Words from the CEO January 2018
Putting an eventful semester and a 10th year anniversary behind us, we are now fully occupied with the start of a new semester. I think you would agree with me when I say that as satisfying as it may be to finish a term, it’s equally inspiring and energizing to start a new one with all that entails. For our students, it includes new learning goals, personal goals and exciting work to explore and conquer new knowledge and experiences. Our employees also have new and inspiring challenges to look forward to such as thoughtful meetings with students, continuing the development of collaborative learning experiences and implementing the next phase of digitization. As parents, you are as always welcome to join us on this exciting journey, a journey where all children and students will be made visible, challenged and successful!
The school continues to be at the center of political and public debate. Unfortunately, negative perceptions continue to dominate and politicians, spokespersons, interest groups and more or less informed actors all comment on how to solve the problems they identify. This is very unfortunate, as it doesn’t contribute to the research-based approach required to really understand how schools work. Building the debate on an illusion of how schools work doesn´t add any value to the context. Johannes Westberg and Johan Prytz writes about this in the interesting article “Farliga föreställningar präglar debatten om skolan? on SvD Debatt in the Swedish newspaper Svenska dagbladet.
I believe that the school’s main task is to stand strong in its mission for students to acquire and utilize knowledge. This is stated in the Swedish School Law: “Education in the school system aims for children and students to acquire knowledge and values. … .. In education, consideration will be given to the different needs of children and pupils. Children and students should be given support and stimulus so that they develop as far as possible. An effort will be to outweigh differences in the children and pupils’ prerequisites for learning. ” In parallel with its mission for students to acquire and utilize knowledge, the school also has to fulfill its democratic mission. “The inviolability of human life, the freedom and integrity of the individual, the equal value of all men, equality between women and men, and solidarity with weakness, are the values that the school is supposed to convey” as stated in the school law. Furthermore, it´s stated that “The school is assigned to embed basic values and promote learning to prepare students to take an active part in society”.
While the main task of the school is the knowledge mission in parallel with the democracy mission, the school is also here to provide students with equivalent education. In short, it can be said that all students should have the same opportunity to succeed at school, no matter where the student lives or what social and economic background he/she comes from. The school also has to compensate for the student’s background or other conditions. On this there is a strong agreement, but how to create an equivalent school where every student is given the right conditions, is more under debate.
Recently, the concept of equivalence has been widely discussed in the media and in other forums, and rightly so. It is an important debate. However, there is a risk of focusing too much on equivalence, to the point of almost making it the goal itself. In particular, it doesn´t benefit the students, if the individual needs undermine the school’s overall mission for its students to acquire and utilize knowledge. An excessive focus on equivalence might lead to an over analyzation of the student’s background in relation to his/her level of knowledge and behavior. Instead a school with high and positive expectations for every
student, focusing on knowledge and learning, must always be the starting point. Of course the school must contribute to equivalence in society and the best way to do that is to ensure that students can rest assured that the school always focuses on the development of students’ knowledge, skills and understanding in the first place. To achieve this, there is a need to focus on clear rules for school norms and values. The importance of the skilled and knowledgeable teacher, order in the classroom, a clear leadership in teaching, and the importance of students being resilient in their efforts to achieve good results are all important factors to consider. Futuraskolan International´s vision to be the best stepping stone for future world citizens and our work with the IPC and IMYC, put these factors clearly in focus in our pre-schools and schools.
A colleague of mine recently visited Singapore and the International School Conference for School Effectiveness and Improvement, and made the following reflection: “Singapore has been successful in working with its schools by working long-term, consciously and in a highly structured manner. They describe how they think and I am struck by the fact that their goals with the entire education strategy is about what the country needs. What the individual wants or needs comes after what the country needs. Joy and the desire to learn should of course be brought to the students, but for Singapore, the education system is a way of contributing to the country’s development by creating citizens the society needs. Of course, you can have strong opinions about this approach to look at the individual versus society, but I also think that Sweden lost a little of its vision for the education system and that school is a key to the common community. ” After reading my colleague’s reflection, I wonder if it’s true that in Sweden we have lost some of the school’s social-building focus in favor of concentrating too much on what the individual needs? The answer to the question of the school’s role in society and how we create our future schools is not simple, but it´s always important and interesting to challenge your own conceptions by looking at others.
Following this philosophical excursion, it´s once again time to dive into the daily activities of Futuraskolan International. As you have noticed, we have switched to the School Platform (Skolplattformen) as our tool for communication, information and documentation. The School Platform is an easy-to-use and comprehensive system that creates the conditions for both students, teachers and guardians to collaborate around the students’ schooling. The system is based on the latest programming, which makes it easy to connect with other platforms and learning tools. When implementing new systems, we know from experience that there may be some set-up and transitional issues and some of the features in the system unfortunately do not work fully yet. The personnel at school platform, however, are working hard to ensure that all functions will be fully operational soon. I hope that the malfunctions that occurred during the first few weeks did not bother you too much. Starting this fall, our pre-schools will also be integrated into the system and the School Platform is currently working with us to develop the features we want the system to offer to our pre-schools.
The exciting and evolving work of integrating digital tools to be a part of the students and teachers daily work continues, and I dare to say that we are not yet close to seeing how digitization creates new conditions for education, learning and society at large. Professor Andy Hargreaves, Lynch School of Education at Boston College, believes that we are living in a new era due to our broad-based exposure to digitalization and the opportunities it creates. Around the world schools need to make new questions that are also about – Who are we? – What should we do? – What are we going to be? Big and thoughtful questions with the potential to create something new in a time of transition. Linked to digitization and learning, Futuraskolan International’s Leadership team, principals and preschool
principals, will visit Bolton and London to be inspired by how other schools have successfully worked with leadership, learning and digitization. Learning from others is always rewarding, as it presents new knowledge and new approaches.
Last spring, I threw myself into reality by visiting all our pre-schools and schools. Even though I make these visits from time to time, it was very rewarding and interesting to meet students and employees “without a filter” and take part in their day. I also got to learn what they feel is working well and what might be improved. Now spring is here again and I look forward to popping by a preschool or school close to you!
Peter Bergström, CEO