Students are expected to have legible, connected handwriting by fourth grade, but there is no State-mandated handwriting model. Teachers choose between two semi-connected cursive styles — looped or unlooped — that are based on the work of Christian Clemens Hansen.
The Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet, or Ministry of Children and Education, sets up the framework for curricula for basic education in Denmark, and oversees, together with municipal councils, primary and lower secondary schools. However, the content for classrooms is finalised by the teachers themselves. Danish is the language of instruction, while English is a compulsory subject from the first year of Folkeskole, or lower secondary.
Education is divided into four levels: primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and higher education. Integrated primary and lower secondary education (Years 1–9), which also includes a year of preschool (Year 0), are compulsory. Private schools exist, but most basic education is funded by municipalities.
In 2019, the Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet published a document called Dansk Fælles Mål, or Danish Common Goals, which outlined the government’s basic requirements for primary education. In the context of handwriting, the document specifies that second grade students must be able to write upper and lower case letters by hand and using the keyboard, and by fourth grade, they are expected be able to write in legible, connected handwriting. The Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet does not recommend a calligraphic or handwriting model that must be used to achieve its curricular goals. Schools and teachers are free to choose the methods of teaching and handwriting models they prefer.
Handwriting instruction starts during preschool with Trykbogstaver, or simplified print letters. By the middle of second or the beginning of third year, teachers opt between two cursive models: Grundskrift, a semi-connected style without loops, and Grundskrift med løkker, which has loops and is fully joined.
Sample pages of Bedre håndskrivning – trykbogstaver by Christian Clemens, 2015. Alinea, Copenhagen. (Clemens, 2015).
Sample pages of Bedre håndskrivning – grundskrift 1 and 2 by Christian Clemens, 2015. Alinea, Copenhagen. (Clemens, 2015).
The legacy of Christian Clemens Hansen
The leading figure in the development of handwriting education in Denmark’s primary schools was Christian Clemens Hansen (1922–2009), a lecturer at the University college for teachers in Hjørring, and member of the Scandinavian expert handwriting committee, Nordic Handwriting Ideation Group, from 1993 onwards. He was eventually employed by the Ministry of Education, where he oversaw the development of the subject of handwriting in teacher education.
In 1952, Clemens introduced formskrift, or Norwegian cursive script, to Denmark. Formskrift was developed by Alvhild Bjerkenes five years prior, and is based on Marion Richardson’s work. This semi-connected style became very popular, and widely used in Danish primary schools for over two decades.
Clemens’ prolific production of books for teachers and booklets for students arguably shaped not only handwriting education, but the handwriting models currently in use. In 1971, he published Lærerhåndbog i Formskrift, a book that introduced teachers to formskrift education; and a series of booklets for students: Trykbogstaver til 1.2 klasse for simplified print letters taught in early schools years, and Formskrift 1a to 4, focused on cursive instruction for later years.
Following Lærerhåndbog i skrivning (1977), Clemens proposed a new handwriting system for primary schools in his publication Bedre Håndskrivning (1981). He called it Grundskrift, or basic script. While it is an offspring of the formskrift, it was a faster hand with gentle slope, and featured oval foundational forms rather than round ones. Grundskrift came in two styles, with and without loops, and both are still in use.
Clemens’ legacy has been carried forward by his student, Annie Hjort. Hjort has published her own series of booklets, Skriv trykbogstaver for print letters and Skriv Grundskrift 1 and 2 for cursive without loops, through the publishing company, Gyldendal.
Sample pages of Skriv! Grundskrift 1 by Annie Hjort Pedersen, 2007. Gyldendal, Copenhagen. (Pedersen, 2007)