Government proposes cutting back Danish classes for foreigners

High dropout rate has leaders considering less funding for immigrants to learn Danish

In its recently-released budget proposal, the government said it wanted to cut 200 million kroner from the funds available to language centres that teach Danish to adult foreigners. The proposed cuts amount to 15 percent of the total budget.

The government pointed to the high dropout rate as one of the reasons that the cuts should be made. About 30 percent of students who start Danish classes drop out before they finish, according to reports.

Poul Neergaard, the headmaster at the language centre Københavns Sprogcenter, said the cuts may actually encourage even more students to drop out by forcing them to stay in school longer to complete their course of study.

“This could lead to higher rates of absenteeism and more dropouts because students will become discouraged that they are not learning fast enough,” said Neergaard.

Neergaard said that earlier cuts have already had a negative impact on the quality of education at the country’s language centres.

“Many have already had to reduce hours and materials, use fewer teachers and rely more on self-study,” he said.

Neergaard said he is having discussions with local councils and immigrant groups on ways to encourage adult Danish language students to finish their education.

Walther Jeppesen, the headmaster of Sprogcentre Nordsjælland, called the government’s attempt to tie funding cuts to the nation’s language centres dropout rates “fiction”.

“Language centres are the only educational system in Denmark where the school receives half of a student’s funding when they start their education and does not see the rest of the cost of educating that student until they graduate,” Jeppesen told the Copenhagen Post. "The state does not lose money if our students do not graduate, but our students lose every time the state cuts our funding."

Jeppesen said that every other Danish educational model received money from the state to support their students on an ongoing basis. He reaffirmed Neergaard’s contention that language schools are already struggling due to earlier budget cuts."

Enhedslisten expressed scepticism that reducing funding would lower dropout rates.

“It makes sense to look at how you can bring down absences, but I find it hard to believe that you can cut 200 million kroner from language education without it having a negative impact," said Enhedslisten spokesperson Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen.

Schmidt-Nielsen said that learning Danish is a vital skill for immigrants and that Enhedslisten would work to see the proposed cuts dropped from the government’s budget.

 “It is extremely difficult to cope in Denmark if you do not speak the language,” she said.