Total Restructure of Our Secondary System

Let's adopt a version of the European system: 10 years of "regular" schooling + three years of "college prep"

Photo of Susan Blackmer
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In Denmark and many other European countries, schooling includes "college prep" programs so that students are not only well prepared for college, but they have also completed their prerequisite courses--sort of like going the the J.C. here.

Starting at age 6, students attend "regular" school for 9 or 10 years, all students together, not tracked. At 15 or 16, students decide whether they want to go to university, trade school, engineering school, art school, etc., or simply finish school and start work as a laborer.  They then attend programs that prepare them for the rigorous courses they will encounter in their "higher education" training.

This system ensures that the vast majority of students stay in school until they are at least 19 or 20, that they have mastered college prerequisite skills (higher math, writing, etc.), and that they have the maturity to be responsible college students. 

Having lived in Denmark and attended school there myself, as well as having watched my sister's kids go through the system, I can say with confidence that this system seems to work much better than our current one. Students stay in school, are better educated and better trained (even a shop clerk has to go through a school of higher education), and it's all FREE.

I suggest we elect Bernie Sanders and see what happens!


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Photo of Jessica Lura

Can you explain more about the rigorous courses that help them prepare for their higher edu training? Do these classes happen in high school? Are they post high school? 

Photo of Susan Blackmer

They have a three-tiered system: 1st-10th grade, then college prep "gymnasium", then college/university/technical training. Students who plan to go on to university or to study a profession (such as engineering or nursing) have two or three years of what they consider post-high school education first. This gives them years of prep time to take what we consider college general ed courses (higher math, writing, foreign languages, chemistry, history, etc.) . Once they start their higher ed program, they take only courses toward their major. Students who do not plan to go to university or study a profession have two or three years of training in a work field, such as sales, fashion design, firefighting, accounting, bank telling, etc., which also includes further practice in math, writing, foreign languages, but geared to the specific field they want to pursue. Therefore, 16-year olds who do not plan on getting a university degree can study for and intern in their field of interest while still getting basic skills training, while university-bound students can start taking much more rigorous academic courses by the time they are 16. In addition, many 16-year olds take a "gap" year, where they live away from home in dorms at an "after-school", where they can take art, drama, culture, music and other non-traditional classes (none of these are offered in the regular secondary school program). The whole system is very different. The arts and sports teams are offered outside of school time as well--the school day is for academics only.
Overall, more students stay in school longer and get more training than we provide. The teacher training program, for example, takes two or three years, while a bookseller has to have a couple of years of training before going to work.