Funding boost for schools with high immigrant enrollment

Teachers, students and experts to meet with government to discuss how to improve educational standard of children with immigrant backgrounds


Schools with high proportions of bilingual and non-ethnic Danish children will receive extra funding to help raise students’ language skills.

The initiative, outlined in the governmentÂ’s new budget, will deliver one million kroner per year over three years to each of 14 national schools whose student make-up is comprised of at least 40 percent non-ethnic Danes.

“It’s incredibly important to strengthen our integration efforts,” Christine Antorini, the children and teaching minister, told Politiken newspaper. “Schools with high proportions of children from non-Danish ethnic backgrounds need extra economic help.”

Decisions about what projects the money will be spent on will be made after discussions between ministry officials, students, teachers and educational experts.

One of the schools due to receive extra funding is Tingbjerg School in the Copenhagen suburb of Brønshøj, which is almost entirely attended by non-ethnic Danes.

“What we most need is continued education for our teachers so they are better able to teach Danish as a second language,” Joy Frimann Hansen, head of Tingbjerg School, told Poltiken.

Frimann also argued that there needed to be better cooperation with kindergartens in order to prepare students better for school. Bilingual children start school on average with a vocabulary of 700 words, roughly half that of ethnic Danish children.

But according to Lise Egholm, head of RÃ¥dmans School, one of the major problems is that students from non-Danish backgrounds are too densely clustered in particular regions.

“There still needs to be a better distribution of bilingual children across Danish schools,” Egholm told Politiken. “I have been campaigning for this for years. Integration will suffer until we solve this issue.”

The previous government introduced similar initiatives to lift the educational standards of non-ethnic Danes. But according to Antorini, the new initiative is more focused on getting schools to cooperate and find productive solutions rather than withdrawing funding and punishing schools who could not show results.

The poor reading standards of non-ethnic Danish children was revealed this summer after the publication of the 2010 PISA report into the reading standards of 15-year-olds.

It showed that 46 percent of Copenhagen children born to immigrants do not have functional reading capabilities, far higher than the city’s average of 24 percent.

The poor results have been in part blamed on the removal of mother-tongue Danish lessons, where children born to immigrants are taught Danish in their native language.

The decision to remove mother-tongue teaching was made by the government in 2001 and is widely considered to have harmed integration efforts.

The government justified the decision at the time by saying that there were other aspects of education – such as improving the standard of primary school education – that were a higher priority than teaching the children of immigrants in their native languages.

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