Maths and languages

Originally uploaded by Robert Scarth

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.

The Danish school system

My school days
Originally uploaded by viralbus

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 Danish system Scottish system Comments
17½ 19½ 3. g./… Univ. 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.
16½ 18½ 2. g./… S6/univ.
15½ 17½ 1. g./… S5/S6 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.
15½ 16½ (10. kl.) S5 A non-obligatory year that pupils can take if they feel they’re not ready to move on to secondary school yet.
14½ 15½ 9. kl. S4 The last obligatory year of the Folkeskole (“popular school”). The kids are sitting exams at the end of it.
13½ 14½ 8. kl. S3
12½ 13½ 7. kl. S2
11½ 12½ 6. kl. S1
10½ 11½ 5. kl. P7
10½ 4. kl. P6
3. kl. P5
2. kl. P4
1. kl. P3 The first year of proper school.
0. kl. P2 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.

Det skotske skolesystem

Phyllis som skolepige.
Phyllis som skolepige.

Jeg kom til at nævne for min mor, at min datter vil komme til at lære at læse og skrive før sin kusine, Ursula, som er et år ældre.

Det førte så til en længere samtale om det skotske skolesystem (som i parentes bemærket er forskelligt fra det engelske).

Jeg har prøvet at sammenligne det danske og det skotske system år for år nedenfor.

Der er mange forskelle. Ikke blot starter skotterne tidligere i skolen, men de forventes at kunne læse, før de starter i skolen. Og de slutter et år før danskerne.

I Danmark er der også mange alternativer til gymnasiet – det er der ikke i Skotland, hvor alle går i samme high school.

I tabellen nedenfor har jeg ignoreret mulighed for at gå i 10. klasse i Danmark, hvilket ikke modsvares af noget i Skotland.

Der er flere detaljer på engelsk her.

Yngste i klassen ved start på skoleår Ældste i klassen ved start på skoleår Dansk klasse Skotsk klasse Bemærkninger
17½ 18½ 3. g.
16½ 17½ 2. g. S6 Sidste år i det skotske skolesystem. Eleverne kan enten tage flere Highers eller Advanced Highers.
15½ 16½ 1. g. S5 De skal i slutningen af skoleåret til Highers-eksamen.
14½ 15½ 9. kl. S4 I slutningen af skoleåret skal de til Standard Grade-eksamen. Herefter kan man forlade skolen.
13½ 14½ 8. kl. S3
12½ 13½ 7. kl. S2 De begynder nu at vælge fag til og fra.
11½ 12½ 6. kl. S1 Første år i high school. De begynder nu at gå med slips. Lærerne underviser nu kun i de fag, de har studeret på universitetet.
10½ 11½ 5. kl. P7
10½ 4. kl. P6
3. kl. P5
2. kl. P4
1. kl. P3
0. kl. P2
P1 Første rigtige skoleår – dette er rigtig skole, ikke en form for børnehave.
Preschool De lærer at skrive simple ord, at tælle og at lægge sammen.
Antepreschool Børnene begynder først efter deres 3-års-fødselsdag, så mange går i antepreschool i mindre end et år. De leger primært, men begynder at lære at genkende bogstaver og tal.