Autonomy and Integration







Language and Identity
Reality and Belief



Ole Stig Andersen
Pedagogical Laboratory, Copenhagen, 1990


  1. Introduction
  2. The Folkeoplysning
  3. The Fritidslov
  4. Chain Migration
  5. The Mediators
  6. Language Acquisition as a Collective Process
  7. Adult Education versus Folkeoplysning
  8. The Abolition of the Fritidslov

1. Introduction

Folkeoplysning - til top By allowing immigrants themselves to make a reasonably well-paid livelihood as officially recognized teachers of Danish for adult foreigners, a short introductory teacher-training being the only prerequisite, a unique and quite successful means of autonomy and integration has been developed within the framework of the Danish tradition of "Folkeoplysning", popular enlightenment. The basic ideas of Danish "popular enlightenment" were established in the middle of the last century as a means of developing knowledge and self-consciousness among the peasants. It was later taken up by the workers' movement, and within the last 20 years we have seen immigrants - predominantly but not exclusively Turkish/Kurdish - employ the same ideas and institutions in their autonomous integration into Danish society.

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.

Summary of the present paper

This paper will discuss three main topics:
  • The process by which the teaching of Danish came to be a major means of autonomy and integration simultaneously.
  • Language acquisition seen as a collective activity rather than an individual one.
  • The resistance of traditionally progressive groups to immigrants being teachers, and the variety of ideologies and legalistic and institutional means, that these have employed to hamper the participation of immigrants in the process of autonomous integration, in this case their entry into the teachers' community.

2. The Folkeoplysning

Folkeoplysning - til top

Two new words in English

It is possible, but unwise, to discuss the teaching of Danish as a second Language, without considering the "Fritidslov", the law under which Danish immigrant education has taken place for almost 20 years, until 1986. The direct English equivalent of the "Fritidslov" would be something like "The Free Time Law" or, more officially "The Act of Leisure-Time Education". Both of these expressions are clumsy and, what is worse, grossly misleading, so for the purpose of this paper I hope that you will permit me the liberty of coining a new English loanword: "The Fritidslov". The ideological framework of the Fritidslov is called "Folkeoplysning" the official English translation of which would be "People's Enlightenment" or "Popular Enlightenment". As the English connotations of these two expressions seem to be quite at variance with the Danish ones, please allow me to indulge and add the word "Folkeoplysning" to your English glossary. I trust they will both be amply elucidated in the following.

How immigrant-education came to be a Fritidslov-activity

In 1970 a commission under the Ministry of Labour suggested that the foreign workers be given a certain amount of education in Danish language. (Betænkning... 1971) They searched the legislative landscape for a law that met certain basic criteria, among others that it should be free of charge for the participants, the foreigners being considered poor and unwilling to pay for Danish language lessons. The new Fritidslov passed by the Danish Parliament only a couple of years earlier, satisfied the requirements perfectly. It contained a section on Education for the Handicapped, virtually free of charge, and simply by defining the lack of Danish language skills as a handicap, it became possible to put the Fritidslov to the service of teaching Danish as a second language, without having to endure the hardships of a public political decision on the issue, an administrative decision being considered sufficient.

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 Danish tradition of Folkeoplysning

In the Scandinavian countries Folkeoplysning is considered a uniquely Nordic concept. The middle of the 19th century witnessed a great popular uprising, leading to the democratic Constitution of 1848. An important factor in this process was the rapidly growing self-consciousness of the Danish peasantry. Under the spiritual guidance of the great preacher and poet N. F. S. Grundtvig the very vital agrarian movement in Denmark created a number of institutions of education and cooperation with a lasting effect on the development of the Scandinavian countries into modern democratic welfare societies.

