The arrival on the educational scene of a relatively large number of foreign workers as language teachers - often with an accent and other deficiencies in Danish language skills, and almost always lacking formal pedagogical and academical training - created much resentment in the central and municipal administrations, among the academically trained Danish teachers and in institutions devoted to helping the immigrants, especially the Danish Refugee Council.
In this way almost all teaching of Danish to adult foreigners, be they workers, students or refugees, for the coming fifteen years was cached within the Handicap-section of the Fritidslov. It is the intention of this paper to demonstrate the unplanned beneficial effects of this accidental decision on the part of a few civil servants in the Ministries of Education, Social Affairs and Labour. All through the following 15-year period the public and the political decision-makers (even those who specialized in questions of education or immigration) remained completely and utterly unaware of this covert political decision - and so did the social researchers - though the cost of it exceeded the equivalent of ten million # year after year.
The common characteristic of these institutions was their egalitarianism. Education, "oplysning", was considered the basic tool of development, social and economic as well as cultural. But not oplysning by the educated for the uneducated. On the contrary! Again and again Grundtvig and his associates stressed that oplysning must be a cooperative effort among peers, education by the people, for the people, about the conditions and aspirations of the people. (cf Grundtvig och..., 1978) Thus was born the Folkeoplysning, for more than a century a very strong anti-authoritarian trend in the Nordic countries, and over the years an extremely important tool for grass-roots movements of all kinds.
The ideas and methods of the Folkeoplysning were later taken up by the Workers movement. (The first Danish Labour Government assumed power in 1925). Later still it was also taken up by the immigrants, and already in 1971 representatives of the immigrants participated in the meetings of the Ministry of Education for implementing the inclusion of Danish as a Second Language in the Handicap section of the Fritidslov.
3. The Fritidslov
The class can not be turned down just because the authorities have no money or don't like the subject or don't like the group. This principle also means that there is no ceiling for the expenses. If the populace surges to attend courses in, say, How to Build Your Own Personal Space Rocket, the authorities are obliged to pay their part of the wages of the teachers. There is no censorship of school institutions. Anybody, be it a private person, a trade-union, a society can establish education and have the authorities pay, provided the conditions in the Law are met. The Ministry of Education (until 1988, where the Fritidslov was transferred to the Ministry of Culture) gives a number of courses each year for new groups or persons wanting to offer education according to the Fritidslov. In Inner Copenhagen City alone there are more than a hundred (100) independent institutions offering all kinds of education to the citizens under the aegis of the Fritidslov.
Thus the Fritidslov imagines the teaching of adults to happen unavoidably within the framework of a perspective, a point of view, a set of values. Objective, valuefree education does not exist in the eyes of the Fritidslov. Consequently it allows for any number of schools with different sets of values teaching the same subject. It is the norm rather than the exception that a number of different schools of competing ideologies in a local area offer classes in the same subjects, but with differing biases, so to speak. During the years a number of nationwide organizations of schools has been established, normally in cooperation with political parties or other national organizations, e.g the organizations of the handicapped.
The unsurpassed efficiency of this act within the Danish educational system owes to this fact. As soon as any new development makes itself felt in the local community, and calls for new knowledge or grass-roots activity, the schools of the local Folkeoplysning will immediately try to harvest it. Or new schools will quickly be created. This is also the very reason that the Fritidslov could encompass the ever-growing need of teaching Danish as a foreign language. Although the single municipality funds a class, residents of other towns may enroll. The municipality of X-ington cannot forbid inhabitants of Y-ington to attend classes in X-ington.
The teachers are explicitly not required to have a formal education. You can enter the system with a formal education but you don't have to have one. The idea is that a person who knows about a subject, say Building One's Own Carport, should be able to run a class teaching his neighbours how to build their own carports. The Fritidslov thus weighs experiential competence at least as highly as formal education. In case the would-be teacher does not know how to teach, short courses of pedagogics are provided by the authorities as well as by the schools themselves. Finally it should be said that over the years it has been a reasonably well-paid, though rather insecure job to be a full-time teacher under the Fritidslov.
