International primary schools blocked by Dansk Folkeparti

There is widespread support for free English-language primary schools that can teach the children of foreign workers who cannot afford private options

A majority of Danes support publicly-funded international primary schools, but opposition from Dansk Folkeparti (DF) has scuppered any chance that they will be introduced.

According to a study by Momentum magazine – the official publication of the local government association KL – 53 percent of Danes think international primary schools are a good idea.

And despite the fact that 41 percent of DF voters support the schools, and only 35 percent oppose them, the party has refused to spend education funds on teaching in languages other than Danish.

Pay to learn in English
“The funds for international schools will be drawn from funds that would ordinarily be spent on primary schools,” DF’s schools spokesperson, Alex Ahrendtsen, told DR Nyheder. “I have a hard time understanding the justification when the young people and parents who need [the international education] are often affluent. They are foreign company directors who are used to paying [for education]. I have a hard time understanding why they should be offered a free service.”

READ MORE: Funding cut for private schools proposed

International primary schools cannot become a reality without the support of DF because the party voted in favour of the current primary school education law.

Any changes to this law will therefore need DF's approval, but as it is now, the government’s only alternative is to write a new law and seek a new parliamentary majority without DF.

International demand
The situation has frustrated local councils, politicians and primary schools, which have all argued that Denmark would benefit from providing international primary schools.

Tine Horowitz, the managing director of the Consortium for Global Talent, argues that not all foreigners in Denmark can afford the fees for private international schools, which is currently the only option for educating their children.

“It is incredibly important that people who are considering moving to Denmark are able to put their children in a good international school,” Horowitz told Momentum.

Expensive private options
Without state-funded options, the only alternatives for English-language primary school education are private international schools such as Copenhagen International School, where annual tuition for grades one to nine costs between 101,000 kroner and 120,000 kroner.

“That’s why it would be an incredible asset to have international lines in primary schools," Horowitz said. "It would also have the positive effect that foreigners would have a better understanding for the Danish language and culture.”

Kolding mayor Jørn Pedersen (Venstre) was disappointed by the decision not to include international primary schools in the recent education law, as it will impact his council’s ability to attract foreign workers.

“We need one because of the many foreign employees working for businesses near Kolding,” Pedersen told Momentum. “We are also challenged because our private international school had to close because the demand was not sufficient to turn a profit. That’s why we want to start an international line in the primary schools.”

Rise in English education
Despite the road-blocks in the primary school sector, English-language education is on the rise in Denmark and several upper-secondary schools – such as Hasseris Gymnasium in Aalborg – offer the International Baccalaureate program in English for free.

Next year a European School will open in Copenhagen for students ages five to 18 with teaching in both English and Danish. Copenhagen City Council is funding the Danish section and the EU is funding the English section.

READ MORE: New European School for Copenhagen

A new independent boarding school, (efterskole), is also opening next year where English will be the only language spoken, both in and out of class.

The year-long program at The International near Ringkøbing – which is open to primary school educated pupils before they start upper secondary – teaches the IGCSE program and prepares students for working and studying in an English-language environment.

“We already know that English is the primary language used in many Danish workplaces and educational centres,” headteacher Finn Tarpgaard stated in a press release. “[English] has become an essential tool.”