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Community impact: the Stockholm school making a difference

We all know actions speak louder than words. And when times are tough, your actions will be seriously tested.

Community impact: the Stockholm school making a difference
Photo: Futuraskolan's visit to the Philippines for its Global Citizenship Project

Knowing the negative impacts of coronavirus on the poor and vulnerable, the children of Futuraskolan International are determined to make a difference. Their efforts range from new ways to keep up social contact with Stockholm’s elderly to providing meals for school children in the Philippines.

Futuraskolan, where teaching is done in English and Swedish, promotes an international mindset and a desire to actively contribute to the wider world. Its dynamic approach to personal development is encapsulated in its community outreach activities and Global Citizenship Project.

Hands up if you want to help

Futuraskolan is a network of seven pre-schools and seven international schools in the greater Stockholm area for children up to the age of 15. Around 3,000 children attend Futuraskolan, which has three core values: progressiveness, energy and respect.

Progressive thinking: find out more about the core values that set Futuraskolan apart

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, the children and their teachers have put into practice a host of inspirational ideas to help groups short of technology, food, and social contact.

“We want our children to feel they can make a difference, so they will act,” says Ferdie Sevilla, Principal of Futuraskolan International Gåshaga and Director of the Global Citizenship Project.

“With the right skills, they can withstand difficult situations. We give them the opportunity to think for themselves and ask them not to be afraid to share their ideas.”

It’s a lesson even the youngest have taken to heart. Before coronavirus, Futuraskolan preschoolers would visit nearby elderly homes twice a month.

Saddened at having to cancel the trips, the children came up with alternative ways of staying in touch. A video of the children singing You Are My Sunshine was sent to brighten up the senior citizens’ time in isolation, and they’ve also received children’s paintings. 

Futuraskolan has also taken steps to give grandparents of students sanitized computers or iPads set up for them to easily join video meetings with their grandchildren. One teacher also ordered and arranged installation of modems and computer units for local families lacking home internet.Photos: Futuraskolan

Futuraskolan’s efforts with technology have even stretched to sending a 3D printer to a new Stockholm field hospital to make visors for healthcare staff. “The children were very sure we should lend it out and very proud that we could help,” says Ferdie.

Interested in international and bilingual schooling in Stockholm? Find out more

Let's Dance! Day with TV star boosts kids' energy

Creativity plays a big part in helping the children adapt to these times without becoming distracted. Some students have benefited from morning yoga sessions or having art lessons outside.

Children were also delighted by a ‘dancing day’ Ferdie organised where they met a star from the hit TV show Let’s Dance. “We could see the positive energy it generated,” he says.

Younger children also quickly took up the challenge of thinking of new ways to greet each other while ensuring physical distancing. Some designed floor markers or signs to help maintain spacing when they arrive in the morning and at lunchtime. 

Photo: Children at Futuraskolan take part in their 'dancing day'

One class created a “halo hand” method – putting your arm out straight with your hand in the air over the shoulder of the person in front – to ensure nobody gets too close while standing in line.

Children have also been encouraged to get outside and think about the environment. Some have been busy cleaning up parks, recycling found items, planting flowers, and hanging bird houses. 

Forward-thinking: find out more about how Futuraskolan helps its children learn to become good citizens

Seeking to build a better future doesn’t mean forgetting the past. A ‘Living History’ website created by a Futuraskolan librarian is recording students’ entries about their thoughts and feelings as they live through this period.

“This is a nice idea to celebrate the good that is happening,” says Nicole MacDonald, Principal of Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm.

Local school, global impact

Ferdie set up the Global Citizenship Project four years ago after a volunteering trip with a colleague to the Philippines, where he grew up. It now plays a central role in Futuraskolan’s vision to be “the best stepping stone for future world citizens”.

Children in Stockholm stay in touch with five schools in the Philippines and hold regular Skype meetings with their counterparts. Earlier this year, Ferdie took students on a trip to the Southeast Asian country that encompassed leadership training, learning exchange and a meeting with the Swedish ambassador to the Philippines.

Photo: Futuraskolan's trip to the Philippines

“Students raised funds before they went and then decided what to do with them based on their observations on the trip,” he said. “In this way, it’s not only about empathy but also about planning actions to help in a sustainable way.”

Futuraskolan’s students have made sure that 80 of the “poorest of the poor” Filipino students have been able to get meals at school. They are now considering also helping families to cultivate crops at home.

“Our students and staff are making great collective efforts,” says Tom Callahan, CEO of Futuraskolan. “They've done some deeply inspiring things to respond to the coronavirus situation with purpose and help communities through this time.”

“We celebrate differences in everything we do,” adds Ferdie. “We’re forward-thinking and don’t just rely on the four corners of the classroom to learn. Once you take action and do something positive, the reward is monumental.”

That’s a vital life lesson for all of us – and one the children of Futuraskolan already know.

Think your child could benefit from Futuraskolan's unique approach? Find out more about their network of pre-schools and international schools across Stockholm where progressiveness, energy and respect are key.

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

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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