Segregation or integration? Danish school says ‘ethnic quota’ in classes to help locals stay

© Langkaer Gymnasium - STX / HF / IB World School
A school in Denmark has been criticized for limiting the number of students from ethnic minorities in several classes. According to the headmaster, while the benchmark would select “Danish-sounding” names, the policy actually aims at better integration.

The controversial measure was introduced in Langkær upper secondary school near Aarhus, the second-largest city in Denmark.

© Langkaer Gymnasium - STX / HF / IB World School

The first-year students in the school were organized into seven classes. Three of the classes had special quotas – 50 percent of students should be of Danish background and 50 percent could be ethnic minorities. The four other classes consist solely of students with immigrant backgrounds.

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Turkish-born former lawmaker Özlem Cekic is planning to report the school to Denmark’s Board of Equal Treatment (Ligebehandlingsnævnet).

“When a headmaster isolates the brown children from the white in an upper secondary school, this is a signal that the whites must be protected from the brown,” she wrote on Facebook. 

© Langkaer Gymnasium - STX / HF / IB World School

Her post has been shared by over 2,000 Facebook users so far. Many of the comments under her post – such as “There must be no division on ethnic background,” “Skinheads opinions” – were critical of the school’s policy.

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“In my opinion, guiding yourself solely on race or ethnicity to place students is illegal,” human rights lawyer Nanna Krusaa told TV 2. 

© Langkaer Gymnasium - STX / HF / IB World School

Danish Education Minister Ellen Trane Nørby has already requested a report from the school.

“The fundamental problem is that we in Denmark have... schools with a too high ratio of students with a different ethnic background than Danish,” she wrote on Facebook. 

The school’s headmaster Yago Bundgaard defended the move, saying that it is not racist, but is meant to prevent ethnic Danes from leaving the school.

“For real integration to take place in a class there has to be sufficient numbers from both groups for it to happen,” he told DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation).

Bundgaard said the school was placing students into the classes with 50 percent Danish students if they had “a Danish-sounding name.”

Professor Niels Egelund of Aarhus University supported Bundgaard, saying that he would do the same if he were the school’s headmaster.

“I know that it may sound racist, but you have to create an environment where Danish children are not a minority,” he said, as cited by Jyllands-Posten newspaper. 

Langkær school has seen a sharp rise in the number of students with migrant backgrounds. In 2007, only 25 percent of the students were ethnic minorities, while this year the number jumped to 80 percent.