Thursday, August 22, 2013

princeton or bust

thankfully, i had no odd dreams of dominatrix school principals, instead my nightmares were of an education system bent on making sure my daughter becomes a plumber or electrician (not that those are bad professions, it's just that i'm not sure that's the route she should take).

there was much talk last evening, by an overly tan man with long, white hair (can you say 70s leftover?), of how the kids would be counseled towards their ungdomsuddannelse. already in the 8th grade, they will make a plan for their future education (because you totally know what you want to do/be when you're 13). that rings a little soviet in my ears - having the state decide what you'll be at an early age and then seeing that you become it. i think russia groomed a lot of scientists that way. but denmark's ambitions are a bit lower, it seems they're more interested in grooming carpenters and plumbers (tho' there aren't enough apprentice spots for these professions, so many people taking those courses never become those things). but, we shouldn't forget that low ambition is what keeps the danes at the top of those happy lists, so there's that.

but it all raises my hackles. partly, i will admit, because i'm not entirely clear as to what is meant by ungdomsuddannelse (youth education, if i translate literally). here, mandatory school is through the 9th grade, with an optional 10th grade (many people take that at an efterskole (a boarding school that specializes in something or other - often sports, or riding or music or even media studies)). after that, if you eventually want to go to university, you tend to go to a 3-year gymnasium (somewhere between our high school and the first year of college). if you're not university bound, you can go to technical schools of various kinds. is it those technical schools and maybe even the efterskole that are ungdomsuddannelse, or is it all of it, including gymnasium and university? that's very unclear, even in the three pages of materials they gave to us last night.

basically, i want to know how they're going to help my child get into princeton. or if they're going to try to lead her down a path towards moped mechanic (that was actually mentioned). i'm being a bit facetious here. i'm not sure i really want her to go to princeton (berkeley or columbia would be ok too), but my point is that i want her to think that anything is possible and not that she has to follow a narrowly prescribed path determined by some aging hippie who didn't even know her when she was in middle school. and how will we ever know where she's going if she doesn't take the SAT?

that's the other thing that's not clear. since there's not much standardized testing in denmark, how do they determine what they call uddannelsesparathed (educational readiness). is it entirely subjective? is it determined by a bunch of teachers who frankly, have been questionably educated themselves in seminarium that are somewhere in the neighborhood of a suburban american junior college academically? are the kids out here in udkantsdanmark (the countryside/fringes) especially pushed in the direction of such professions by current political forces? (a story i heard on the radio yesterday suggested as much.) can your location determine what you can be when you grow up? the future of my child is hanging in the balance here and i can't see what it's balancing upon.

the only thing that's clear is that it's denmark's current goal to get these kids out there and through their education as quickly as possible so they can begin to be good little taxpayers. let's face it, those politicians aren't getting any younger, so they need to ensure that the next generation is paying for their pensions.

and now i'm off to google boarding schools in switzerland.

* * *

that's four more items off my "to blog" list from the parents' meeting last evening.


will said...

You know, US universities are turning away US kids in order to enroll out of country (or out of state) applicants because foreigners have to pay higher tuition fees. so, she will probably have her pick of unis.

I has a simply method for choosing a university... Only attend a place with a well known name and with one fail safe... How's their football team doing. Such thing matter to job recruiters.

Lost Star said...

Annoyed as blogger ate my comment.

In brief:

What's wrong with English unis? ;)

Get her somewhere doing the IB; seems to be the best option for testing in Europe right now.

Does she want to go to uni? Maybe she wants to be a plumber? How can you know at 13! :S Crazy Danish system!

heidikins said...

Such a fascinating post!

I work in the higher ed system for my state, particularly on initiatives that help kids plan for, prepare for, and pay for attending college. And yes, we encourage technical certificate programs, but we also encourage 4 year degrees and the potential for a master's degree. Our whole push is for kids to go for their dreams, whatever those are. And we start our programming with 14 year olds (8th grade). BUT, the big difference is that we encourage the biggest thing possible instead of mandate something smaller and less exciting. Many kids will not get into an Ivy League school, or even want to apply. But if you encourage that level of attainment they are also less likely to end up going to hair school or dropping out of community college, ya know?

Gah, I am so fascinated by this post!


Laura Doyle said...

Was this visiting throwback man there upon your request or was this some kind of institutional visit? Very curious about how so much is different. So, school goes as high as 9th grade and there is no high school? Just an optional interim school? Fascinating.

julochka said...

Bill - we tend to not care so much about football here in Europe. or rather, people care about a different sort of football and no one plays it in college.

Lost Star - i just don't know the UK universities that well.

Heidikins - I have more to the story, I talked to hippie guy today on the phone - very interesting conversation. Will write about it soon.

Laura - It was a parents' meeting where all the parents of the 70+ kids were there and the teachers and personnel were informing about what's going on and what's going to happen the next 3 years. And yes, it's only mandatory up to 9th grade, but you'd never get a job in this country if you didn't go beyond that, so virtually everyone does.

Veronica Roth said...

For a minute my heart went all fluttery because I thought you were coming to Princeton BC! What am I like? Anyway, a 70+ throwback to his generation sounds an awful lot like my mother, who is 78million yrs old, and KNEW she would be a doctor by the time she was 8 while dissecting frogs to see what made them work. Mind you she also grew up in Prague, so that might have had something to do with it. :)

Spilling Ink said...

Brings back memories - apparently the system is pretty much the same as it was in the 80s when I went to school in Sweden (I think I turned out OK when it comes to jobs, it's the rest of my life that's a joke :P~).

But, this also reminds me of a conversation I had circa one and a half years ago when my learning disabled daughter's teacher told me that her working future was in a sheltered workshop. My heart sank so far it sank through planet Earth and ended up out there in space somewhere on the other side. (Thank god it was morning or it would have been burned up by the sun perhaps.)

Luckily my heart was pulled back in by the gravity generated by another teacher this year - this year she is doing work experience as art teacher's aide because apparently she's not sheltered workshop material after all.

Unfortunately as parents we have to work with the education system but it's my firm belief that you will have a much bigger impact on Sabine's choices of education than the Danish education system ever will. You have smarts; the education is dumb.

Lisa-Marie said...

We are very luck in the Scotland - Eduction is mandatory till 16, to 18 if you want it, and Scottish citizens get 5 years of tuition (to Masters level) to university paid by the government.

THe school curriculum also aims at targeting everyone's skill, whatever it be and promoting it, which is nice.

That having been said, we are similarly expected to have some idea of our future by 14. I'm 31 and I'm still not sure what I want.