Stockholm International School: colours on parade

Decorative kimonos clash with the colours of a favourite football jersey when students from the Stockholm International School celebrate its multicultural make-up in the annual parade to mark United Nations Day on October 24.

Stockholm International School: colours on parade

With almost 600 students from around 60 countries, it seems fitting that the school in the Swedish capital marks the official day that the United Nation came into existence in 1945.

Though the institutions may differ in size and stature, they share a common cause; to facilitate global cooperation, learning and understanding.

“It’s become something of a tradition for the school to mark the occasion,” says David Osler, principal of the Stockholm International Primary School. “It’s just a good chance for us to celebrate us being a school with students from all over the world – and a chance to recognise all of the nations our students come from.”

The day includes a parade around the park in the local neighbourhood where the entire school, everyone aged three to 18, turn outs in the style of a mini-Olympic opening ceremony. Students are encouraged to turn up in a form of national dress or traditional costume.

“It’s a very visual day and a chance for everyone to reflect,” Osler adds. With a teaching staff of around 90 spanning 20 nationalities, they too join in the parade after which comes the opportunity to capture the annual school photo.

Founded in 1951, the Stockholm International School serves both students from the international community as well as Swedish students who want an international environment for learning.

The independent school is co-educational and accepts students from pre-school to grade 12. It follows the International Primary Curriculum and International Baccalaureate guidelines – with all education in English.

Around 15 percent of students hold a Swedish passport, with many of those holding dual nationality. Less than five percent have a solely Swedish background. Students attending the school have a strong international connection, for instance, because their parents have jobs that involve frequent international postings.

“The advantage of the school is that it offers a more diverse conversation in learning,” Osler adds. “There are lots of different perspectives – and it can be a challenge to harness those – but the result is much more cooperation and understanding. There are no stereotypes so interaction is much more natural and universal.”

For example, a class of 20 children can span over 15 nationalities, which helps create an exciting place of learning. The UN Day parade is just one way of expressing the diversity.

Both secondary and primary schools use the opportunity to learn more about international cooperation. “For the older student there’s an assembly with a speaker – a member of the diplomatic community – to talk about the UN and related topics of interest such as children’s rights,” Osler says. Last year, SiS was represented by students at a UN conference for schools in New York where they took part as delegates.

“In the primary school we talk about the UN in simple terms and sing songs from different countries,” Osler adds.

The United Nations Day always falls within the school’s Spirit Week, where students, teachers and parents come together through various fun events both in and outside the classroom.

The PTA organises a multi-cultural evening where parents and staff have the opportunity to share a taste of the world, welcoming guests to bring culinary dishes from their home country.

Indeed, both UN Day and Spirit Week highlight the Stockholm International School’s ethos of educating the next generation of global citizens.

Article sponsored by Stockholm International School


‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”


At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.”