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

Folkeoplysning - til top

The basic dynamics of the Fritidslov Act of 1968

It is necessary to explain a few of the main characteristics of this Fridslov Act of 1968. The basic idea is that any group of adults can receive any amount of education in any subject they want. If a group of adults wants to learn, say, English Language or Riemann Mathematics or the Revolutionary Tactics of the Urban Guerrilla or the Chemistry of Vitamins or Yoga or How to Draw Portraits or Repairing a Tape-Recorder or You Name It... ...and they are able to find a teacher, the State and the Municipality must pay a substantial percentage of her wages.

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.

No such thing as valuefree knowledge

This principle means that if any significant group is dissatisfied with what is available they can easily establish their own school and receive the official funding, provided the basic requirements of the Law are followed. These requirements do not include limitations of a political nature, on the contrary. Also elitist and totalitarian groups with pronounced anti-democratic goals, like the Communists and the Nazis, may, and do in fact, utilize the Fritidslov. With romantic allusion to the old Norse pantheon, Grundtvig voiced this all-important principle in the maxim: "Freedom for Loke as well as for Thor".

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.

Summing up

These then are the seven basic dynamics of the Fritidslov. The authorities cannot:
  • decide that certain subjects shall not be funded
  • cut down on the amount of education received by a class
  • exclude certain groups from funding for political or other reasons
  • demand previous institutionalization of the teachers, i e formal education
  • limit the number of initiating organizations
  • exclude extra-municipal participation in classes
  • restrict classes to certainhours of the day or times of the year
These are the reasons why the Fritidslov bcame a unique means for integration in the hands of the immigrants themselves.


4. Chain Migration

Folkeoplysning - til top

Minorities within minorities

In a small fringe-country like Denmark, the phenomenon of chain migration is of the utmost importance. Being a small country on the outskirts of Central non-colonial Europe, Denmark received her foreign workers somewhat later than did the more developed countries. By the same token she received them from more outlandish places within the labour exporting countries. As a matter of fact, the majority of Denmark's foreign workers come from minorities within their own countries. Considerably more than half the Turkish citizens in Denmark are in fact Kurds, the majority of the Yugoslavs are Albanians, Turks and Vlachs, and almost all the Moroccans are Berbers.


Denmark is the most Danish of all countries in the world. If you list the 5 biggest Danish-speaking cities of the world, they are all situated in Denmark. If you meet somebody who speaks Danish, she'll probably be living in Denmark. If you meet somebody living in Denmark, he will probably be speaking Danish. In contrast Paris is said to be the second-biggest Portuguese town, as Chicago is a Polish city. It can be difficult for Danes to understand that their society is not the rule, but the exception. Danes are happily unaware of the fact that homogeneity of race, language, and nationality within the borders of a single state is a rare thing in the world of today.

Industrialization and migration

The immigration of foreign workers is but a special case of the migration from countryside to urban centre that is a basic concomitants of the process of industrialization. Within Denmark herself something like half a million Danes (out of a population of about 4 million) migrated from the country into the cities, during the 1950'es. With the advent of rapid international communications and transport, a consequence of the Second World War, it is no wonder that this migration in ever growing numbers crosses borders, so that today there is a little less than 150.000 foreigners in Denmark within a population of some 5 million. The majority of the foreign workers in Denmark also have migrated from country-side to city, the city just happened to be situated in another country.

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)

Immigrant Top-50, 1989

Total 142.016
  1. Turkey 26.072
  2. Great Britain 9.968
  3. Norway 9.937
  4. Yugoslavia 9.149
  5. Sweden 8.178

  6. West Germany 8.131
  7. Iran 7.715
  8. Pakistan 6.454
  9. stateless, unknown etc 4.878
  10. Sri Lanka 4.338

  11. USA 4.202
  12. Poland 3.861
  13. Vietnam 3.375
  14. Iceland 3.046
  15. Morocco 2.504

  16. Lebanon 2.070
  17. Italy 1.897
  18. France 1.894
  19. The Netherlands 1.824
  20. Finland 1.816
  1. Iraq 1.733
  2. Switzerland 1.083
  3. The Philippines 1.036
  4. Thailand 949
  5. Ireland 922

