School life proves sweet for the Danes, but bitter for the English;Research focus;Briefing

1st October 1999 at 01:00
A COMPARATIVE study of secondary pupils in England, France and Denmark showed the English to be the most negative about school, and the Danish to love it most.

The Danish children liked their teachers. They believed teachers trusted pupils, were interested in building friendly relationships, and made pupils feel they could be successful.

Of the three national groups, the Danes were least interested in leaving school early. Also, they believed that the school should help them fit into group situations, reflecting the Danish emphasis on collaboration, consensus and citizenship.

The study involved 600 12- and 13-year-olds from three comprehensives in each country, matched for their socio- economic profiles. The children completed questionnaires and were observed in class. Some were also interviewed in groups and individually.

Dr Marilyn Osborn of Bristol University said that, in contrast to the Danes, English pupils, felt that school got in the way of their lives. English pupils also placed more importance on getting qualifications that would lead to a career rather than learning how to co-operate with others.

More positively, 73 per cent of English pupils believed that school was a place where they could express their own ideas and opinions as opposed to 59 per cent of the Danes and just 48 per cent of the French. The social role of school as somewhere you can meet your friends held more importance for the English pupils than for the Danes. Dr Osborn said responses reflected the British system's emphasis on the individual.

Of the three groups, the French appeared the most negative about teachers. More than half of them believed that teachers were not interested in pupils as people, compared with 24 per cent of English and 33 per cent of Danish pupils.

They also felt that school was a place where it was difficult to succeed and where teachers did not encourage pupils to say what they thought. Oddly, more of the French children than the other two groups said that the best part of their life was the time they spent in school.

"Life in school: pupil perspectives and pupil experience in schooling and learning in three European countries", by Marilyn Osborn, University of Bristol. E-mail Marilyn.Osborn@

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