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A different teacher training college – Denmark’s DNS
by Beth Coleman

In May, 1999, I traveled to Ulfborg Denmark to visit Det Novendige Seminarium, DNS (the Necessary Teacher Training College). DNS was founded in 1972 to provide an education for students around the world who were interested in making social, political, and cultural change through teaching. The educational philosophy fosters democracy, confidence, and creativity. Students and teachers live, work and play together, and are also responsible for running the college. DNS is a school without a kitchen, maintenance, or cleaning staff, and without state funding or tuition. Students and teachers are responsible for finding funding for the school, and for the travel, both part of its educational method. Chores such as cooking and cleaning, and major projects such as repairing the school’s swimming pool, or constructing a windmill are also the responsibility of students and teachers.

The cooperative environment at the DNS helps to foster cooperation and compromise between individuals. Many of the students and teachers I spoke with expressed an opinion that this was the hardest lesson learned at the DNS. Although a number of teachers and students are Danish, most are not and some do not even speak English, the schools other official language. Students must learn Danish, as well as adapting to people from a variety of cultures whom they must be able to depend upon in order to have a functional living environment. In addition to sharing the responsibilities of running the school, students will also depend upon other students on their team. Teams are decided in the first year. In addition to responsibilities at the school, and academic study, the first year is spent preparing for a four month study trip to Asia. Preparations include the purchase and remodeling of a tour bus, fund-raising, and research culminating in a trip through Europe and Turkey which takes them to India.

The second year is spent in Denmark. Students must take jobs and live within the Danish community for the first nine months of the year, while continuing their studies. This is followed by a three month period known as “Do what you think is most right” where students are allowed to go and do what they feel they will learn from either individually or with their teams.

During their third year, students are placed as practical teaching assistants, which are paid positions unlike U.S. student teachers. In the fourth year they are again teaching assistants, this time in a field of their teaching specialty. Following four years at the DNS, students take the formal Danish teaching exams. If they pass they receive a certification equivalent to a B.A. in education from an American college. Non-Danish students are able to transfer their certification to other countries, although some countries such as the U.S. may require additional schooling depending on state regulations.

The DNS is an example of the Scandinavian folk school tradition in which members of a community come together to teach and learn from each other. Throughout Scandinavia there are musical folk schools, carpentry folk schools and many others. The DNS embraces the folk school tradition in which teachers and students are part of the same community. I found a strong dedication in both teachers and students to the philosophy of active teaching and learning. One teacher I spoke with explained that in comparison to some traditional Universities, the academic standards at the DNS are less rigorous. But, what is much stronger is the emphasis on showing the students how to teach, and how to learn. By creating a democratic, creative, and challenging environment for its own students, the DNS is shaping the kind of teachers they will be.

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