  6. Canada 888
  7. India 879
  8. Spain 820
  9. Japan 662
  10. Jordan 655

  11. Chile 615
  12. Austria 608
  13. Greece 517
  14. Israel 512
  15. Australia 488

  16. China 481
  17. Ethiopia 398
  18. SouthKorea 388
  19. Egypt 348
  20. Algeria 313
  1. Brazil 303
  2. Belgium 295
  3. Portugal 287
  4. Colombia 275
  5. Tunisia 251

  6. Afghanistan 238
  7. Ghana 236
  8. Rumania 223
  9. Czechoslovakia 222
  10. The Soviet Union 216

    Rest of the world (94 countries) 3.866

A Little Denmark in the Anatolian Highlands

The Turkish citizens are by far the largest group of immigrants in Denmark. As of the 1st of January 1989 the Turkish citizens comprise almost 20% of all foreigners in the country, Scandinavians and other Europeans included. In 1967 two Kurdish workers from Turkey, dissatisfied with unemployment in Germany, quite accidentally found employment as well as accommodation in Copenhagen, while on their way to Sweden to look for work. Three years later an ethnographic survey (Hjarnø 1971, pp 31-33) showed that 75% of the males aged 18 to 50 from the village of Kusca, were living and working in Greater Copenhagen. They are still here, and their families, too. So are many people from a number of neighbouring villages.

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.

Map of Turkey
The majority of the Turkish immigrants in Denmark come from the four provinces Konya, Sivas, Çorum and Usak.

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

Folkeoplysning - til top 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.

The influence of the mediators

The mediators had a profound influence on the direction of the development of immigrant teaching. They taught their Danish colleagues and allies about the true structure of the immigration, turning upside-down many convictions earlier held among the Danish teachers. About 1980 they began to use the rights of the Fritidslov to build their own schools, especially in the area south and west of Copenhagen, where the "concentration", small as it may be, is greatest. Because of the knowledge on the part of the mediators' of the dynamics of their countrymen, they were far more efficient in motivating immigrants to participate in Danish Language classes than the official Danish systems, who used arguments that just might motivate a Dane, but were far removed from the life of the immigrants. As a consequence of the participation of the mediators, there was a steep rise in the teaching activity.

Map of Northern Konya (after Hjarnø 1988)
Out of 18 Turkish candidates to the municipal elections in 1981, 1985 and 1989, 13 come from the seven villages (marked with a frame) in Little Denmark.

Local elections

Since 1981 immigrants in Denmark have enjoyed the right to participate in municipal and regional elections, both as candidates and voters. By the latest local elections in 1985, immigrants were elected members of 7 municipal councils, all seven of them representing the biggest Danish party, the Social-Democrats. Six of them are Turkish Kurds, one a Yugoslavian Vlach. One Turkish Kurd was elected in Odense, which is chained to the province of Çorum. The remaining five Turks were elected in Greater Copenhagen, and four of them come from villages in Little Denmark, all lying less than 50 km apart. All six Turks work or have worked for years as teachers under the Fritidslov. One more Kurd from Little Denmark lacked only 12 votes in being elected. He too works within the Fritidslov. Elections are due again in the autumn of 1989. As of this writing, 11 Turks are known to run for office in the Copenhagen area. Of these all except one come from Little Denmark. In the whole country at least 14 Turks are candidates and all except two are or have been teachers of Danish for adults (Andersen 1989).

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

Folkeoplysning - til top

The individualistic perspective on Language Acquisition

It is an undeniable fact, of course, that it is the individual who does (or does not) learn a language. Thus Foreign Language Acquisition has traditionally been considered an individual activity. Generally speaking there is no explicit awareness of the axiomatic nature of this idea. Studies in Language Acquisition normally focus exclusively on psycholinguistic or pedagogical aspects (e. g. Krashen & Terrell 1983). Expertise in the field is sought for among students of language (which in Denmark means Letters more often than Linguistics) on an academic level.