4. Chain Migration
On the basis of non-published figures from the Danish Bureau of Statistics, I have compiled the following list to show the number of foreign citizens in Denmark as of the First of January 1989. The fifty biggest home-countries are listed here in order of magnitude. You will notice how fast the figures dwindle. The number of foreigners in Denmark is very small, indeed. It is obvious that these less than 3% of the population of Denmark is a very little, almost negligible percentage, compared to many other European countries. Many problems traditionally connected with immigration do not exist in Denmark, simply because the immigrants are so few. Even the municipality with the highest percentage of foreigners, Ishøj, a suburb south of Copenhagen, cannot lament more than a mere 12,7% immigrants. Nonetheless, a heated debate on "the invasion of Muslim hordes" and similar science fiction is constantly marketed and sold in the massmedia, utterly out of proportion with the actual numbers of foreigners. (Andersen & Nielsen 1987, pp 29-37)
Today more than half the Turkish immigrants to Denmark are Kurds from the villages in the Northern part of the province of Konya. These people mainly migrated to the Copenhagen area. The two northernmost counties of the province of Konya are often called Little Denmark (or Little Scandinavia) since most of the Turkish immigrants to Denmark, Norway and Sweden come from this district. The two other metropolitan areas in Denmark, Århus and Odense, received the majority of their Turkish immigrants from two other provinces, Sivas and Çorum, respectively.
In this part of the Anatolian Highlands, Denmark has a very palpable existence, owing to numerous many-faceted and intimate ties. Very many people speak Danish, most of the automobiles you see in the summertime are registered in Denmark, certain economic dispositions may be discussed in terms of Danish Kroner (because of the high inflation rate of the Turkish lira), many things in people's houses, such as ashtrays, toothbrushes, electrical gadgets etc, may have been bought in Denmark, the Danish cigarette Prince is a preferred brand etc, etc. A bus twice a week connects the area with Copenhagen.
Similar conditions prevail to a somewhat lesser degree among other bigger groups of immigrants, the Yugoslavs, the Pakistanis and the Moroccans. Certainly there does exist some amount of individual immigration, among refugees, students and spouses. But the importance of chain migration can hardly be overstated. In a Danish context it is the singular fact that you will have to acquaint yourself with, if you want to understand anything about the processes of integration in Denmark.
5. The Mediators
Not being of colonial stock, the foreigners did not speak Danish. Furthermore, the traditional linguistic competence prevalent in Denmark, did not exceed the commonplace, i. e. English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian.
There were almost no teachers available with even a scant knowledge, let alone mastery, of the languages of the immigrants. In many cases teacher and students could not understand each other at all. (Still today this is often so). This unacceptable situation made room for foreigners, who might be neither perfect in Danish nor experienced teachers, far from it in many cases, but their advantage was that they at least could make themselves understood.
These first foreign teachers were recruited among the so-called mediators. (Grønhaug 1969). The mediators are people, whose basic qualification is a profound knowledge of both cultures, the Danish as well as the Pakistani, e.g. They can behave correctly in both contexts and thereby become important persons both for the Danes and the immigrants. For their countrymen they can do important services, for the Danes they can explain "strange" behaviour. For both parties they can interpret language as well as behaviour. We find these people, who are almost never Danes, in a variety of institutions where contact between Danes and foreigners is unavoidable, like language teaching for the adults, in the schools and kindergartens, in hospitals, with the police, in factories with many foreign workers, in the tax offices, etc etc.
One result of chain migration is that it may be a considerable portion of a village that has moved to Denmark (cf Kusca). In many such cases the entire social structure and mechanisms of social regulation have migrated too. Often the mediator, or his family, has held important positions in the homeland. His father may have been "mayor" of the village or played another influential role. Or he may have acquired the status as mediator in Denmark by his skills alone. Typical mediators are also people who have taken the initiative to establish and run immigrants' organizations.
