Words from the CEO September 2017
In 2007, Futuraskolan International was founded in Gåshaga on Lidingö with the vision of being the best stepping stonefor future world citizens. It has now been 10 years since we opened our doors and welcomed the very first curious children, students and parents. Today we have 7 schools and 9 preschools located in the Stockholm area. We are confident and proud to every day care for800 children in preschool and 2250 students at school. It ́s with humility and joy that we look back at the past 10 years and I would like to express my gratitude to all of thestudents, parents and employees who have been with us on this journey, by choosing us and by putting high demands on us, you have contributed to the development that made us into what we are today.
From the beginning we have stressed the importance of our students developing an international mindset to strengthen their understanding and awareness of the complex global world in which we live. As we look ahead to see what opportunities and challenges today’s globalization brings, we can see that our vision of today ́s students and young peopledeveloping an international mindset isgreater than ever. The values and agreements that our world is built on is now changing. Today’s young people are tomorrow’s leaders who will shape our future society, and it is imperative for them tounderstandwhat opportunities and challenges lie ahead of them in our new global world in order for them to lead effectively.
Futuraskolan International’s promise is that every child should be made visible, challenged and successful. Students are to gain an understanding of their own learning process and how they will learn best. In order to achieve this, clear goals and hard work are required. Furthermore, quality in learning processes, employee quality and quality in management and follow-up is required. Quality achieved by constantly critically reviewing and evaluating what we do, as well as daring to think in new ways and explore new solutions. I do believe that by striving to work this way the past 10 yearswe have developed in a progressive way. When making decisions we always start with the essential question: how does this affect learning? By building our organization with this question in mind, we have developed quality pre-schools and schools that are in high demand. This reinforces me that we have a successful model to further develop our pre-schools and schools over the next 10 years.
I would also like to take this opportunity to comment on the debate on welfare gains that has resumed after the government announced its intention to proceed with the proposal for limiting profits in private companies engaged in school and care. The investigation and the report on which the government bases its position has faced hard criticism from companies, municipalities and government agencies such as the Swedish National Audit Office and the Swedish Competition Authority. It is therefore surprising and disappointing that the government has chosen to take this the proposal further. At a time when our multifaceted society needs to evolve in a number of areas to meet new demands, the government is not acting responsibly by dismissing companies that contribute to diversity, choice, quality and efficiency with the argument that they make a profit. Why shouldn ́t an independent school be allowed to make a profit, necessary to further develop the business, when it offers at least as high quality as the municipal school?
In my CEO’s letter from December 2016, I called for political consensus amongst all political parties on the long term school development for the school to be given real opportunities to develop. In this regard, our neighbor Finland is an example where school is a protected area, free from political games and negative media attention. The constructive way forward would be that we in Sweden also talk about finding common boundaries and finding long-term solutions and to constructively raise the debate to deal with quality in school rather than focusing on ownership and profit. Unfortunately, I do not think this seems to be imminent when both seated government, opposition and media rather continue to create increased polarization in schools, through continued negative media reporting and by setting independent schools and municipal schools against each other. This is unacceptable as the big losers in this situation are school employees, students, children and parents. Attacking profit in the welfare sector is popular in Sweden today and the conclusions are too single minded. Overall, research surrounding schools does not portray profit as negative, but rather that it can play a positive role in school development. However this can only work if schools are held responsible by using central quality measures. It ́s therefore disappointing that the government consistently refuses to talk about quality as crucial for a school’s existence. The most important thing should be what quality a school offers, that is, if the students get a good education and develop their learning, skills and understanding.
Against the background outlined above, it is extremely positive that the new Director General of the National School Agency, Peter Fredriksson, in a recent interview clearly expresses the importance of focusing on quality in school, and that schools cannot be pawns in the political debate. Fredriksson also confirms the fact that the Swedish school has plenty of resources and a high allocation of money, and that a lot of what is being done in schools today can be done better and more effectively. He infers that what is missing is a clear focus on the students’ learning, follow-up and personal responsibility. Peter wants the Swedish Agency for Education to focus on what efforts create quality and what characterizes good education. He is also clear that we do not need to talk more about falling knowledge results but instead talk about everything that is actually possible to do. According to Fredriksson, teachers who have clear classroom leadership skills, create a positive working spirit and have respectful and close relationships with their students to guide them forward with the right methods and teaching materials, contribute to the development of good teaching. In the interview, Fredriksson quotes a researcher who thinks there are actually only two questions everyone in school needs to answer: “What do I do?” And “What effect does it have on student learning?”
I welcome Peter Fredriksson’s view on how to develop the Swedish school and look forward to when the debate about the Swedish school is allowed to be about quality and learning. This is something that we at Futuraskolan International have known for a long time. Providing quality has been the question driving us in how we developed our pre-schools and schools intowhat they are today, and it is what will lead us forward in our continued development.
Once again a warm welcome to the 2017/2018 anniversary school year!
Peter Bergström, CEO