Become a global citizen
TEXT: SIGNE HANSEN | PHOTOS © SKALS EFTERSKOLE
With four out of seven classes focused on international studies, SKALs Efterskole (SKAL’s International Boarding School) enables Danish and international students to acquire skills and qualifications essential to becoming global citizens. Offering the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), the school is in the top five of the best-performing schools in Denmark.
Founded in central Jutland in 1990, SKALs Efterskole was designed to provide an alternative to the many free Danish boarding schools focused predominantly on personal development and social interaction. SKALs’ founders wanted to combine these traditional ‘efterskole’ ideals with a more substantial preparation for its students’ continued professional and academic lives. This is an ambition that principal Nicolai Vangkilde Terp, who took over the post as head of the school in the beginning of 2018, shares. “It’s about combining the traditional ‘efterskole’ values with a more targeted academic approach. Our school is a place where it’s okay to want to go to school, to like to go to school, and that’s a relief to many of our pupils; because being someone who wants to study and who wants to do good is unfortunately not cool in a lot of places today,” he explains.
Of the 160 students enrolled annually at SKALs, more than 100 choose either the ninth or tenth-grade IGCSE class or the International Project class. All the international classes are taught in English, and, since all important messages are given in both Danish and English, it is not a necessity to speak Danish to study at SKALs Efterskole.
An international set of skills
The school’s IGCSE pupils finish with an exam approved by the University of Cambridge. The exam gives access to the International Baccalaureate (IB), which is offered by 14 Danish gymnasia as well as numerous educational institutions all over the world, and that means that not just Danish pupils are attracted to the course. “We have more and more pupils coming from abroad to take the IGCSE – for many, it’s a good alternative to the boarding schools in their home country, and for some, with one or two Danish parents, it’s a way to get introduced to the Danish school system and open up for the possibility of pursuing further studies in Denmark,” explains Terp. Furthermore, if pupils take the tenth-grade IGCSE, the exam may qualify them to skip one year of the Danish three-year version of the IB.
SKALs’ International Project Class, on the other hand, offers a year free from exams and full of ‘real-life’ project-based learning experiences. This allows pupils to explore less traditional ways of expanding their competences within media, communication, teamwork and presentation. “As a young person today, you must be able to conduct yourself professionally and socially all over the world. The ability to move in, and understand, different cultures will be essential, and that requires two sets of competences: the academic – the languages, knowledge and so on; and the social – the ability to interact as an individual with people different from yourself. We want to give our students both,” says Terp.
The different programmes include annual study trips to different destinations, including the UK, Malawi and Vietnam.
Wanting to learn
Students enrolled on SKALs’ regular ninth and tenth grades are divided into several smaller sub-groups of varying academic levels and teaching styles. All classes, however, have a strong academic focus and aim to prepare students for the specific line of post-secondary study they wish to pursue. As a matter of fact, 97 per cent of SKALs’ pupils continue onto a post-secondary education after a year at SKALs. This does not, however, mean that it is all about books, stresses Terp. “SKALs is not a rigidly academic school where we put our students through their paces in hard subjects. On the contrary, it’s about involving both your head and your heart. Being a student here is not about being academically strong – it’s about wanting to be.”
While the international and academic focus is at the core of all activity at SKALs, like other ‘efterskoler’ the school also offers a number of subject lines such as football, media and creativity, which allows pupils to pursue their hobbies, sports and interests alongside studies.
At a glance
-SKALs is located in Skals, a town of approximately 2,000 inhabitants, 12 kilometres from Viborg and 75 kilometres from Aarhus.
-SKALs’ 160 students share four-bed dormitory rooms; students can choose between mixed-gender floors as well as a mixed English-speaking floor.
-SKALs offers a ninth and tenth-grade education based on the students’ different learning approaches and academic levels (Danish National Curriculum) as well as an English-language, project-based tenth grade with no examinations, and Cambridge classes (IGCSE/O-level).
-SKALs is among just a handful of schools in Denmark offering the entire IGCSE curriculum and, furthermore, is the Danish headquarters for IGCSE-approved education in Denmark.