During the years teaching within the Fritidslov has become a basic source of income for a majority of the political and organizational leaders of the Turkish/Kurdish immigrants in the Copenhagen area, and for quite a few of the Pakistani and Arab as well. Through economical support of the leaders the Fritidslov has thus been a central factor in the relative stability of the immigrants' organizations and these have been very staunch defenders of the principles of the Fritidslov (Indvandrerforeningernes Sammenslutning i Danmark 1984).
6. Language Acquisition as a Collective Process
In Denmark there was virtually no previous knowledge of Turkish language available (and of Kurdish none whatsoever), so there did not exist any official and generally recognized solutions to the many problems of translation and correct rendition that poses themselves when these very different languages meet. The Turkish/Kurdish community in the Copenhagen area had embarked on what was in fact a grand academic venture though it was never considered as such: A contrastive appreciation of the Danish/Turkish language interface.
It was only possible to implement this sociological interpretation of teacher qualifications because the Fritidslov allows different institutions to train their teachers according to their particular ideology. The majority of the organizers of teacher-training courses subscribed to the academic interpretation of teacher qualifications, and consequently foreigners were only allowed to participate if they had diplomas similar to the Danes'. This almost always implied that they were not part of the chain migration, and their attaining teacherhood would therefore be of little consequence to the community of their fellow countrymen and to their autonomous process of integration. The Social-Democrat and Conservative organizations of the Folkeoplysning took the opposite view, and their teacher-training courses have throughout the years been the basic - and since 1986 the sole - institution for educating immigrants as teachers for adults.
One of the special qualifications of the mediators was that they were able to get their people to participate in Danish classes. This was accentuated to a very high degree when every would-be teacher now was able to make members of his family, or other people over whom he could exercise some influence, attend lessons.
Having participated in the teacher-training - until 1985 lasting only 48 hours - you end up with a diploma according to which the Ministry of Education considers you qualified to teach Danish language. This diploma has often opened the closed doors of other educations, thus serving as a kind of funnel through which you could sidestep the obstacles otherwise blocking the social mobility of the foreigners. A considerable number of foreigners partook in the teacher-training without the slightest intention of actually becoming a teacher, with the sole purpose of obtaining a diploma for this "secondary" kind of use.
For this reason it became established practice in the schools that employed the mediators, to separate men and women in class, and at least never let women from rural areas be taught by men from the same culture. Thereby the opportunities for slandering a woman's reputation grew considerably smaller. This again called for far more female teachers than were available. So a teacher-training was planned to provide female Muslim teachers.
The teacher-training was a smashing success. About 15 young female Muslim teachers graduated. But the agenda of the training, its programme, was completely overturned. More than half the 48 hours of the course were spent in plenum, men and women together, hotly debating whether it was justified or not to separate men and women. Was it a concession to the backward oppression of females in the patriarchal agrarian culture, or what? In the light of the traditions of the feminist movement, the Danish participants in the training were taken rather aback by this strong reaction on the part of some of the young Muslim women.
The dialectics of the situation is illustrated by a young Kurdish woman whose father only had been persuaded to allow her to participate because of the separation of the sexes. She took the floor in this mixed group and cried out against the organizers of the course for segregating the sexes, while at the same time she secretly looked out the window to see when her brother would come to drive her home, which he did every day during the training, just like he brought her in the mornings. Nobody seemed to realize that the course was in fact mixed, that the separation was only taking place in principle, not in reality. A group of Turkish Maoists even planned a demonstration against the course and tried to scandalize it, by informing the press.
Today, five years later, about half of the graduates are still working as Danish language teachers, and, what is more important, the course tore down the wall of resistance to Muslim women becoming teachers. Today problems of this kind are history only, and there are no serious obstacles to Muslim women participating in teacher-trainings together with men.
