Private: Danish Education System

The Danish Education System: A Guide for Expat Families

Information for expat families on understanding and navigating the education system in Denmark.


When moving to a new country, one of the most important considerations for expat families is the education system. Understanding how the education system works in Denmark is crucial for ensuring a smooth transition for your children. In this guide, we will provide an overview of the Danish education system, including the different levels of education, admission requirements, and the unique features that make it one of the best in the world.

The Danish Education System

The Danish education system is known for its high quality and emphasis on equal opportunities for all students. It is divided into four main levels: primary education, lower secondary education, upper secondary education, and higher education.

Primary Education

Primary education in Denmark is compulsory for children aged 6 to 16. It consists of nine years of schooling, divided into two stages: the first stage (grades 0-3) and the second stage (grades 4-9). The primary education curriculum focuses on developing students' academic, social, and personal skills.

One of the unique features of the Danish primary education system is the emphasis on play-based learning. Children are encouraged to learn through play, creativity, and hands-on activities. This approach helps foster a love for learning and allows students to develop their individual strengths and interests.

At the end of primary education, students are assessed based on their academic performance and personal development. This assessment helps determine their readiness for the next level of education.

Lower Secondary Education

Lower secondary education, also known as folkeskole, is the next level of education in Denmark. It is attended by students aged 13 to 16 and builds upon the foundation laid in primary education. The curriculum in lower secondary education is more subject-specific, with a focus on core subjects such as Danish, mathematics, English, and science.

During lower secondary education, students have the opportunity to explore different subjects and develop their interests. They can choose elective subjects, such as music, art, or sports, to further enhance their learning experience. The goal of lower secondary education is to prepare students for upper secondary education or vocational training.

Upper Secondary Education

Upper secondary education in Denmark is attended by students aged 16 to 19. It offers a variety of educational pathways, including general education, vocational education, and specialized education.

General education, also known as gymnasium, is a three-year program that prepares students for higher education. It provides a broad academic curriculum and allows students to specialize in specific subjects based on their interests and career goals. Upon completion, students receive a diploma that qualifies them for admission to universities and colleges.

Vocational education, on the other hand, focuses on practical skills and prepares students for specific professions. It offers a wide range of vocational programs, such as carpentry, nursing, and culinary arts. Vocational education combines classroom learning with hands-on training, and students often have the opportunity to gain practical work experience through internships or apprenticeships.

Specialized education is available for students with specific talents or interests, such as music, dance, or sports. These programs provide intensive training in the chosen field and often require auditions or talent assessments for admission.

Higher Education

Denmark is home to several prestigious universities and colleges that offer a wide range of degree programs. Higher education in Denmark is known for its high academic standards, innovative teaching methods, and research opportunities.

Admission to higher education programs in Denmark is competitive and based on academic qualifications, such as grades and entrance exams. International students may also need to provide proof of English language proficiency.

One of the unique features of higher education in Denmark is the emphasis on student-centered learning. Students are encouraged to take an active role in their education, participate in group projects, and engage in critical thinking and problem-solving.

Admission Requirements for Expat Families

As an expat family, navigating the admission process in the Danish education system can be challenging. Here are some key points to consider:

Residence Permit

Before enrolling your child in a Danish school, you will need to obtain a residence permit. The permit allows your child to stay in Denmark for the purpose of education. You can apply for a residence permit through the Danish Immigration Service.

School Enrollment

Once you have obtained a residence permit, you can start the process of enrolling your child in a Danish school. The enrollment process may vary depending on the municipality, but generally, you will need to contact the local municipality's education department or the school directly to initiate the enrollment process.

It is advisable to start the enrollment process well in advance, as some schools may have limited availability or specific admission requirements.


When enrolling your child in a Danish school, you will need to provide certain documentation, including:

  • Proof of identity (passport or birth certificate)
  • Proof of residence in Denmark
  • Previous school records and transcripts (if applicable)
  • Immunization records

It is important to have these documents translated into Danish or English, as they may be required for the enrollment process.

Language Requirements

While Danish is the primary language of instruction in Danish schools, many schools offer support for non-Danish speaking students. Some schools have international classes or special language programs to help expat children integrate into the Danish education system.

However, it is advisable for expat families to learn Danish or enroll their children in Danish language courses to facilitate their integration and academic success.


The Danish education system offers a high-quality and inclusive learning environment for expat families. From primary education to higher education, Denmark provides a range of educational opportunities that cater to the diverse needs and interests of students.

By understanding the different levels of education, admission requirements, and unique features of the Danish education system, expat families can make informed decisions and ensure a smooth transition for their children.

Whether you are planning a short-term stay or considering Denmark as your long-term home, rest assured that your children will receive a world-class education in one of Europe's most customer-friendly countries.