An efterskole is a unique Danish residential school, where students from the ages of 14 to 18 can choose to spend one, two or three years to finish their primary education. The first efterskole was founded about 150 years ago. The schools are closely related to the Danish Folk High School and the educational ideas of N.F.S. Grundtvig (1789-1872), who wanted schools to provide enlightenment for life rather than formal vocational training.
Each efterskole is a self-governing independent institution and it deals with both the educational and personal development of the students. The efterskole embraces a common educational focus on enlightenment for life, general education and democratic citizenship. Compared to public schools the efterskole has substantial freedom in terms of choice of subjects, teaching methods and educational approach. These vary in accordance with the school’s political, religious or pedagogical orientation. Freedom of the efterskole is assured by substantial state subsidies to both schools and students.
One thing that is unique about the efterskole is the teacher-student relationship. The teacher is responsible for both teaching and supervision outside of school hours. This means that teachers and students are together all day from the time the students wake up until they go to bed. This often engenders a close, personal and non-formal relationship between students and teachers.
Most efterskoles offer the same subjects and final examinations as the public schools, but many focus on special subjects like physical education, international cooperation, music, theatre, or various kinds of special education.
There are more than 260 efterskoles spread across Denmark, mostly in rural areas or near provincial towns. At present approximately 28.500 students attend the schools. Efterskoles vary in size but most have approximately 100-120 students.