An economic perspective on Language Acquisition

When it dawned upon the young Kurds and Turks that Danish Folkeoplysning was prepared to accept them as teachers in Danish Language, a wave of enthusiasm surged through the community. Still the aspirations were never academic and only a few of them envisaged a future professional life as teachers. Hundreds of young men now dreamed of becoming teachers and tried to qualify in the ways prescribed by their idea of what language teaching was or should be like. Suddenly Danish grammar and pronunciation was no longer relegated to the class-room, but became a normal topic of daily-life conversations. The Turkish community became preoccupied with structural questions of Danish language (Nielsen 1983).

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.

Consequences for the recruiting of teachers

This development had some important consequences for the assessment of teachers' qualifications. If you view language acquisition as an individual quest, you tend to stress knowledge of Danish structure and experience in teaching, and therefore choose teachers with a training in these subjects. As the foreign workers have not stayed for a sufficiently long time in Denmark to have participated in Danish education, this priority will inevitably result in choosing Danes as teachers. If, on the contrary, language acquisition is considered an activity of the entire community in its collective quest for better social and economic living conditions, you tend to stress knowledge about the culture, sharing of its values, mastery of its language, even participation in its daily life. Therefore you prefer teachers who enjoy some respect and can exercise a certain amount of influence in their community, while their linguistic competence and their pedagogical qualifications, though important, still are of minor consequence.

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.

Teacher-training as a general qualification

The foreigners are barred from many occupations in the Danish society because they lack the required diplomas, and many educations do not admit them because they have not gone through the required previous institutionalizations. In quite a few instances the teacher-training has been used to break this evil circle.

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.

Muslim women

In Denmark Muslim women are generally considered to be heavily oppressed. It is felt that something urgent ought to be done about this, e.g. Danish language lessons. But then again it is assumed that many Muslim men do not allow their wives and daughters to leave home for classes. If Turkish women in Denmark are not allowed to attend Danish lessons it is hardly the doing of Islam, though. In the Anatolian villages, like in any smaller community, gossip is a major means of social control. Chain migration extends this form of control to the suburbs of Copenhagen. What Turkish women are not allowed to, then, and indeed do not themselves want to do, is not attending classes, but harming the good reputation of the family. Provided the honour of the family can be maintained there will only be few obstacles to women learning Danish. Now, gossip is often unfounded, and harm can be intended. So you avoid situations that can offer an enemy an opportunity.

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.

Teacher-training and division by gender

The Turkish imam was approached and it was suggested to him, that his 19 years old daughter might be a good teacher of Danish. He liked the economic perspective of this arrangement but feared the gossip. As a result the teacher-training was split in a male and a female section, and on this condition he gave his consent. From then on it was very easy to recruit young Turkish/Kurdish women to the training. After all, what could be the risk, when the imam himself sent his daughter?

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

Folkeoplysning - til top

Resistance from the Ministry of Education

This process was clearly understood and actively supported by the traditional organizations of the Folkeoplysning, especially the Social-Democratic and Conservative organizations. They recognized that autonomy is indeed a process that is intended and actively encouraged by the Fritidslov - no matter which groups in the society that seize it - and a basic element in the Grundtvigian ideology underlying the whole concept of Folkeoplysning. But many civil servants were not able to grasp the importance of a development where the immigrants allied themselves with the teaching of Danish. They did not understand that it was precisely by adopting such an eminently Danish cultural institution as the Folkeoplysning to defend and develop their autonomy, that the foreigners took a large step to integrate themselves with the rest of the Danish society.

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 Refugee Helpers

When you study which nationalities have provided teachers, several facts stand out. By far the biggest group is the Turkish/Kurdish community. Of course they are by far the biggest immigrant nationality in Denmark, but their dominance among teachers is far greater. I would assess their proportion to be at least 66% of all foreign teachers being Turkish/Kurdish. Nonetheless you also find many teachers from the other foreign worker nationalities: Pakistanis and Arabs, and to a somewhat lesser degree the Yugoslavs. But quite large and diverse groups like the Iranians, the Vietnamese, the SriLankans and the Poles have produced virtually no teachers. What the first three groups is concerned their number can be counted on one hand, the Poles on two. How is that?

