The statistics are included in the European Commission’s annual status report on education, which draws on test results from Pisa and Eurostat, Politiken reports.
The Danish education system scores better than the average of EU countries on a number of key points – rising above its domestic reputation, says Lars Qvortrup, a professor at Aarhus University’s Danish School of Education (DPU).
“Pessimism towards education has spread in Denmark and it is not well-founded,” Qvortrup told Politiken.
Denmark is surpassed only by Estonia, Finland and Ireland in the EU report.
According to the Danish Union of Teachers (Danmarks Lærerforening, DL), the study is evidence that Danish state schools deserve more positivity in public debate.
“Throughout the last 15-20 years, we have seen that a negative picture has been painted of Danish students in elementary school,” said DL chairman Anders Bondo Christensen.
“We have here a study that shows a completely different picture. Therefore, it is important to use international assessments in a different way than we have up to now,” he added.
Students with lower overall outcomes also perform well above the EU average in Denmark, with just eight percent considered in the study to be struggling in all three areas: reading, mathematics and science.
15 percent find it difficult to read, 13.5 percent have difficulty with mathematics and 15.9 percent have problems with science. That represents an improvement since 2014.
The Danish education system performs well in virtually all parameters of the evaluation, which also measures various other aspects.
The report comes as the government is negotiating an adjustment of the so-called skolereformen (school reform), a 2014 update to education legislation which made changes including a longer school day and more inclusion of children with special educational needs in regular classes.
Minister of Education, Merete Riisager declined to comment on the EU report to Politiken.
Via email, Riisager told the newspaper that the purpose of the negotiations is not a new reform, but to ensure politicians cannot “sit on their hands” if there is no visible “progress towards the ambitious goals of the reform”.
There are also areas where the Danish system is lagging, the EU report points out. These include students with immigrant backgrounds lagging behind peers in terms of exam results and admittance to further education.