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Targets introduced without tests

Denmark. NATIONAL attainment targets are being introduced for seven to 16-year-olds, but there will be no tests or sanctions.

"This will do something about the largest problem - that many of our 15-year-olds can't read when they leave school," said Niels Egelund, a professor at the Danish University of Education.

The changes mean schools will have to ensure that pupils hit the targets in several subjects at various grades. Pupils will also have to receive a minimum number of lessons in Danish and maths, more lessons in physics and chemistry, and to begin English at age 10.

The number of lessons will be calculated in a new way to make teaching more flexible, increase cross-curricular work and ensure more uniform teaching hours. "We are very aware that children learn in different ways and at different rates," said Ulla Tornaes, the minister of education. "This agreement does not mean that any pupil will fail."

It is up to the individual teacher to assess whether pupils reach the national targets. "National targets ensure that there is progression in what pupils learn," the minister said. "The extra hours give time for immersion in the subject."

Anders Bondo Christensen, chairman of the teachers' union, welcomed the greater number of lessons but warned they could lead to teacher shortages. "Competent teachers are the most important aspect when strengthening educational levels," he said.

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