The reason children at this Swedish preschool say ‘Konnichiwa’

In an increasingly globalized world, teaching children to appreciate different perspectives and to be culturally sensitive to others is key to a modern education.

The reason children at this Swedish preschool say ‘Konnichiwa’
Photo: Futuraskolan International

Raising children who value and respect diversity is often a priority for international parents. But finding a school that can appropriately foster this particular brand of empathy isn’t always so simple.

Promoting international mindedness is an everyday focus at Futuraskolan International Preschool Brunbärsvägen. Part of a network of seven preschools and seven schools in and around Stockholm, the preschool – which opened its doors in 2008 – has 40 nationalities and 35 languages represented across 22 staff members and 120 children. 

Find out more about Futuraskolan International Preschool Brunbärsvägen

The mission at all Futuraskolan International schools is to shape children into future world citizens. But how to do this when your students are aged between one and six years old? By celebrating both individuality and diversity, explains Ivett Tamayo, Principal at both Preschool Brunbärsvägen and Preschool Warfvinges Väg.

Photo: Futuraskolan International

“At Futuraskolan, we believe that to be internationally-minded we must know ourselves and our values to be able to be respectful and curious about each other and other cultures. Here at Brunbärsvägen, we encourage this by helping the children to get to know who they are as well as by celebrating differences using many pedagogical tools,” Ivett tells The Local.

A uniquely diverse environment, the international preschool works rigorously to break down intercultural barriers and encourage openness and inclusiveness. The teachers skillfully engineer this through a combination of innovative teaching methods and activities that promote cross-cultural sensitivity.

“We have many different projects to advance our main goal of being a stepping stone for future global citizens,” says Sascha Slavnic, preschool coordinator at Brunbärsvägen. “One of our longstanding efforts involves the families of the children as much as possible by, for example, celebrating many different holidays and festivals such as Diwali, Chinese New Year, and Swedish Midsummer. We have found this to be a very effective way to make the children comfortable with who they are as well as with their cultural differences.”

Photo: Futuraskolan International

At an organizational level, Brunbärsvägen’s work to reach the goals of the Swedish LPFÖ curriculum is inspired by two international curricula: the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC). In addition to being modelled on the latest neuroscience of learning, these curricula tie neatly in with the Swedish curriculum.

“If you look at the Swedish curriculum, it talks about the need to reflect cultural diversity and to have cultural awareness as well as ensuring that children's mother tongues are featuring in preschool life,” says Naomi Hudson, who is responsible for Brunbärsvägen’s Scorpions Group. “And I feel that for us at Brunbärsvägen, this is not an abstract concept or something we need to find and bring in; I think we live it, it’s what our preschool is at its heart.”

Always encouraging the children to be proactive and reflect on their role in the world, each year, Preschool Brunbärsvägen focuses on a particular theme to guide everyday activities. This year the focus is language and, in this spirit, parents have been invited to come in and speak to the children in their native languages.

Find out more about Futuraskolan International's schools in Stockholm

“This fall we’ve had mother tongue storytime, for example, so we’ve been inviting parents to come in and tell their personal stories. This has been a fantastic experience for the children and you can tell how this has benefited their self-esteem and made them more open to each other and new experiences as well as inclined to share,” says Naomi. “Every day in the groups, we see everything from children teaching their friends how to count in their mother tongue to children saying Konnichiwa to each other.”

Futuraskolan doesn’t exclusively rely on its diverse student body to promote international mindedness. Since its inception, Futuraskolan International Preschool Brunbärsvägen has actively worked to involve the children in the wider world through community outreach at elderly homes and sustainable development initiatives such as school-wide cleanups and recycling. 

For the past four years, the Global Citizenship project (now up and running at all Futuraskolan schools) has made the children active participants in an ongoing outreach program in the Philippines.

Photo: Futuraskolan International

“Throughout the year, we have a lot of fundraising activities where the children sell their handicrafts and donate the money to the schools we are supporting and working within the Philippines,” says Shezana Syed, Administrator and Admissions Coordinator at Preschool Brunbärsvägen. “In this way, the children get a chance to help other children in a way they can relate to and at the same time see for themselves – from an early age – that it’s possible to help others and make an impact in the world.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Futuraskolan International.


Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime