The Stockholm preschool shaping tomorrow's global citizens
What do internationally-minded families in Sweden most want from a preschool? For Polish-born Sylwia Haczkiewicz, the number one priority was teaching in English and Swedish, followed by a stimulating curriculum. Alin Serbana says a multicultural environment was a major factor for him after his family moved from Romania.
Both also initially looked at preschools very close to home, but now say they are happy to travel a little further to take their children to Futuraskolan International Preschool Danderyd. With no fewer than 26 nationalities among its 72 children and staff, it’s no surprise that their main criteria have been resoundingly met.
“They really live with this international spirit,” says Sylwia, who moved to Sweden two years ago from the UK, where her daughter Rosie was born. “Rosie has friends from Sweden, England, Ireland, Italy, Mongolia. They all speak very good English as well as their native languages and they are all learning Swedish. I think it’s the best pre-school we could have found in Sweden for our child.”
It also now has a unique status among preschools in Scandinavia and the Baltics, having become the first to be granted membership of the Nordic Network, a collaborative group of international schools in the region.
“Several of our Futuraskolan schools are already members,” says principal Adriana Marx Norén. “The network promotes conferences, music festivals and other activities we’d like to participate in, so I asked our CEO if they accept preschools.
"He said ‘we can ask’ and we’re very proud to now be the first preschool member. This allows us to collaborate with international schools that share our vision and learn from each other.”
‘We’re not babysitters. We want the kids to thrive’
Parents showing interest in Futuraskolan International Preschool Danderyd soon learn what that vision entails. After arriving in Sweden in 2021, Alin began contacting preschools around Solna, a family-friendly area in the north of Stockholm, where he and his wife live with their four-year-old son Alexei. Most were slow to respond but Futuraskolan replied the next day inviting them to visit.
“It’s a bit further away, but we’re happy with the results and all the parents are happy with how their kids’ progress,” says Alin, who is now a Parent Support Association representative, liaising between parents and teaching staff.
“We really like it here but Sweden isn’t necessarily our final destination, so the fact that Alexei’s growing up in an international environment is very good. He’s at a pretty good level of English, and he even talks a little bit of Swedish and Romanian!”
Such a desire for an international early education and overseas work/life opportunities are common among parents at Futuraskolan, says Adriana. Originally from Brazil herself, she’s also the principal of Futuraskolan’s Näsby Park and Skarpäng preschools in Täby.
“Many of our kids move to the UK, the US or somewhere else and then they start school earlier, so we want them to be ready,” she says. “We’re not babysitters. We’re a stepping stone, we want the kids to thrive and we have teachers dedicated to enabling that.
“When kids start learning different languages early, they become quick learners. Most of our kids speak three or four languages and that means they make extra neural connections they otherwise wouldn’t.”
Futuraskolan’s preschools use a combination of the Swedish National Curriculum for the Preschool (LpFö18) and the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC). Children learn in both Swedish and English, with the latter being the crucial common language.
There are also distinctive approaches to maths, and arts.
“It’s not about whether your kid can count to 20,” Adriana states. “Do they understand what they’re doing? We use the Montessori Maths method, so the children put out the quantity as they are counting and learn by doing.
“For arts, we’re inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. When the children come to the art room, it’s like a candy store where they can get their hands on everything. We teach them to respect the materials, rather than putting things away so they cannot destroy them.”
Budding hackers and blueberry jam
With literacy, Jolly Phonics is vital to getting Futuraskolan’s young learners on the right path. It is an effective method to help children start reading and writing in both English and Swedish as it focuses on Phonetics.
Sylwia says this method, along with the dedication of co-ordinator Marta Ahlgren, is aiding the development of five-year-old Rosie, who has Down’s syndrome.
“She says maybe 20 or 30 words but she signs a lot thanks to Marta, who does sign language with her supervised by a speech therapist. Marta also helps her with Jolly Phonics and other stuff. Rosie participates in all the classes to the best of her ability.”
She also enjoys Futuraskolan’s embrace of digital technology. “Rosie can get into any iPad like she is a hacker, she’s quite skilled with it!”
Alin says his son really appreciates the many opportunities to extend his learning environment to the natural world. “He’s in the group Sunflowers and loves going on outings. A teacher takes them into the forests around the preschool. In autumn, they gathered blueberries and he made jam on the spot that they ate with crackers – Alexei still talks about it!”
Nordic Network, Global Citizenship
Adriana believes the three preschools of which she is principal can only benefit from the opportunities for knowledge exchange within the Nordic Network. Joining was not a formality, she says; representatives from two international schools visited and inspected Futuraskolan International Preschool Danderyd.
“They want to see whether you have an equality plan, how we work with our Global Citizenship Program, our work with sustainability, and to assess the quality of our pedagogical approach. They looked at everything and spent all day asking questions to the children and teachers.”
The representatives reported back to the network’s board, which in due course invited the preschool to become a member.
“I’ve been a principal in Swedish schools too, but you cannot compare the richness of the environment we have here,” adds Adriana. “When you come together from around the world, using Sweden’s norms and values but also learning from each other, something really fun and unique comes out of that.
"The children become citizens of the world, learning to accept differences and to respect each other. I couldn’t work in any other place.”
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