The Danish Folk High School
The Danish “Højskole” - literally “Highschool” - has a long tradition of offering non-formal adult education based on the thoughts of the Danish philosopher N.F.S. Grundtvig. There are 70 “Højskoler” all over Denmark offering all sorts of different classes and learning opportunities. About 10% of the Danish youth choose to attend a Højskole.
Usually, a stay at a Højskole last 3-6 months where the students stay and live in their own rooms at the school. The students have classes every day - just as a “normal” school day - and spend their free time, weekends etc. together. The schools are not required by law to offer certain courses or classes, and can thus teach whatever they want; some schools focus on academic topics, some are focused on sports, other focus on drama or art - and others again mix it all up.
There are no exams, no grades, no diploma, no degree, and you can’t really use the Højskole for anything.
Oh, and you have to pay for it.
So why on earth would anyone go to Højskole?
Well, because a Højskole offers something you have never tried before. It offers an opportunity to learn stuff not because you have to - because you want to! Imagine gathering a lot of young, skilled, motivated people for half a year, and let them attend class together - and they all care deeply about it! This creates the wonderful and unique atmosphere of the Højskole.
Because the Højskole is not required to teach a certain way or offer specific classes, the form is free and informal, and students usually get to know their teachers more as persons than as professionals. The environment is very inspiring and you get to ask the question that universities and gymnasiums don’t ask:
“Why is this important - for you, in your life, for your family, for your society?”.
The typical student at a Danish Højskole is 19 - 25 years old, has finished the “regular” high school / gymnasium and chooses Højskole as a gap year. Some students are also in the middle of a university study and choose to take a break.
The essential element of the Folk High Schools is life at the school. The Folk High School becomes what it is because of the individual persons - teachers, students, staff - not because of the curriculum. Learning happens in mutual exchange in a community across social status and differences where students learn from teachers and vice versa. The dialogue across differences was for Grundtvig the core of life at a Folk High School.
What is life like on a danish folk high school?
So the week schedule says “morning gathering” every morning? What is this? It sounds horrible! Are we to meet for an hour-long prayer every morning? A gymnastics-class to get you warmed up? Are we going to sit in circles and hold hands? What is going on?
Well, no. In Danish, the term is “morgensang”, which literally means “morning song”, and you will find “morgensang” on most schools (and many workplaces) all over Denmark. However, that doesn’t really explain what goes on. Sure, we sing, because that’s what we always do. And after the song, someone will typically give some sort of short speak, tell a story, show pictures - whatever is on their mind - for 20-30 minutes. Then we sing another song and hey, the day is off to a good start.
It is an integral part of Højskole. It has always been done and a vast majority of the students enjoy it very much.
Take a bite of your future
The dream of Jaruplund Højskole emerged in a circle of Folk High School people after the end of the Second World War. It was a dream of creating a Folk High School which could become a powerhouse for the Danish minority in South Slesvig. Folk High Schools, the Danish cooperative movement and private citizens contributed with funds and the South Slesvian personage, farm owner Meta Røh, donated the beautiful plot of land down by the Jaruplund Lake where the school is placed. In 1950 the school was ready to enroll their first students in the disused refugee baracks, which in the first years made up the Folk High School.
Today the refugee baracks are replaced by the beautiful and recently renovated buildings and Jaruplund Højskole is a modern Folk High School with all necessary facilities, from our own cinema, rehearsel room and artist’s workshop to a sauna, fitness room and 34 single and double bedrooms, with own lavatories and showers.
But the dream of those days is still alive. An inspirational place for the Danish minority and for the Danes which every year choose to live and dream at the only Danish Folk High School south of the Danish-German border.