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.

Adult Education

The democratic tradition of the Folkeoplysning has always been under attack from the rather more technocratic tradition of Adult Education. Adult Education as opposed to Folkeoplysning stresses the profession of teaching. The teacher should have been exposed to a fair amount of controlled education himself, before he should be allowed to teach, he should have a thorough technical knowledge of the subject to be taught and he should de-emphasize his own "personal" points of view, if not hide them altogether. Thus supporters of the idea of Adult Education aim at increasing the inter-changeability of the teachers through a standardized previous socialization and at molding a special caste of professionals, distinct from other professions, in particular from the students, and tend to assert value-free interpretations of the subjects to be studied.

The Teachers' Union

The idea of Adult Education and professionalism naturally gained support among the teachers who were concerned with fighting for better working conditions for the teachers and better wages and so forth. They tended to regard very close ties between teacher and students with skepticism and preferred the establishment of big, central school institutions to the locally based small - sometimes very small - schools (Kierkegaard 1982).

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

Folkeoplysning - til top 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.



Folkeoplysning - til top
  • Andersen, Ole Stig & Nielsen, René Mark: Noget fremmed - en bog om integration. Dünya. København 1987.
  • Andersen, Ole Stig: Stem Sort. Indvandrerne og kommunevalget. Kitab, København 1989.
  • Betænkning om udenlandske arbejderes forhold i Danmark, nr 589. Statens trykningskontor, København 1971
  • Dansk Flygtningehjælp: Dansk Flygtningehjælp informerer. Dansk Flygtningehjælps integrationsprogram. No year or place of publication.
  • Dansk Folkeoplysnings Samråd: Brev til Direktoratet om Indvandrerlærernes Kvalifikationer in Fortvivl no 6, pp 50-52. København 1982.
  • Grundtvig och folkupplysningen. Nordens Folkliga Akademi. Kungälv 1978
  • Grønhaug, Reidar: Nordmenn og innvandrere. Om etnisitet og klasse som to ulike forutsetninger for sosial deltagelse i Norge in Grønhaug, Reidar (ed): Migrasjon, utvikling og minoriteter, pp 125-145. Universitetsforlaget, Bergen 1979.
  • Hjarnø, Jan: Fremmedarbejdere. En etnologisk undersøgelse af arbejdskrafteksportens virkninger i Tyrkiet Nationalmuseet. København 1971.
  • Hjarnø, Jan: Indvandrere fra Tyrkiet i Stockholm og København. Sydjysk Universitetsforlag. Esbjerg 1988.
  • Indvandrerforeningernes Sammenslutning i Danmark: IND-sam's kommentarer til ministeriets udvalg om voksenundervisningen in Samspil no 4, København 1984
  • Jensen, Heine & Mortensen, Birger (ed): Forslag til ny indvandrerlæreruddannelse. VPC Fyn, Odense 1984
  • Kirkegaard, Ole: Bedre at flyve ved siden af end slet ikke at ramme in Fortvivl no 9, pp 8-13 København 1982.
  • Krashen, Stephen D. & Terrell, Tracy D.: The Natural Approach. Language Acquisition in the classroom. The Alemany Press, Hayward 1983
  • Nielsen, René Mark: Indvandrerundervisning og Folkeoplysning in Forskellighed - et tidsskrift om dansk som fremmedsprog, no 4, pp 12-18. Arkona, Århus 1983.
  • Pilpel, Diana & Lund, Søren: Interview-Undersøgelse 1982/83. Dansk Flygtningehjælp. København 1983
  • Røgilds, Flemming: Rytme, racisme og nye rødder. politisk revy, København 1988

    Ole Stig Andersen
    in Røgilds, Flemming (ed): Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining,
    Akademisk, Copenhagen 1990














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    © Ole Stig Andersen, 1990 (uploadet 2000)