In 2010, 16 schools in the capital – 1 in 4 – had a ratio of over 50 percent for children termed ‘bilingual’ (Danish: tosprogede), meaning a language other than Danish is spoken in their home environments.
That number has now been reduced to 9 schools in the city, newspaper Politiken reports. As such, demographics are now spread more evenly between schools in Copenhagen.
According to Copenhagen Municipality, the composition of schoolgoers’ backgrounds is important because 'bilingual' children fare worse at school than ethnically Danish children, on average.
“This is a pleasing development. We want Copenhagen to be a city in which the places where we live and go to school and daycare is mixed. We think this has a big impact with respect to integration and opportunity,” Social Democrat councillor Jesper Christensen, who heads the municipality’s children and youth committee, told Politiken.
The municipality has given greater flexibility in allowing children, particularly those from minority ethnic backgrounds, to attend schools other than their local district school.
That has, for example, enabled children from underprivileged areas in parts of Nørrebro to go to school in Østerbro, a neighbouring and more affluent area.
Nationally, Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye has previously (when in opposition) said that school classes should have no more than 30 percent ‘bilingual’ children.
The Ministry for Children and Education told Politiken that “it is still (our) ambition that distribution of school students should better reflect that of the general population,” the newspaper reports.
Although little research into the topic exists, a Danish study from 2011 found that the average grades of children in a class is negatively affected when the proportion of ‘bilingual’ children in that class exceeds 50 percent.
Pisa, the OECD's programme for international student assessment, has previously found that children with non-immigration backgrounds who attend schools with over 40 percent ‘bilingual’ students fare worse than equivalents at schools where the proportion is less than 10 percent.
Mikkel Høst Gandil, an assistant professor at the University of Oslo’s Economics institute, noted in comments to Politiken that the figures should not necessarily “be interpreted as the effect of going to school with many bilingual children”.
“The study cannot tell whether a specific child would fare better if the number of immigrant-background children in her school fell,” he told the newspaper.
The difference in results does not occur if differences in social conditions between students at the same schools are taken into account, he said.
A 2018 University of Copenhagen PhD project co-authored by Gandil and partly financed by Danish think tank the Economic Council of the Labour Movement found that weaker students benefited from attending stronger schools. Meanwhile, stronger pupils were not negatively affected by attending a school with a high proportion of students with weaker backgrounds, Politiken writes.
The project analysed school trends amongst 580,000 children.