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Forthcoming policy developments
In the government’s programme for bills to be presented in the parliamentary year 2020/2021, the following bills are relevant for education and training:
- The minister for higher education and science will present an amendment to the Act on Study and Career Guidance (Studievalg Danmark) with the purpose of including vocational education and training (VET) programmes in the guidance programme.
In the Finance Act for 2021, presented in December 2020, the following policies are relevant for education and training:
- DKK 1.7 billion has been allocated in the 2021-2024 period to strengthen upper secondary education programmes:
- DKK 220 million has been allocated to raise the taximeter funding for general upper secondary education programmes and EUX.
- DKK 80 million has been allocated to raise the taximeter funding for VET education programmes.
- DKK 80 million has been allocated to the social and healthcare worker education programmes.
- DKK 120 million has been allocated to the basic preparatory education and training programme (FGU).
- A pool for green entrepreneurship has been established in upper secondary education programmes. The total funding is DKK 10 million annually in the 2021-2023 period.
The Danish government wishes to revise the Danish grading scale. In 2007/08, a new grading scale was introduced in Denmark based on the conclusions from a commission. In the report from the commission, it was recommended to evaluate the new grading scale every five years. The second evaluation of the grading scale establishes some challenges with the current scale: The scale focuses on shortcomings in the students’ performance, there are too large gaps between the grades in the middle of the scale, it is difficult to reward the exceptional performance, and higher education institutions have seen an inflation in grades. In 2020, the grading scale was evaluated again. The recommendations from the evaluation will form the basis of the development of a new grading scale.
The Danish admission system attaches great importance to grades. The government wants to improve the admission system for higher education in order to strengthen other admission mechanisms that measure the students’ motivation. On 1 April 2019, the minister of higher education and science arranged a public consultation on a new admission system, where stakeholders presented experiences with the Danish admission system and where the Swedish and Dutch systems were also presented. In 2020, the admission system was evaluated.
In November 2019, a ministerial order on exams in practical and creative subjects was issued. As of 2020, all pupils in the 8th grade in primary and lower secondary education are obliged to take an exam in one of the two-year practical/musical optional subjects. The ministerial order is an implementation of the political agreements aiming to strengthen vocational skills in primary and lower secondary education,“Strengthened Practice-Based Competences in Primary and Lower Secondary Education" (Styrket praksisfaglighed i folkeskolen) and “From Primary and Lower Secondary Education to Skilled Worker - Vocational Educations for the Future" (Fra Folkeskole til faglært – erhvervsuddannelser til fremtiden).
Young people’s well-being is a major issue in Denmark, and it is discussed among stakeholders in the field of education and training.
During the coronavirus lockdown, several representatives from education institutions as well as politicians, youth organisations, researchers and young people have expressed concern over young people’s well-being. When schools and leisure activities are closed and restrictions reduce the number of social contacts, young people feel isolated in their families. The isolation gives rise to loneliness, insecurity and unhappiness.
For socially marginalised young people, it is particularly disturbing to be isolated with parents whose ability to care is reduced. This may be the case in families suffering from abuse, alcohol problems, violence, etc. The isolation may aggravate young people’s situation, since the support from pedagogues, teachers and other important adults is missing.
New analyses from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science show that 70% of higher education students feel that the corona restrictions have reduced the joy of learning and 43% have experienced loneliness in the autumn 2020.
In November 2020, the Minister for Higher Education and Science and the Minister for Culture hosted a summit on young people’s well-being. Representatives from education institutions, cultural institutions, private enterprises, students and civil society organisations were invited. The objective was to share experience and knowledge on how to cope with challenges during the corona pandemic.
In January 2021, an idea catalogue was published collecting 21 ideas from the summit.
The Minister for Higher Education and Science encourages stakeholders to implement some of the ideas in order to mitigate the worst effects of the corona pandemic on students’ well-being.
Furthermore, the survey Education Zoom provides data for a digital tool where young people can compare education programmes. In the latest survey sample, from October to December 2020, students were asked questions about how the coronavirus lockdown has influenced their well-being. The survey includes four questions related to the lockdown.
Lastly, representatives from education institutions as well as politicians and young people have expressed concern that online teaching in spring 2020 and in autumn/winter 2020/2021 has created a learning gap, meaning that students may not be ready for their examinations in summer 2021.
A citizen proposal initiated by students enrolled on general upper secondary education programmes demands that the spring examinations are held on special terms, for instance a reduced curriculum. The proposal meets support in the organisation for Danish general upper secondary education institutions (Danske Gymnasier).
The chair of the Danish headmasters’ association (Skolelederforeningen) also argues that the criteria at the final examination of the primary and lower secondary schools should be altered.
Some experts, professionals and politicians from the Liberal party and the Conservative party suggest catching up with the curriculum by introducing summer schools or intensive learning courses in specific subjects.
Another topic that has been debated in 2020 is included in the survey, namely sexual harassment and sexism in organisations and at work places. The debate began in September 2020 and has spurred a second MeToo wave as thousands of women, including media personalities, artists, researchers, politicians, etc., have shared their stories or signed open letters about their experiences of sexual harassment and/or sexism. Students from higher education institutions have been part of the the debate. The government has launched a range of initiatives, which also include education institutions:
- Strengthening the focus on physical working environments in the course content in general and vocational upper secondary education programmes, for instance by focusing on sexual harassment and rights.
- An invitation to initiate whistle-blower measures at education institutions.
- The Ministry of Children and Education and the minister of higher education and science initiate dialogues with stakeholders, including students, researchers and the education institutions, with the objective of changing the culture at the institutions.
- The Ministry of Children and Education initiates a dialogue regarding sexual harassment during apprenticeships.
Many vocational education and training (VET) students have trouble finding an apprenticeship. The issue has been prominent for many years and has been highlighted as one of the main reasons for the high drop-out rate among VET students. Several initiatives and strategies have been presented to increase the number of apprenticeships; however, the issue remains. The most recent data from the Ministry of Children and Education shows that the proportion of students who have entered an apprenticeship agreement with an enterprise rose 9% in July 2020 compared to July 2019. However, the share of agreements made in the first six months of 2020 decreased by 3% compared with 2019. The issue has urged the minister to invite the social partners to tripartite negotiations. See section 6.3 for more on the results of the agreement.
For several years, the number of foreign students enrolled on education programmes in Denmark and entitled to the Danish state education grant (SU) has been debated among politicians. According to EU law, foreign students from EU/EEA countries are entitled to the Danish state education grant when they work a minimum of 10-12 hours a week alongside their studies. The signatory parties to the SU agreement agreed on a limit of the expenses to SU to foreign students of DKK 450 billion. A new prognosis from the minister for higher education and science shows that the expenses can reach DKK 650 billion in 2023. The minister will invite the signatory parties to new negotiations in order to reduce the expenses to SU for foreign students.