Legal system - Denmark

Teaching of children, young people and adults is regulated by a number of acts. General provisions are, except for the Act on Special Education for Adults, laid down in the acts applying to the relevant areas. Since 1980, the Act on Special Education for Adults has formed the legal basis for compensatory special education for adults with functional difficulties of a physical or psychological nature. Furthermore, we have a ministerial order on special educational support in vocational education and training etc. Apart from these, no specific legislation applies to pupils with special needs. General legislation, pertaining to the individual levels of education, outlines more or less directly that teaching is accessible to all and should be organised and performed in due consideration of pupils' different pre-requisites and needs. Various provisions apply to special considerations in connection with examinations and the like.

In Denmark, education is compulsory for all children from age 6 to 16. Parents are obligated to ensure education for their children and municipalities are obliged to offer schooling for everybody living in the municipality. Parents can choose to educate children at home, but only under the supervision and with the permission of local school authorities. Parents can also send children to private or free schools. These schools are to be approved by the Ministry of Children and Education and offer education on the same level as Folkeskolen. Around 86 % of all Danish children receive education in the public school, called Folkeskolen, and 14 % in private schools. All education in public schools is without any costs for parents. For education in private or free schools, parents have to pay a minor part of the costs. All schools have an obligation to offer special needs education if needed, and some schools run special classes or are organised as special schools.

The Folkeskole Act underlines the obligation for the school to differentiate education in order to offer students relevant and efficient education in accordance with their development, background and needs. If necessary supplementary education can be given, in the form of more lessons, in groups or individual lessons, of teacher support or of pedagogical and practical assistance. The headmaster of the school is responsible for organising supplementary education and for differentiation. Thus the Act has a goal to differentiate education according to students’ conditions and it points out the tools to establish an inclusive education for all students. It is the school itself together with the parents who decide about students’ participation in supplementary education and there is no need for assessment or referral by experts, if the headmaster together with parents find need for support sufficiently clear. Supplementary education is a tool for clear placement of responsibility for support to students in the local school and for an inclusive approach to schooling.

Special needs education is also – according to the Act of Folkeskolen – a possibility for students, but only if supplementary education does not provide sufficient and efficient education for the student. For children with a need for a special class or a special school – or students who needs support more than 9 hours a week can be transferred to special needs education. A condition for this is individual assessment through pedagogical and psychological services and with the involvement of the parents in the decision process. This legislation has been approved by the Danish parliament and it has been in effect since May 2012. The concept of special needs education in Denmark is restricted to very specialised education and with priority to schools to find ways to deal with educational challenges without transferring students to special needs education.

Folkeskolen are run by municipalities, both ordinary schools, schools with special classes and special schools. Municipalities can transfer students with special needs to each other, but most communities create their own school system including special education. Very few specialised schools for blind, deaf and blind/deaf students are run by regional authorities, but the costs are paid by municipalities and they decide transfer of students to and from these institutions. The state runs VISO and ViHS, national institutions for knowledge and specialised counselling to municipalities for disabled students in special needs education. 

Information about the Education System can be found in the links below:

 Ministry of Education and Fact Sheet

It is possible to receive general news on Danish education in your newsreader or put them on your homepage:
English RSS feed or Global Feed

Pre-school Education

Legal provisions governing the one-year pre-school class are laid down in the Act on the Folkeskole. It states that:

  • the Folkeskole shall comprise a one-year pre-school class, a nine-year basic school and a one-year 10th form;
  • the municipal council shall be responsible for the establishment of pre-school classes;
  • upon the request of the parents a child shall be admitted to a pre-school class in the calendar year of his or her 6th birthday or later;
  • the teaching in pre-school classes shall as far as possible be given in the form of play and other developing activities. Children shall get insight into the daily routines of school life;
  • for the pre-school class and the 1st and 2nd grade, parts of teaching may be integrated.

At small schools, the entire teaching in these grades may be common.

From the school year 2009-2010, the length of compulsory education will be extended from 9 to 10 years. Preschool class will be included as part of compulsory education for Danish pupils. At the same time, academic subjects of pre-school class will be clarified through a more detailed description of compulsory content and objectives of education in the pre-school class. Especially development of language skills will be in focus and pupils will go through a compulsory language assessment upon enrolment.

Furthermore, the provisions introduce age-integrated classes and differentiated starting dates for pupils up to the second grade. Teaching will be performed in accordance with the rules of co-ordinated enrolment.

Compulsory School

In Denmark education - not schooling - is compulsory. Compulsory education implies the obligation to participate in teaching provided in the Folkeskole or comparable to what is generally required in the Folkeskole.
According to the Danish Constitution, all children of compulsory education age have a right to free education in the Folkeskole. Parents or persons with legal custody of children, who provide the children with instruction that meets the general requirements set out for the teaching in the Folkeskole, are not obliged to enrol their children in the Folkeskole.

Compulsory education commences on 1 August of the calendar year of a child's 7th birth-day and terminates on 31 July of the year, in which he or she has received regular instruc-tion for 9 years, not including pre-school class. This means pupils between 6 and 16/17 years of age.
Apart from the compulsory grades and the pre-school year to the 9th grade, there is an optional 11th year in the Folkeskole (10th grade).

Transition Period

Educational and vocational guidance is highly prioritized in Denmark. The overall structure as well as seven national targets for guidance are defined in the Act on Guidance in Rela-tion to Choice of Education, Training and Career, adopted by the Danish Parliament (the Folketing) in April 2003. The Act has been amended twice: in 2006 and 2007. The Ministry of Education is responsible for continuous supervision and development of guidance ser-vices in the educational sector.

The Act on Guidance is primarily targeted at young people up to the age of 25 years, but it also concerns services for adults wishing to enter a higher education programme.

There are two different types of guidance centres:

  1. Youth guidance centres with responsibility for guidance related to the transition from compulsory school to youth education;
  2. Regional guidance centres with responsibility for guidance related to the transition from youth education to higher education.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for a national guidance portal. It provides information on:

  • Education and training possibilities at all levels
  • Vocations/professions
  • Labour market conditions and statistics
  • Study programmes taught in English at Danish colleges and universities
  • Other features include an electronic career planning tool, a section with an electronic news service, a quarterly journal and various resources, especially aimed at guidance practitioners.

The Minister of Education has established a National Dialogue Forum on Guidance in order to secure a close dialogue between the Minister and relevant organisations, institu-tions, guidance counsellor associations, end users and individuals holding a leading position in the field of guidance.

Quality in guidance is an on-going topic of discussion in Denmark. Quality in guidance provision can be improved through better qualifications of the guidance practitioners. Six university colleges in Denmark offer a one-year modular common training programme at diploma level for guidance practitioners across sectors. Furthermore, the Danish University of Education offers a one-year Master of Education programme in guidance counselling. In 2007 an amendment to the 2003 Act on Guidance stated that guidance practitioners working in the education system shall complete the diploma programme or, alternatively, shall prove  – through assessment and recognition of prior learning – that they hold the required qualifications.

The Division for Guidance in the Danish Ministry of Education is actively involved in international cooperation in the field of guidance, and the main aims and elements of the Danish guidance reform are very much in line with the EU Resolution on Lifelong Guidance and with EU and OECD recommendations on guidance policies and practices.

In June 2007 the Folketing (Danish Parliament) agreed on another comprehensive plan for adult guidance services. The plan focuses on improving information and guidance services related to adult and further education and training. Four new initiatives will be implemented over a three-year period: adult guidance networks - a national centre for competence development - an internet-based guidance portal - a national adult guidance council.
For more detailed information on guidance, please see:

Last modified Jan 28, 2013


See this page for: