Denmark has compulsory education but not compulsory schooling, meaning that parents can choose another solution if they do not want their child or children to attend the public school (the Folkeskole). The alternative structures to the public school are:
- Home tuition;
- Private independent schools;
- Continuation schools;
- Youth schools;
- Vocational schools.
Pupils who are unable to take tests in a school, either because the school does not conduct tests or because the pupils have received home tuition, can take the public school’s tests as external students.
The Act on Private Independent Schools and Private Schools covers children who receive home tuition. According to the act, parents must inform the municipality in writing prior to the start of the tuition if they wish to teach their child or children at home.
The municipality supervises the tuition and can conduct tests in Danish, Mathematics, English, History, Social studies and Science subjects every year to ensure that the education measures up to the public school. If the municipal council assesses that the home tuition is not acceptable, it informs the parents that a new test will be conducted in three months. If the home tuition is still not acceptable, the child must be instructed in the Folkeskole or another school where the compulsory education can be fulfilled.
Private independent schools
Private independent schools provide education in preschool and form level one to nine. The schools can also offer education in form level ten. Private independent schools decide which pupils they want to admit.
Within the framework of the Act on Private Independent Schools and Private Schools, private independent schools can organise and provide education based on the school’s own religious or pedagogical persuasions. To a great extent, private independent schools decide how they want to organise their education, meaning that the instruction, the subjects, and the school rules are not necessarily the same as in the public school. For instance, some schools base their education on a religious view of life or a specific pedagogy.
The education must measure up to the education in the public school. The Ministry of Children and Education supervises the education in private independent schools.
Continuation schools are an alternative to the ordinary school system for youths between the ages 14 and 18. A continuation school is a boarding school, where the pupils live at the school. Continuation schools offer the same compulsory subjects as the public school combined with a number of optional subjects.
The continuation schools differ from one another. Some are based on a religious perspective on life, while others are based on a specific theory of education. Some continuation schools focus on special subject areas such as music or sports, which can be reflected in the composition of subjects. However, the education must have a general character and measure up to the education in the public school.
Pupils and their parents pay a fee for instruction and boarding. The fee varies from school to school and depends on the household income. If the pupil’s parents are of limited means, the schools may reduce the fee. All Danish pupils are entitled to financial support from the state to pay for the continuation school.
The youth school is an offer with educational and leisure time activities for youths between the ages 14 and 18. The municipalities administer the youth school and the individual municipality decides on the content of the youth school within the legal framework. Therefore, there is a difference between which subjects the youth schools offer in the different municipalities.
The education often takes place as leisure time education after school, but it can also take place as full-time education in the public school’s subjects.
It is mandatory for the youth schools to offer:
- General education;
- Preparatory education regarding tests and exams;
- Special needs education;
- Education for young immigrants in the Danish language and Danish social conditions.
Furthermore, the youth school can offer other activities, including a youth club or other leisure time activities.
The education and materials are cost-free. However, leisure time activities such as youth club activities often charge a membership fee.
Vocational schools offer practical or vocational subjects combined with general instruction. Pupils in a vocational school do not obtain formal qualifications, but receive an instruction that aims at preparing the pupils for further education. After completing the vocational school, pupils can apply for admission to a general upper secondary education programme or a vocational upper secondary education and training programme.
The pupils must be over 16 years old or have completed form level nine in primary and lower secondary education. There is no upper age limit.
Vocational schools are boarding schools, where the pupils live at the schools. It is also possible to attend the school as a day pupil. Pupils and their parents pay a fee for instruction and boarding. The fee differ from school to school.
The Education Guide (UddannelsesGuiden). Continuation schools (Efterskoler). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
The Education Guide (UddannelsesGuiden). Vocational schools (Frie fagskoler). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
The Education Guide (UddannelsesGuiden). The youth school (Ungdomsskolen). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
Ministry of Children and Education (Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet), 2022: About continuation schools (Om efterskoler). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
Ministry of Children and Education (Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet), 2022: About vocational schools (Om frie fagskoler). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
Ministry of Children and Education (Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet), 2022: Briefly about the Folkeskole (Kort om folkeskolen). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
Ministry of Children and Education (Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet), 2020: External students (Privatister). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
Ministry of Children and Education (Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet), 2020: Pupil in a private independent school (Elev på en fri grundskole). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
Ministry of Children and Education (Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet), 2022: Youth schools (Ungdomsskoler). [Accessed 22 June 2022]
Legislation and Official Policy documents
Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2022: Act on Continuation Schools and Vocational Schools (Bekendtgørelse af lov om efterskoler og frie fagskoler), LBK no. 1172 of 12/08/2022. [Accessed 23 May 2023]
Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2022: Act on Private Independent Schools and Private Schools (Bekendtgørelse af lov om friskoler og private grundskoler), LBK no. 1166 of 11/08/2022. [Accessed 23 May 2023]
Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2022: Act on the Folkeskole (Folkeskoleloven), LBK no. 1396 of 05/10/2022. [Accessed 23 May 2023]
Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2019: Act on Youth Schools (Bekendtgørelse af lov om ungdomsskoler), LBK no. 608 of 28/05/2019. [Accessed 22 June 2022]