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Danish as a second language

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Immigrant students continue to perform poorly in 9th grade school leaving exams. The Danish Ministry of Children and Education has initiated a 3-year school development programme for 14 schools with a high concentration of pupils with an immigrant background and poor academic results. The development programme will focus on the integration of Danish as a second language in all subjects. This SFI project will monitor the implementation of the development programme and evaluate its impact on pupils’ academic performance and well-being.

The Danish Ministry of Children and Education has initiated a school development project to help struggling schools improve pupils’ academic results. Fourteen public basic schools (pre-school class to form level 9) with a high percentage of immigrant pupils and low academic performance have been selected for the school development project. The programme will run over a period of 3 years, starting at the beginning of this school year (2012/2013).

The main focus of the development programme is on the integration of Danish as a second language in all teaching and the core of the programme is to make sure that schools have a knowledge base enabling them to integrate Danish as a second language into all subjects. As a part of the programme, all teachers will have to acquire a basic level of knowledge of Danish as a second language, selected teachers will have to acquire an intermediate level of knowledge, and each school will have to have teachers trained to give their colleagues guidance on integrating Danish as a second language in all teaching.

In order to monitor the schools’ implementation of the school development programme, we are collecting survey data from the schools (principals and teachers) at the beginning of the programme and we will do the same at the end of each school year – all in all four waves of data collection. We will also collect data on student well-being among students in grade 7 and 9, both at the beginning and at the end of the school development programme.

We will combine these data with student-level data drawn from the administrative registers at Statistics Denmark in order to evaluate student progress. Student-level data contain performance indicators from school leaving exams in grade 9 and test scores from the national tests in earlier grades. Moreover, the student data give information on student gender and ethnicity and on parental background, thus providing measures of students’ home background.

The analysis consists of two parts. The first part is a mapping of the implementation of the development programme in the schools in order to evaluate whether teaching Danish as a second language in all subjects has become an integral part of all teaching in the schools at the end of the programme period.

The second part consists of a statistical investigation into whether the school development programme has an impact on students’ academic progress and well-being. We will assess the programme impact using a difference-in-difference approach. We will measure student outcomes using repeated test score data from the national tests and grades from the school leaving exams.

It is hoped that the successful implementation of the programme will provide an example of how the academic results of immigrant students can be improved by means of integrating the concepts of Danish as a second language teaching in all subjects. The programme will serve as guideline for other schools to follow. 

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