7. Adult Education versus Folkeoplysning
Instead all sorts of slander against the foreign teachers were promoted, partly motivated by sheer lack of knowledge, partly by competition, and some by racist attitudes (in the modern form, where racial prejudices are being revitalized through reinterpretation and transposition into a cultural context (Røgilds 1988). Thus a civil servant from the Ministry of Education, when giving speeches at conferences on adult education, for a number of years repeatedly described the participation of foreigners as teachers in sweeping generalizations aimed at tinting the whole process as a racket. Typically he would describe the participation of immigrants as teachers in words like "In the morning Mustafa teaches Muhammed to read and write, and in the afternoon Muhammed teaches Mustafa to read and write, and in this way the two illiterates both earn a good salary." The participants in the conference would return to their home municipality or county and retell and amplify the story. In this way a number of urban legends was created and spread, aimed against the participation of the foreigners as teachers.
The fact is, that exactly because of the widespread hostility towards the foreign teachers, the schools that employed them had to exercise a far more acute control with their teachers and the quality of their teaching than was necessary for other schools in the field. Still the slander persisted and spread. It was pointed out that they did not have academic qualifications, and the central qualification that they did have, their network, was ridiculed or even made suspicious. Nothing was known of chain migration. It was made to look suspicious that a teacher could fill a class with his relatives, that all five brothers in a certain family were teachers etc. (As a protection against this criticism one of the schools even went so far as to demand that a teacher must not teach his own relatives, so the teachers had to swap relatives in class, as it were.)
In 1980 the aforementioned official in the Ministry tried to get rid of the foreign teachers by suggesting that all teachers of Danish be sacked, every single one of them, and then only those rehired that met a new set of qualifications of a more academic nature, which of course only very few of the foreigners would be able to. By this manoeuvre the Ministry could not be accused of racism. But the traditional Danish organizations of the Folkeoplysning whose chairman at that time was the present minister of Culture, Ole Vig Jensen, supported the immigrant teachers and averted the attack successfully (Dansk Folkeoplysnings Samråd 1982).
The only common characteristic of these "teacherless" nationalities, Iranians, Vietnamese, SriLankans and Poles is that they are administered by the Danish Refugee Council, DRC, an organization devoted to helping the refugees. DRC is set up by twelve Danish organizations. The refugees and their organizations have no influence at all in DRC, though, they are not even represented on the board of directors or any other central unit. This fact reflects the way DRC regards the refugees in other matters as well, not as resourceful groups of adults who have shown strong initiative and zeal, but as more or less helpless individuals who do not know their own best. Refugees are forced into a limbo where they have virtually no voice about their own integration. Dissatisfied refugees can find no possible alternatives to the DRC (they may even be threatened with economic sanctions if they try to (Dansk Flygtningehjælp, no year, pp 8-9)), since the State has given the organization a monopoly on integration of refugees, including Danish classes. The paternalism of DRC has repeatedly been criticized by the refugees, especially the LatinAmericans (Pilpel & Lund 1983).
DRC did not reflect at all over the integration potential of Danish classes, they simply chose the individualistic perspective and without a second thought hired teachers predominantly with a Danish academic background, people without any special knowledge of the refugee groups or their background, most often with no such knowledge at all. Almost no teachers from the refugee groups themselves were hired. A number of reasons has been given for this decision, e.g.: 'The refugees have not been in Denmark long enough to be teachers.' But the Poles have been here for twenty years and the Vietnamese for ten. 'There is no need for Polish or Vietnamese teachers anymore.' But they are still arriving. Furthermore we see Turkish, Kurdish and Arab refugees, belonging to exactly the nationalities that already have been participating in the Folkeoplysning, doing the teacher-training only a few years after their arrival in Denmark.
It is probably true that 'the refugees don't bring social networks' comparable in strength and depth to those of Little Denmark, but they do strive naturally to build and amplify such networks in Denmark, and have been systematically deprived by the DRC of the opportunities offered in the Fritidslov. This does not mean, of course, that the DRC did not use the Fritidslov to finance its language classes. But it did so with a radically different perspective, a perspective that was directly opposed to the idea of Folkeoplysning and to the participation of the immigrant communities in the process of integration.
