Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Etnically divided classes in Copenhagen school dropped

At the beginning of the new school year a Copenhagen school planned to divide the pupils in the first year courses along ethnic lines. The School situated in the working class/middle class neighbourhood of Vesterbro bowed to pressure from a group of Danish parents.

After talks with the cultural and school affairs mayor of Copenhagen and pressure from some national politicians the plans for divided classes has been dropped. In stead the school will try to deal with the problem of "non-learning" pupils in another way. Classes will be divided into subgroups, - not along ethnic lines, but according to themes and interests.

Etnically divided classes is probably unlawful according to the Danish school laws: The declaration of basic principles of the Danish school law states that the pupils must be dealt with on an equal basis, no matter their racial, gender, and religious background. Also it is a painful problem to decide the "ethnicity" of some pupils. What are the defining criteria: citizenship? colour (this would be racial prejudice/discrimination)? language? Some pupils will be extremely difficult to place in either class.

Vesterbro Ny Skole has probably made the ethnic division in classes in order to deal with a problem that is quite common for schools in some inner city areas: When ethnic pupils come in, ethnic Danes pull their kids out and enroll them in another school. That brings about an ethnic division of schools. That seems to be a more palatable alternative to the authorities. It is however a problem that the resource flow to the ethnic schools is insufficient when measured against the need for supportive education and native language teachers.

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