I’ve been living in Ørestad, one of the areas in Copenhagen, Denmark, for year and a half now. And every single time I walk back home there is one building that keeps pulling me in, wanting to have a closer look at it.
At first I thought it was a gym. After all the walls clearly state “Ørestad Gymnasium”, and for about a month I really thought that was the case.
Then I learned that Gymnasium is the Danish word for the institution that teaches the two years prior to university, separated from traditional high schools.
Wait, what did you say? That beautiful building is a high school?!
Yes. And not only does it look amazing from the outside, it’s also an impressive design on the inside! This is definitely not your traditional education institution. There’s no such a thing as boring square classrooms with a blackboard where the teacher just stands up in the front and gives a boring lecture. In fact, as the Wall Street Journal defines it in an article they wrote about this school, the entire 5-stories building is one large room, with only a few glass walls separating the space.
But it’s not just the building that is innovative and different from the rest: the education system is also something new.
In fact, according to the WSJ article teachers are forced by the building’s own distinct design to be creative when preparing their lessons. Group work and even one-on-one lessons are the norm, and because of the open space nature of the school, students learn quickly to be quiet so as not to bother the rest of the groups.
Technology is also a big part of the education at Ørestad. So much in fact that since 2012 students do not use books, with computer-based learning becoming a big component of the system. Teachers can also mix up the lessons by combining classrooms together when needed and encouraging students to do their homework in new ways, like for example, by creating a podcast in which they solve math problems or having foreign-language conversations online.
With such an exciting curriculum it’s no wonder Danish students feel more encouraged to keep studying, as opposed to other countries where the student drop-rate is exceedingly rising. Of course the fact that education in Denmark is 100% free, even at university levels, helps a lot.
So although the architecture of the building is incredibly beautiful, it is also the Danish education system that amazes me. In the past three years I have been loudly complaining about the awful education system in Spain (and, to a lesser extent, in the US). Spanish high schools and universities force students to learn the class material by heart, being able to recite it word after word without looking at the textbook and taking points out of written finals for every minor detail that the student forgot to mention.
What do students get out of that? Definitely not knowledge or experience. When all the courses force you to do that all you get is a short-term memorization of what you were supposed to learn, something that fades away in just a couple of days, with only the most important aspects sticking there.
Compare that to exercise-based teaching in which you learn by practicing and actively working on something vs passively sitting down and memorizing, and you’ve got a clear winner. And it’s not the Spanish system in which it is quite common to see over 50% of a class fail a university exam on their first try or students who are taking the final exam for the fourth or fifth try.
Did I just get a little bit off-topic here? Yeah, I did. I guess seeing how well Denmark is doing in this aspect compared to Spain makes my blood boil.
So just to relax a little bit more, here are a few pictures of the awesome Ørestad Gymnasium. (And don’t forget that you can click on them to expand!)