Long Road students had a chance to experience life as a sixth-form student in Denmark – very different from studying in the UK – when they visited Silkeborg last month. History teacher Suzanne Daley reports:
In the early hours of a dark February morning, ten Long Road students and two Humanities teachers, Chris Childs and Suzanne Daley, set off to pioneer a new student exchange with students from Silkeborg Gymnasium (college) in Denmark. Silkeborg, a thriving lakeside town, and current home to the Tollund Man (a body found in a peat bog), is about 30 minutes from Denmark’s second largest city, Aarhus.
Long Road students were hosted by Danish students and their families and quickly integrated into the Danish way of life, including Silkeborg’s cycle-friendly environment. They participated in the Danish timetable and experienced an alternative approach to learning through collaborative activities with an emphasis on presentation skills, which form the basis of Danish education from an early age.
The gymnasium has 1,400 sixth form students and, similar to Long Road, has a catchment area of about 30 kms. But, that is where the similarity stops as Danish sixth formers study six subjects for 3 years in a very different system. The most striking contrast is the method of assessment as Danish students do not sit public examinations where the culmination of one or two years study is decided by timed written answers, which are then marked by external exam boards. Instead the Danes opt for oral exams, or viva voci, and written assessments are usually completed within 24 hours, then marked and standardised by their teachers.
Beyond the classroom, two trips for Danish and British students were organised by Brian Randeris, a Silkeborg teacher. The first was a walking tour around Silkeborg led by a local guide who had spent some of his youth in Cambridge and casually remarked that he had seen a fledgling Pink Floyd play live there.
The second trip was to the dynamic city and port of Aarhus, which also houses a large university. Students visited the Museum of Natural History where they listened to a talk on evolution by a Danish scientist in English – an impressive feat indeed! Teachers and students ate lunch at Mackie’s, a quirky Aarhus pizzeria, decorated with signed football shirts and kitsch objects. The highlight however was the world class ARoS, (Modern Art Museum), which houses Denmark’s largest art collection outside of Copenhagen. Our students were particularly fascinated by Olafur Eliasson’s Your rainbow panorama a spectacular work of art consisting of a circular, 150-metre-long circular walkway in glass in all the colours of the spectrum.
Our Danish friends gave Long Road students and staff alike a memorable experience and an informed and thought-provoking overview of Danish sixth form education. Long Road intends to establish this exchange as annual enrichment experience for its students, so it is ‘Farvel for nu’ to our Silkeborg colleagues and we look forward to welcoming them and their students to our college and to Cambridge.
Read the full account of the visit in our summer newsletter, which will be published and available online in June.