The Legislation, Economy and Subsidation of the Danish Folk High Schools
By Vilhelm Nielsen
The Danish Folk High Schools are run according to the Act concerning Folk High Schools, Agricultural Schools, Domestic Science Colleges and Continuation Schools. Act number 259 of June 4, 1970.
Government grants are paid according to Act 337, June 18, 1969 which pertains to subsidies to certain private schools with subsequent ammendments made in Act 465, November 25, 1970.
Government ammendments of October 31, 1974, April 10, 1975, October 10, 1980 and February 26, 1980 are attached to both acts.
Furthermore, Regulation 302 of June 27, 1975 pertains to student subsidies. To this an annual circular is attached. In the first paragraph of Law 259 the aim of the Folk High School is stated, »that the Folk High Schools offer general education to adult students and that they may, within this framework, emphasize specific subject matter areas or interest groups«.
The schools must be residential. Their courses must last at least one week with a minimum of 5 consecutive days of instruction. The schools must fulfill four requirements for approval by the Ministry of Education: 1. The statutes of a private, self-governing institution. 2. The principal. 3. The appropriate premises and requisite equipment. 4. The curriculum.
In order to obtain Government grants it is required that the school must, during the fiscal year, provide one approved course lasting at least 20 weeks or two approved courses each lasting at least 12 weeks. There is dispensation for the Pensioners Folk High Schools which mainly offer two week courses.
In order to receive Government grants it is furthermore required that the schools have a minimum of 18 »year-students« (one year-student = one student for 40 weeks) enrolled in approved courses. The payment of grants commences when the 18 »yearstudents« and 20 week course requirements have been fulfilled and is withdrawn if a school, during the past three fiscal years, has not had an average of 18 »year-students«.
In order to receive maximum subsidy a Folk High School must provide education for a minimum of 32 weeks during a fiscal year. If all conditions are not fulfilled the grant is reduced proportionately. The school must, moreover, attempt to use the capacity determined by the Ministry of Education completely and must use 75% of its full capacity during 32 weeks. The Government provides subsidies of 85% of the operational expenses which include the following:
Approximately half of the financial aid is given under group one which is limited by the number of »yearstudents«. The first 50 »year-students« gives a subsidy for 85 hours, the exceeding number of students 78 hours. Ideally the grant should only cover expenses for class instruction, not room and board. One hasn't, however, been able to differentiate between the use of the buildings. Therefore under groups 2-6 subsidies are given to all the school buildings. The subsidy under group 3 is fixed in relation to the number equal to average payments per pupil in State Schools for the same purposes mentioned in group 3.
The aid under point 7 is also determined by the number of »year-students«. The amount of the subsidy is determined by the average expenses of a number of representative Folk High Schools. Several times during the past years, due to the Government's austerity program, the amount has been lowered after negotiations with the educational institutions.
A Government loan to approved Folk High Schools for the erection or purchase of buildings or inventory or for the renovation and improvement of buildings can cover up to 50% of the value of the property; the loan is not terminable but runs with an interest of 4% per annum. There is no differentiation made between buildings used for instruction and residence, but the school itself must raise 1/6 of the amount to be used and the plans and drawings must be approved by the Ministry of Education. Because of limited funds available, one must plan on waiting from 5-10 years before obtaining a Government loan. No priority is given to applicants because of an assesment of need or planning.
The Board of Directors is elected by the supporting group or by the organizations backing the school. There can often be alumni and/or representatives from the province or municipality included. There cannot be representatives for the teachers, other employees of the school or the present students. The principal usually has the right to participate in board meetings, but is without voting privileges. The same conditions pertain to the teachers, other employees and present students.
The Board is responsible for the economy of the school, hires and fires the principal, in many cases also the teachers (after consultation with the principal), and other personnel of the school. The last mentioned can, however, be left to the principal who is responsible for the pedagogical leadership, daily administration and economy of the school.
The teachers have 600 required hours of instruction a year dispersed over a minimum of 32 weeks. This includes participation in the life of the boarding school in agreement with the other teachers at the school. They are hired by the school (principal) but their salaries are determined by the Directorate for Adult and Youth Education.
University educated teachers or others comparably educated are salaried according to the academic salary scale. Teachers trained at a teacher training college or similar institution receive the same salary as primary school teachers. After working with adult education for 6 years, a teacher trained at a teacher training college or similar institution can be placed on the academic salary scale.
The schools are allowed to pay their teachers and principal a higher salary than on the Directorates placement scale, but the difference is not subsidized. A written agreement must be made between the school, principal and teachers concerned, regarding the terms of employment, payment for housing and board, if any, and rules for discharge.
The teachers and principal should be members of the social security arrangements for Folk High Schools etc, where a pension comparable to public servant pensions is assured. Besides fulltime teachers, part-time teachers can also be hired. In this case it is required that a teacher for a minimum of one-half the school term (16 weeks), has half of the full-time requirements (150 hours).
These teachers are normally placed on a salary scale and are entitled to be members of the pension fund. Government subsidy is, however, given only for the quota part of the full-time teaching load they have had for every fiscal year. The school can also employ teachers who teach specific subjects. They are paid according to the salaries stipulated by law for teachers employed in other types of adult education.
It is stated in paragraph 7 of the Act that the principal and teachers constitute a teachers council, but it has purposely been left up to each school to define the authority of these councils and how they should function.
The students must be at least 17 1/2 years old at the official starting date of the course in order to obtain State aid and count as a »year-student«. In the case of Youth Folk High Schools (at present there are three) the students must be 17 or have completed 10 years of schooling, but may not yet be 19 years old at the official start of the course.
A student council is not mandatory, but is found in one form or another at most schools. The schools' curricula are approved by the Directorate of Youth Education from year to year. An official list of schools and courses is published annually. The Directorate can at any time demand a more detailed syllabus or send an appointed non-political Goverment inspector to a school to observe teaching methods or course content. There are no stipulations concerning subjects or weekly number of class hours. Each course must have a general character in its entirety but it is allowed, as before mentioned, to put emphasis on specific subjects or subject-groups. Vocational schools are not approved. Dispensation can be given but this has only happened in a few cases. A limited training or study preparation instruction is not considered to set aside the general character of the entire course. Subsidy can be given for the continued education of principals and teachers in the form of a leave-of-absence with a paid substitute for up to half a year, or in the form of reduced number of teaching hours while enrolled for a year in courses at Denmark's post-graduate teacher training college or other institutions. Furthermore, Folk High School teachers can, on an equal footing with other teachers, apply for a freeplace at Denmark's pedagogical college and similar institutions. Grants can be given for training courses for teachers and principals usually arranged by the Folk High School Association in Denmark and also in co-operation with groups of teachers or schools.
It should be noted that Government subsidies for the operation of the Folk High Schools in the fiscal year 1983 were 256 million kroner or 38,000 per »year-student«. As a reduction to the students' own payment, the Folk High School students received subsidies totaling 49 million kroner to which can be added various grants from the municipalities and some smaller grants from private funds.
All in all, one can say the economy of the schools since the new Grant Act of 1969 went into effect has improved considerably, even though certain austerity measures have had the opposite effect. This is due to the fact that one is speaking of legal expences. If the requirements for approval and subsidies are fulfilled, the subsidy is given. A grant of 85% of the educational expences to private selfgoverning institutions with such great pedagogical freedom as the Folk High Schools traditionally have, shows how extraordinarily broad-minded the Danish goverment is.