How are Denmark’s schools preparing for lower heating this winter?

Danish schools could ask students to bring an extra layer to classes this winter, while breaks from teaching could be used to warm up.

How are Denmark’s schools preparing for lower heating this winter?
Temperatures will be set to a lower 19 degrees Celsius in Danish classrooms this winter. File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Thermostats in Danish state schools (folkeskoler) are to be turned down to 19 degrees by October 1st as part of a government plan to save energy.

The plan also involves setting thermostats at 19 degrees in public buildings and switching off outside illumination this winter. Temperatures in schools are normally set to around 21.5 degrees.

As part of the government plan, thermostats will be set to 19 degrees in public buildings no later than October 1st. Some types of building will be exempted, including hospitals, care homes and preschool care.

The period of the year in which central heating is switched on in public buildings – known as the fyringssæson – will be reduced. Instead of running from October 1st to April 30th, it will not be switched on until temperatures in the buildings drops below 19 degrees.

Energy and gas prices are currently around five times more expensive than they were a year ago, with further increases possible.

READ ALSO: How much will Danish energy bills go up this winter?

The optimal temperature for classrooms is 21-22 degrees Celsius and a lower temperature will affect children in different ways, an expert who spoke to DR said.

“Some students will probably not be affected by it at all, while others might feel a form of tension of stress in their body. That happens because the body is using more energy to stay warm than normal,” Jannie Moon Lindskov, director of the Danish Centre for Learning Environments (Dansk Center for Undervisningsmiljø), told broadcaster DR.

“Some children will find it hard to sit still. That can be expressed by shaking their legs or rubbing their hands to stay warm. That can create a type of agitation and that can also affect concentration,” she said.

As such, breaks for physical exercise are important because they aid concentration by helping schoolgoers to keep warm and avoid long periods of sitting still, she said.

“On a purely practical level you could maybe also go out and buy some rugs out of the class cash box and encourage to put warmer clothes on,” she said.

A senior teacher told DR that schools and parents must talk about the issue with children to prepare them for the changes the measure would bring.

“It will be necessary to talk to students about the background [for turning down heating]. And it will probably also be necessary to tell them it probably won’t be enough come wearing a t-shirt, that you’ll need a sensible top. And instead of coming in ankle socks, wear normal socks,” the teacher, Lene Banke Andersen, a head of department at Aalbæk Skole in North Jutland, said to DR.

Many schools in Denmark currently practice “brain breaks”, in which a short break in classes is given to students for physical activity and respite from learning.

Temperatures of 19 degrees in classrooms mean these breaks could also be used to help children warm up, DR writes.

“It’s important to have a physical learning activity to get the body moving. That helps you to warm up while also keeping moving and learning,” Andersen said to DR.

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Denmark plans to shorten university courses to save money 

Up to half of university students in Denmark could see their Master’s degree programmes shortened under an upcoming government proposal.

Denmark plans to shorten university courses to save money 

The government will next week present a plan to cut costs for some Master’s degrees by scrapping the second and final year, newspaper Politiken reports.

The changes would affect half of all Master’s students in Denmark and 70 percent of humanities and social sciences students.

The objective of the proposal is to funnel the savings into medium-term professional qualifications including nursing, teaching, and social work, the newspaper reports.

Currently, most university students in Denmark follow a three-year Bachelor’s degree followed by a two-year Master’s programme. Under the proposal, the Master’s degree would be shortened to two years, cutting the total time spent studying from five years to four.

The proposal would need backing from a majority in parliament to be implemented, and the government therefore needs the support of other parties on the issue. This means its realisation could depend on whether the government wins the next general election, which must take place no later than June 2023.

The government proposal comes after recommendations made by a 2020 commission, which suggested that savings from shortened university degrees could be funnelled into post-educational training throughout the careers of graduates.

In the proposal, some of the money saved by the cut to programme times is diverted to more intensive teaching. In other words, the compressed degrees will include more hours per week spent in lectures and seminars than current programmes, Politiken writes.

Around one in three young people in Denmark currently studies to Master’s level at university. Higher education in Denmark is free for Danish and EU citizens and Danish students are given a state student grant (SU) to cover basic living costs while studying. The grant is not repayable after graduation.

Up to 2 billion kroner could be saved by implementing the proposed cuts to degree durations, according to Politiken.

Labour unions and industry representatives have expressed concern the proposal risks turning out under-prepared graduates. 

“We are very concerned that university education will be degraded,” Sara Vergo, chairperson of the trade union Djøf, which represents students and workers in the social sciences, business and law, told news wire Ritzau.

Vergo said that there was little appetite amongst employees for graduates with shorter degrees.

“We have Bachelor [graduates] that try to enter the labour market and there is actually not a great demand for them, while there is a huge demand for academics,” she said.

The Djøf leader also questioned the idea of adding class time to shortened programmes.

“If [students] are going to have more classes, it will be harder to hold down a study-relevant job. That is actually one of the most important things for being able to go out and get a job later,” she said.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv) said it saw opportunities and warning signs alike in the upcoming proposal.

“The most important thing for the labour market is that there is focus on quality and relevance in the upcoming education reform. If some programmes are to be shortened, it must be ensured that they won’t be degraded,” the organisation’s head of education and research Mads Eriksen Storm told Ritzau.

READ MORE: How to save money as a student in Denmark