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Finding a new school that makes the grade

The checklist when moving to a new country can be pretty long. There’s finding a home from home and safely shipping belongings to new shores. When moving as a family, however, securing the right school is a top priority for parents.

Finding a new school that makes the grade
Joannah Duckworth and family

Such was the case for the Duckworth family before arriving in Stockholm in 2010.

Parents Joannah and Jason and daughters Halle and Nayeli – then 11 and 9 – took the opportunity to temporary relocate to the Swedish capital from North Carolina,

thanks to Jason’s job.

“Finding a school was one of the most important factors,” Joannah says. “We didn’t want the girls moving to a brand new country and having the added worry of feeling like the new kids at the school before fitting in,” she ads.

With information provided by a relocation company, the Duckworth’s visited a number of different schools during a pre-visit in what was to be their new home.

They decided on Stockholm International School, an independent primary through to secondary school, founded in 1951. Around 500 students represent 54 nationalities and the 74 teachers come from 17 countries.

“We didn’t speak Swedish and neither did the girls,” Joannah adds. “So was important for us that they had an education that was still in English but they also had the chance to learn Swedish. “

SIS provides much more than just highly accredited education. The special nature of the many transient families whose children attend the school means the staff is experts in dealing with comings and goings, as well as catering to the global melting pot of cultures in the classroom.

“It’s just a very unique but fantastic arrangement in the way they deal with it. Some of the kids will only be there for two or three year and they ensure all cultures are represented in the school so that everyone feels at home.”

The entry process ensures children’s academic levels are matched through tests, correspondence with former schools and the use of international curriculums. Both inside and outside of the classroom, the school has a community feel.

Once engaged with the SIS, the doors open up to the whole family. Having put her career in logistics on hold, being part of the active Parent-Teacher Association became a lifeline for Joannah when starting up in Sweden.

Joannah now chairs the PTA and, along with several events throughout the academic year, there are a range of different clubs – from horse riding to arts and crafts and photography – for parents to join while their children are at school.

“For me personally that was a huge thing when we first moved here,” she says. “I always worked full-time in the States so when we moved to Sweden I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have anything to do. It was fantastic to be able to meet families from all over the world in this way.”

Meanwhile, her daughters have a much bigger view of the world these days, something that cannot be taught from any textbook.

“Through SIS, they have been immersed both in the Swedish culture but and an international culture that has taught them to be more open-minded, more tolerant and much more aware of people from all different walks of life and areas of the world.”

This year the process starts again when the Duckworth’s return to the US in the summer. They will definitely miss the friends that they have made en route.

“Choosing a school will be a top priority again,” says Joannah. “Finding another international school is not a necessity for us but because of the great experience we have had in Stockholm, we wouldn’t rule it out.”

Article sponsored by Stockholm International School

EDUCATION

‘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.”

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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.” 

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