There was an article in a recent issue of The Economist arguing that it’s better to do maths or languages at high school rather than more specialised subjects such as economics:
Few economics faculties demand that applicants produce an economics A-level, and most pupils who study the subject at school do not pursue it further. Second, the curve-shifting brand of economics taught in schools is qualitatively different from the complex modelling required at university. Economics is not like foreign languages (also, and more regrettably, in decline in secondary schools): there is no particular reason to learn it young, when time could perhaps be better spent acquiring general mathematical skills.
I couldn’t agree more. When I started studying computer science at university, my problem was not that I hadn’t done computing at high school but that I hadn’t done enough maths. Similarly, biology (at least in Aarhus) often turns down applicants who’s specialised in biology in high school rather than the more fundamental skills of chemistry etc.
I tend to think there is too much choice in secondary schools these days. It’d be much better teaching all students copious amounts of maths, chemistry, grammar, modern languages (to a fluent level!), history and other fundamental disciplines.
I blogged about the Scottish school system from a Danish perspective yesterday, so I thought I could reuse the same table with minor modifications to explain the Danish school system to Scots.
The Danish school system starts much later than the Scottish one. Before this, there are nurseries (vuggestue for wee kids and børnehave for bigger ones), but they’re not obligatory and there is no curriculum.
From “1. klasse” onwards, the kids have separate teachers for each subject, and the teachers will normally stay with the pupils for more than one year. In theory, a class might have the same maths teacher from they’re 7 till they’re 16.
The teachers for the first 9 (or 10) years have studied at a teaching college, not at a university, whereas they’re university-educated in secondary school.
There are several types of secondary school: The gymnasium prepares the pupils for university, but there are alternatives which focus more on commerce, construction and so on.
Oh, and there are no school uniforms in Danish schools, neither primary nor secondary ones.
Age of youngest in class at start of school year
Age of oldest in class at start of school year
Last year of secondary school, at the end of which they will sit an exam which will allow them to get into universities and other tertiary education.
The first year of secondary school. There are several options here, see main text. Because of the non-obligatory “10. klasse”, the age spread is now two years instead of one.
A non-obligatory year that pupils can take if they feel they’re not ready to move on to secondary school yet.
The last obligatory year of the Folkeskole (“popular school”). The kids are sitting exams at the end of it.
The first year of proper school.
First year of school. However, this year is considered an introduction, and the focus is still on play rather than formal learning. They might learn the shape of letters, but no real reading yet. Teaching is by nursery teachers rather than school teachers.