Virtually the entire Danish adult population is literate. Primary, secondary, and, on the whole, university and other higher education are free. Preschools are operated by private persons or organizations with some government financial aid. An estimated 13.1% of the central government budget was allocated to education in the latter half of the 1990s. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 8.2% of GDP.
Education has been compulsory since 1814; currently, it is compulsory for children ages 7 to 16. The Danish primary school system, known as the "Folkes Kole," has a nine-year duration and many opt for an additional tenth year. English is included in the curriculum from the fifth grade. After basic schooling, two-thirds of the pupils apply for practical training in a trade or commerce at special schools. The remaining one-third go to secondary schools, which finish after three years with student examination and pave the way for higher education at universities. Municipal authorities, with some financial aid from the central government, have been responsible for providing schools for these children. In 1996, primary schools enrolled 336,690 students. In the same year, secondary schools had 438,809 students registered. Girls and women comprise almost 50% of those receiving education at all levels. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 10 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 99% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 90% of those eligible attended secondary school.
Adult education exists side by side with the regular school system. Founded as early as 1844, the folk high schools are voluntary, self-governing high schools imparting general adult education. In addition, there are hundreds of schools for higher instruction of pupils without previous special training.
There are four universities—the University of Copenhagen (founded in 1479), the University of Aarhus (founded as a college in 1928 and established as a university in 1933), the University of Odense (opened in 1966), and the University Center at Roskilde (founded in 1970). Attached to the various faculties are institutes, laboratories, and clinics devoted primarily to research, but also offering advanced instruction. Many specialized schools and academies of university rank provide instruction in various technical and artistic fields. All these institutions are independent in their internal administration. In 1996, all institutions of higher education had a combined enrollment of 174,975 students.