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Denmark/ 8.3 Arts and cultural education  

8.3.5 Basic out-of-school arts and cultural education

The basic out-of-school arts education for children and youth up to 25 years in Denmark is for a large part provided by the 99 music schools placed in the 98 municipalities in Denmark (one in each municipality except for one which has two). At the same time you will find about 50 additional art schools located throughout the country that offer both music and other creative subjects. Furthermore, there is also an unknown number of private drama and dance schools and private teachers who offer arts tuition and a large number of publicly supported amateur associations and educational art projects, e.g. in museums or art institutions, focusing on both teaching basic skills and developing talent. Finally, arts education is taking place as part of the curriculum at some of the "efterskoler" (a unique Danish kind of independent residential school for students between 14 and 18 years).

The basic-out-of-school arts education for adults is for a large part private and based on student fees, however, there is also publicly supported arts education for adults taking place at Open Education Evening Schools in amateur arts associations or at Folk High Schools.

Music education in music and cultural Schools

The main governmental support for the basic out-of-school arts education for children and youth from 0-25 years of age is given to the teaching of music taking place in the music and cultural schools, thus reflecting a prioritisation of this art form by the state.

The governmental support for music schools and music in cultural schools is given both through budget approbation and through a state refund of salaries and transport for leaders and teachers. Besides this, the music schools and music in the cultural schools are financed by support from the municipalities and student fees.

In 2010 the music schools received DKK 89.6 million (EUR 1.2 million) from the budget approbation and DKK 679.2 million (EUR 90.6 million) in refunds of salaries and transport. The municipalities contributed the sum of DKK 484.7 million (EUR 64.6 million) and the students paid DKK 195.3 million (EUR 26.0 million).

The development in the official figures during 2006-10 shows a drop in the state support from 14.25% to 13.32%, despite a rise in the expenses for transport and salaries that was compensated by a rise in support from the municipalities and in the student fees.

This is the main reason behind a growing concern, among music schools and their organisations, for the running of music schools, especially as the support from the municipalities is under pressure from the global financial crisis.

The worry is that the increase in student fees ultimately will make less "well off" parents opt for other and cheaper leisure activities for their children and that some children will grow up with very little or no knowledge of music. This concern increases as the formal school system is characterised by a decrease in lessons spent on music and arts related subjects. The worry is not without justification as there has been a drop in music school students from 102 242 in 2005-06 to 87 624 in 2009-10. (All figures are from the “Rapport om musikskolevirksomheden 2006-10”, published by Kunststyrelsen).

Interestingly enough, the development coincides with a governmental focus on the need to strengthen talent development in the music schools outlined in the Ministry of Cultures Music Action Plans for 2004-2011: ”Liv i Musikken 2004-07” and ”Nye toner 2008-11”. This priority is allocated DKK 5.75 million (EUR 767 000) for such initiatives at music schools. This focus might explain why the decrease in the number of students in the music schools is not followed by a similar decrease in the number of lessons given or the amounts spent on salaries or transport. In other words, the interpretation might be that music schools are prioritising fewer students learning more - as opposed to having many students. But the development could also be a reflection of the fact that the number of music schools in Denmark fell from 216 to 99 after the structural reform of local government in Denmark in 2007, thus creating longer distances between music schools. In continuation of this the main themes in the music school debate at the moment concern the following:

  • the balance between talent development and a more participatory approach to music;
  • the need to strengthen co-operation between the formal education system and music schools;
  • the need for programmes aimed at getting more children to attend music schools;
  • the need for programmes aimed at attracting students to the less popular instruments;
  • And how to reduce the waiting lists for popular instruments like guitar, drums, piano and singing.

After attending a music school, the next step for a gifted student will often be to enter the “MGK – musikalsk grundkursus” (i.e. basic music course), a three year music programme financed by the state budget. This programme is targeted at young people aged 14-25 years and aims at educating talented musicians who can inspire the local music environment and prepare students for a higher music education at one of the five conservatories. In 2010 state support for the MGK programme amounted to DKK 37.4 million. During the period 2005-2008, a pool under the above mentioned Music Action Plan directed another DKK 3.0 million per year to the MGK programme - as a way of compensating for the stagnation in public support when the state took over (from the disbanded counties) due to the structural reform in 2007.

The other art forms and the alternatives to music and cultural schools

Besides music schools, there are quite a few publicly sponsored art schools in Denmark targeted at children from 0-25 years of age, specifically for painting / drawing or drama / dance. They get their funding from a variety of local and private sources: Some are paid for by student fees, some are under the auspices of municipalities, some are run by art museums and some are organised as associations receiving support for their activities from the Act of General Education (please see chapter 8.4 on amateur arts). This is the case for many “dance schools” which are often in reality associations with status as a sports activity.

Along with the art and music schools there are also examples of state financed institutions such as The House of Dance that receives public support for time limited projects or programmes aimed at both basic art education and talent development for children and youth and examples of the "efterskoler" that offer a range of creative subjects such as circus, media and dance. These educational programmes are sponsored by a mixture of support from both state and municipalities channelled through the Ministry of Education - plus student fees.

Out-of-school- arts education for adults

Finally there is also out-of-school- arts education for adults taking place in amateur arts associations, open Education Evening Schools or at Folk High Schools. This education is primarily financed through the General Education Act that sets the general conditions for the municipal support to adult education or else involves private tuition. You can get further details about this in chapter 8.4 on Amateur Culture – but it is worth mentioning that public support through the General Education Act since 2002 has been hit by severe cuts of around 45%.

In conclusion it must be added that it is difficult to get a complete overview of the entire range of ”out-of-school-arts-education” in Denmark outside music as this field is generally left to the commitment of municipalities and private initiatives and is very differently organised and funded. The general notion in the latter years is, however, that the field is under pressure primarily due to the global financial crisis.

For further information on out-of-school arts education for both children and adults see:,,,,,,

Chapter published: 16-07-2018

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