A Danish Hygge is best
There are some things in life the Danes hold sacred in their culture; Freedom, Choice, Trust, Equality and Hygge. Like Finland, its Nordic neighbour at Number 1 in the World Happiness Report and also in Education, these qualities are at the heart of Denmark’s continuing success at achieving Number 2 in the league, which also includes the high Educational achievements of its students.
Denmark is a society which trusts in its own system, and this is demonstrated by the informality of school environments which encourages kindness and equality among its pupils, and the openness to discuss any subject which a child feels important. Hence the introduction of the Danish ‘Sex Week’ which takes place in schools in early February – a week dedicated to breaking taboos around the subject of bodily functions, anatomy, sex and all the complex emotions which accompany it.
Relaxation is also an important facet of Danish life. There are many holidays built into the year, usually planned to extend the weekends in order for families to do things together which they enjoy. ‘Hygge’ is a term which encompasses ‘cosiness,’ warmth and comfort. Apart from ‘Hug’ – there isn’t an exact equivalent term in English which describes this mentality, but generally, it conjures up a soft, safe space which the Danes have created for themselves in which to thoroughly chill!
Freedom and Trust, two values which the Danes cherish, are evidenced by allowing children from the age of 8 years to walk, cycle or take public transport to school on their own. School buildings and playgrounds are open and uniforms are not a part of Danish school life, neither are there rules governing make-up or hairstyles. This sense of informality removes the need for rebelliousness, and most students dress appropriately through their own choice.
Each child is treated as an individual. Learning is never done by rote, but always through critical thinking, problem-solving, and project-orientated activities. To advance the country’s international export trade, English is taught from the 2nd grade in the Folkskole (primary to lower secondary school) along with all other general subjects, whereas learning is play-based for the first year.
Education is compulsory from 6 to 16 years, involving 30 to 35 hours a week of schooling, and over 80% of students will go on to higher education. Public education is free to parents, (it is financed by the state and municipalities), as are school trips for which parental contribution is not requested. An educated and inclusive society is important to the Danes which is why Lifelong Learning is encouraged throughout all phases of a citizen’s life to enhance the development of their workplace, and their country as a whole.
If one could sum up the success of Danish culture and education it would be: Balance. Along with respect, punctuality, humour and a disarmingly straightforward approach in voicing opinions, in the face of any problem they have a comforting magic word which dismisses all obstacles and allows life to move forward again: ‘PYT’ – A philosophy from which the rest of the world could learn perhaps?
Fortsaet det gode arbejde Danmark! (Keep up the good work Denmark!)