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PRESENTED BY FUTURASKOLAN

The international school in Stockholm perfecting the art of giving

“They encourage you to take leadership over a project,” says Elia Gelabert, a native of Barcelona now living in Stockholm. “When you have an idea for a fundraising project, they don't take it and finish it themselves – they let you see it through until the end. You have to lead and drive the project by yourself."

The international school in Stockholm perfecting the art of giving
Elia and Jonathan at Futuraskolan in Stockholm. Photo: Futuraskolan. Photo credit: Futuraskolan

These words are spoken like a seasoned fundraising professional, someone who’s been in the charity sector long enough to recognise and appreciate the nurturing qualities of the organisation that employs her. But Elia is not a veteran fundraiser. She’s just 14 and she’s talking about her teachers’ approach at Futuraskolan, a network of 14 pre-schools and schools in Greater Stockholm for children aged up to 15.

The way in which she is allowed to take responsibility also helps her focus on which ideas are really worth pursuing, she adds, knowing that “if you’re not interested in it, you’re never going to finish it.”

Around 3,000 children attend Futuraskolan, which has three core values: progressiveness, energy and respect. The school also promises that every child will be given positive challenges, with a focus on opportunities to develop both ”inside and outside the classroom.” 

Looking for bilingual English and Swedish schooling? Find out more about Futuraskolan and its emphasis on personal development

Picasso’s children

To emphasise this approach, a recent letter to students from the CEO of Futuraskolan, Tom Callahan, cited a legendary artist as inspiration: “Pablo Picasso once said, ‘The meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away.’ So we ask of you, what will you hone and develop within yourself today, so that you can better lend your gift to the world tomorrow?”

Jonathan Matta, also 14, is another student in the process of finding his ’gift’ and who, like Elia, seems mature beyond his years. But it wasn’t always so. 

“I was always late handing in my homework,” says Jonathan, whose parents moved to Sweden from Egypt. “Then my technology teacher suggested I code a website to help organise the class’s homework. I had already learned coding languages such as Python, Java and C++ in my own time. But I got a bit stuck.” 

However, his teachers provided support to ensure the project didn’t fall by the wayside. “They were so good at encouraging me”, Jonathan says. “I sometimes give up too easily. The Futuraskolan teachers really encouraged me to finish the project. They gave me belief and it helped me complete what turned out to be a great achievement. Lots of students use the website now!”

Jonathan Matta at Futuraskolan. Photo: Futuraskolan

An international outlook

Elia is a leader of Futuraskolan’s Global Citizenship Program, which encourages more of the school’s staff and students to become involved in community service, both locally and internationally, in order to develop a deeper understanding of the world. She embodies Picasso’s idea of finding purpose by giving to others and has been the catalyst for many of Futuraskolan’s recent fundraising drives. 

Find out how Futuraskolan aims to be ‘the best stepping stone for future world citizens’

“One of the things that really helped develop my perspective is studying at an international school,” Elia says. “You get different outlooks from students from many countries. This international outlook influenced me to become involved in the Global Citizenship Program. I realised there are kids in the world still having a hard time, and that made me want to do something about it.”

And Elia did do something about it. She organised an array of fundraising activities, such as bake sales and Christmas markets, raising money to fund transport to school and meals for children in the Philippines. Elia’s use of her ’gift’ made a real world difference to many children thousands of miles away.

And so did Jonathan’s. “I saw what the problem was – we had a hard time organising all our homework and assignments. So, I tried to fix that problem with the skill I had and it worked. It helped the class organise their work and become better at studying.”

Elia Gelabert, a student and fundraiser at Futuraskolan in Stockholm. Photo: Futuraskolan

The teachers that nurture talent

Both children emphasise the huge role of the teaching staff at Futuraskolan in their achievements and the development of their respective talents.

“The teachers encourage us to ask questions and let our curiosity guide us,” Elia says. “I think that’s very important because when you let curiosity guide you, you’ll really know what you want to learn. We are encouraged to dig deeper into what interests us.”

Jonathan adds that his teachers have “brought out my talents” through their constant support. “They made me realise that I have to keep going, that I cannot just give up when my work gets hard,” he says. “They made me realise that I have a gift that I can use to help people in Egypt – I want to help Egypt with my talents in the future.”

His parents are thrilled with how Futuraskolan has helped him to develop. “In Egypt, we didn’t have a computer or even a phone, so learning digital skills was not possible,” Jonathan says. “Here at Futuraskolan, we have the technology but also the amazing teachers. My parents are so happy with the way the teaching staff here have encouraged me, supported me, but also helped me solve problems.”

Elia says her parents have been impressed with how the Futuraskolan teachers have encouraged their daughter to think globally, rather than just locally, and how they’ve inspired Elia to lead projects herself, rather than expect the teaching staff to do so.

“In my previous school, none of this would have been possible,” she says. “Now it’s all possible.”

The future of schooling: find out more about the Futuraskolan network and its innovative, international and bilingual approach to educating your child

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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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