Among well-educated teachers the idea began to spread that the non-educated immigrant colleagues constituted a serious obstacle to the attainment of their union goals, their being a target for easy - and maybe not wholly unjustified, it was thought - criticism. Soon this group of teachers directed more and more of their criticism against the alleged lack of qualifications of their immigrant colleagues, and an absurd situation developed, where socialist teachers for unionist reasons took the lead in the attack on the participation of the immigrants themselves in the teaching of Danish. Though they did make some concessions to the network and foreign language qualifications of the immigrant teachers, what they suggested was basically that all teachers should have qualifications of their own academic kind. E. g. they demanded that the teacher-training be concluded with a written examination, they suggested that only applicants that were qualified to attend Danish universities be accepted to the training, and they demanded an extension of the training - up to four years was proposed (to compare with the 48 hours of the then current training). The implementation of any one of these and many similar suggestions would have had the effect of diminishing would-be immigrant teachers' belief that they ever stood a chance of obtaining the desired status.
Another group of teachers in the union took the opposite standpoint, that the freedom rights of the Fritidslov constituted the best guarantee imaginable, that the authorities could not sack teachers for political reasons or cut down on the budgets etc. This group of teachers consequently cooperated with the immigrants. The struggle between the two points of view was at times very bitter indeed, and interpunctuated by occasional truces and compromises (most notably Jensen & Mortensen1984), it consumed much of the energy of the union from 1980 through 1988.
8. The Abolition of the Fritidslov
Right from the start a number of attempts was made to narrow the scope of the Fritidslov, either by attacking the freedom rights inherent in the Law or by excluding this or that well-defined area from the Law and transferring them to other laws giving the authorities greater means of control of budget, contents and recruiting of teachers as well. This happened to classes preparing for the exams of public school and to classes with the purpose of alleviating mental or physical handicaps.
And in 1986 it happened to Danish as a Second Language. After several miscarriages the Ministry of Education finally succeded in having a new law on Immigrant Education passed by the Parliament.
The new law flatly did away with the basic dynamics of the Fritidslov, all seven of them, without exception. The Ministry of Education and Danish Refugee Council both had wanted a centralization, and since everybody else had not, the resulting compromise was that the counties, which had had no previous experience with immigrant education, should take over the administration of the new law. The new law contains a declaration of intent, that every immigrant has the right to receive the necessary amount of instruction in Danish language, but unfortunately it contains no instrument to secure this right. Conversely the Fritidslov does not contain any such declarations, but it contains the strongest means imaginable to secure them. The results were exactly as expected. Already the same year, 1986, the biggest counties made a reduction in their funding, and ever since several hundred immigrants have not been able to get Danish Language instruction in the months of November and December.
From a number of European Universities the Danish Parliament received protests against the removal in the new law of "the fundamental protection of minorities, that has won Denmark international acclaim" (Andersen & Nielsen, 1987, pp 103-106). When asked by the minister of Education about these international protest the civil servant in the ministry simply denied the existence of some of the protesters, who included such authorities as professors Even Hovdhaugen of Oslo, Chris Mullard of Amsterdam, Jochen Rehbein of Hamburg, Christopher Brumfits of Southampton and Gunnar Tingbiörn of Gothenburg.
The Ministry has continued the efforts to gain control over the activities and the expenses of the Folkeoplysning. Now the Fritidslov itself is finally being abolished. Attempts are made by the organizations of the Folkeoplysning to implement new kinds of "freedom rights" in the new law that will be passed by the Parliament this year. But it is completely uncertain what amount of space there will be for immigrant education, whether it will again be possible to support autonomous processes of integration similar to those of the Fritidslov.
Ole Stig Andersen
in Røgilds, Flemming (ed): Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining,
Akademisk, Copenhagen 1990
|© Ole Stig Andersen, 1990 (uploadet 2000)|