Denmark, the nation where the old-world Nordic charm meets an avowedly forward-looking society, regularly ranks on the lists of most liveable, safest, and happiest places on earth thanks to its high-quality of life and per capita income, as well as its advanced education, healthcare, and civil liberties.
The first thing that springs to mind when visiting a school in Denmark is the safe environment. Children down to the age of 8 are seen walking or biking to school by themselves, there is no need for excessive security, and teachers and personnel have friendly and informal dialogues with parents and students outside the classrooms. Due to high-level of equality in Danish society, everyone can feel welcome in the school system and have the same access to education.
An exemplar of the epitome of such Danish values and forward thinking inculcated in the education medium is the Odense International School, located in the heart of Odense Denmark.
Odense International School (OIS) opened in August 2011, to develop a full educational offer in English for students aged 5-16 years. Currently there are 670 students on the dual-system campus at Henriette Hørlücks School, a private school founded in the year 1870. 190 pupils attend OIS and 480 belong to the Danish department.
Odense International School shares its campus with Henriette Hørlücks Skole. This makes for an entirely unique experience in which international students have the opportunity of learning more about their new country, as well as giving Danish students a close-up view of the world. This helps with the transition to settling into life in Denmark and thriving in a new culture.
Cross-cultural Bridge Building
The schools’ (OIS and Henriette Hørlücks Skole) student bodies are together during some school-wide morning assemblies, recesses and at the end of the school day, in the ‘After-School Care Programme’ (primary 1 – 4) and ‘The Club’ (primary 5, 6). All the class trips are also combined, so that students of the same ages from both schools have shared experiences together.
Henriette Hørlücks Skole, established in 1870, has a proud tradition for providing an international learning environment and early language teaching. Children with backgrounds from more than 40 nations attend the school, staffed by nearly 100 employees from over 15 countries. OIS is run by the International Department at Henriette Hørlücks Skole. “We not only seek to assist students in achieving academically excellence, but we also aim to provide them with a safe and inclusive learning environment which encourages awareness of global and local citizenship as well as a natural curiosity for enquiry”, said the head of school, Johanne Skaanes-Allo.
The somewhat quirky, but beautiful and homely, physical environment of OIS reflects the idea that the path to discovery could start anywhere: in front of a sculpture on your way to class or with wonderment over a stuffed wild boar on the grand piano at morning assembly.
The teachers recognise the value of providing students with opportunities to make discoveries in their lessons. Teaching is enquiry-based, skills-focused and founded on Cambridge International Examinations’ recommendations.
A Home away from Home
“The beautiful red-brick school buildings are a little Hogwarts-esque,” Skaanes-Allo laughs. The quirky decorations pieces inside the school help support the distinctive, rustically magical aesthetic of the place, with artwork dotted around the hallways, and kayaks, bicycles and musical instruments dangling from the ceiling in the assembly hall.
OIS believes in enquiry-based learning and active students whose learning needs, both socially and academically, are met by dedicated and professional staff. The school respects and operates according to the Danish Ministry of Education’s laws and guidelines. The Scandinavian education system takes a holistic approach to education through combining academic learning and personal growth.
OIS also believes in providing students with a safe, stimulating, and inclusive environment. Curriculum planning considers the need to explore the local environment, while also offering global perspectives. Students are given the opportunity to explore their own cultural background against the backdrop of Danish culture and other cultures. Everyone is a learner in the school community and diversity is celebrated.
Odense International School links families and students with the school community as well as the local community. It aims to be widely recognised for their welcoming school community and excellent service. Being a certified Cambridge International Examinations Centre, the educational offer of OIS includes all levels from primary school grade-1 to secondary school’s grade-11.
Odense International School has five important wellbeing principles:
- Connect: Talk and listen in order to be a good friend and team member.
- Give: Offer your kindness in words and actions.
- Take Notice: Share your gratitude for the things that bring you joy.
- Keep Learning: Become wiser with all your experiences, successes, and mistakes.
- Be Active: Enjoy sports and take part in community events.
The core subjects at OIS are English, mathematics, and science, as well as information and communication technology (ICT) basics. Primary students also take physical education, art, music, drama, Danish, technology and design. French or German are the foreign language options offered from Primary 6 and up. From secondary 7 and up, the students study history, global perspectives, and design and technology as well as art. The IGCSE programme, which stretches over grades 10 and 11, consists of English language and literature, a foreign language option, Danish, mathematics, co-ordinated sciences (biology, chemistry and physics), history, physical education, and the electives; enterprise, global perspectives, art and design, as well as physical education theory.
Life at an international school generally comprises of classrooms with students from all over the world and an exciting patchwork of experiences, traditions, and religions. Although joining a new school poses the same challenges for every child. Slipping into the routines of the classroom is easy and most students adapt to it rather quickly but making new friends and feeling happy at break time, can sometimes take longer.
Skaanes-Allo further stated: “At Odense International School we would like our students to feel that they have not just attended an international school somewhere in the world, but that they have truly become acquainted with and feel at home in Odense.”
To achieve the same, the school has designed an integration approach to complement their educational style.
Firstly, students study the Danish language and are linked to a Danish friendship class. Odense International School students take part in joint events and travel on trips with the class. Class teachers at OIS have diverse backgrounds and experience, have lived in different countries and understand the needs of students in transition. Programmes are in place to follow up new arrivals, like a buddy system, co-operative learning, tours of school and a settle-in chat and follow up with the class teacher. Secondly, the international students share the after-school care programme with the Danish department. In the ‘After-School Care Programme’ the classes have a set contact person who is a fluent speaker of English. This person follows up the students’ needs and conveys information to parents and teachers, as well as the after-school team.
International students are taken on trips locally as soon as possible, and classes enjoy the many cultural offers as well as parks in the city. The school also hopes that the student’s enthusiasm for an activity or place will have a spill-off effect at home and encourage the family to start their journey of exploration of that beautiful nation as soon as possible. Odense and the island of Funen has plenty to offer in terms of quality of life for a young family.
“Odense International School’s own students, their parents and the children at Henriette Hørlücks Skole thrive in each other’s company. Prospective students and their families are welcome to contact us and arrange a tour of the school and chat about our educational offer. We promise a warm welcome and aim to help new students and families settle in well in the community,” concludes the school head.