Danes come to heal

October 31, 1997

Lifelong learning has a different meaning at Denmark's main adult education centre, an undercover investigation by a Danish newspaper has disclosed.

Journalists working for the journal Politiken found evidence that alternative medical therapies are being dispensed as part of holistic courses at the Hovedstadens Oplysningsforbund (HOF).

The HOF has capitalised on the spiritual boom of the 1990s, offering 134 holistic courses from clairvoyance to healing and colour therapy.

Under Danish law, any form of therapy is specifically confined to medical practice and may not be offered as part of an education programme. Overinsured as the Danes may be, holistic sessions are not covered by their national insurance. Adult education seems to offer the only opportunity for subsidised spiritual salvation.

When asked about the contents of his lessons, a lecturer on a personal development course told journalists that there would be no teaching whatsoever on his courses.

"We'll spend our time examining your personal problems," he reassured the investigators.

Local politicians are now threatening to cut the Pounds 1.5 million public funding HOF receives for its 20,000 students and require tighter legislation to govern adult education.

Niels-Anton Svendsen, educational adviser for Copenhagen council, has asked HOF for an explanation but says that there is not much else that he can do.

"Since the responsibility for adult education in Denmark was passed from the national government to the local authorities it has been hard for us to keep track of what is going on in the individual courses offered. The only information we have comes from the syllabuses offered by the different institutions."

HOF deputy director Torben Holdt said any abuse would be rectified immediately. However, he has taken the allegations about therapeutic sessions quite calmly.

"Our students pay half of the tuition fees for their own courses. As long as they don't complain about the contents of their lessons, we assume that there's nothing wrong," he said.

But the chairman of the HOF board, unable to resolve the matter with the centre's management, has resigned in disapproval.

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