell curve. And Danish children are spending less time in schools than their international cohorts, a likely contributor to Denmark’s overall average ranking.

The Danish system even lags behind the UK in several categories, including the percentage of the population that receives at least upper-secondary education. In this category, Denmark also ranks below the OECD average.

Although Danish classrooms come equipped with some modernities of technology and practice, the large amount of money spent by the state on education has failed to produce results that distinguish Denmark from other educational systems.

As well as her research, Jessica Alexander’s findings are based on experience
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