This international school in Stockholm is tailoring education to the teenage brain

Parents of adolescent children will agree that teenagers are hardwired differently. It’s why a one-size-fits-all curriculum does anything but ‘fit all’. It’s the concept behind Fieldwork Education’s International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC), a curriculum designed specifically to suit the developing adolescent brain.

This international school in Stockholm is tailoring education to the teenage brain
Photo: Students from Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm on a trip to Birka.

Although thousands of schools around the world follow the IMYC, only one school in the northern hemisphere is accredited to run the curriculum. It’s a badge of honour, worn proudly by staff and students at Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm.

Head of Humanities and Curriculum Co-ordinator at Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm, Simon Phillips, has taught both the British National Curriculum and the IMYC. It’s no contest, he says, when it comes to choosing which he prefers.

Find out more about Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm

Photo: Simon with a class at Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm

“I prefer teaching the IMYC, of course,” he tells The Local. “The main difference is the IMYC is not so regimented. Every class is different, as you get to know the students you get a feel for what they enjoy learning and the IMYC gives me more scope as a teacher to tailor the lessons.”

The IMYC follows six-week units built around a conceptual theme, called the ‘Big Idea’. Each unit is based around a theme such as ‘adaptability’, ‘consequences’, or ‘respect’, and encourages students to think beyond the topic by elevating the theme and making connections across different subjects.

Students from Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm on a trip to Birka.

“It’s based on research about how the adolescent brain works. So, for example, they’re more prone to take risks, they work well in groups and often have an issue with organisation. So it’s a curriculum designed to plug into those features,” explains Simon.

Each unit commences with an Entry Point when teachers set the stage for learning and get the unit underway. This year, the Entry Point for students at Futuraskolan International of Stockholm was a day trip to the Birka archeological site, once an important Viking settlement and regarded as Sweden’s first city.

“With the Birka Entry Point we will have some activities that the children will do during the trip that will encourage them to think about this unit’s theme. It’s basically an entry point to the unit, kind of like a springboard to start it off and get them thinking about the theme and how it might be addressed in different subjects.”

The day kicked off early with a two-hour boat trip out to Birka which is 30 km west of Stockholm on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren. Two guides dressed in Viking gear drew the students’ attention to significant historical sites along the way before taking them on walking tour of the island.

Eighth grader Wiktoria Pieczara explains that she and her classmates came prepared, having spent the previous week working on science and humanities projects relating to the island.

Photo: Wiktoria Pieczara


“In science, we have been doing presentations about Birka and its animals and environment. Also, in humanities, we did presentations about Vikings and their different beliefs, culture, religion and diet.”

Find out more about Futuraskolan International’s network of 13 schools

Wiktoria really enjoys the IMYC, particularly on days when she gets to see her learning come to life.

“It was really good because we’d done the research but then saw it in real life. You learn a lot more visually, seeing the different things actually exist and learning about them in more depth,” she says.

Wiktoria enthusiastically recalls one of  the previous year’s Entry Points, when the school took students for an overnight stay on Gotland, Sweden’s largest island in the Baltic Sea.

“We visited caves and biked around the whole island. We were there for two days and learned about the history of Gotland. It was really exciting.”

Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm eighth grader Felix Brehmer has been at the school for two years. At his previous school he had followed the Swedish curriculum, although he admits he much prefers the IMYC which he describes as “organised” and “connected”.

Photo: Felix Brehmer

“You can connect things afterwards like the nature we saw and the Viking history which we are doing in humanities. It’s really interesting to see something in real life and not just look at a computer or a piece of paper.”

Both students agree the IMYC is a curriculum that suits their preferred style of learning as well as making every day at school more of an adventure.

“The IMYC is a really interesting programme,” says Wiktoria. “Sometimes you know what you’ll be doing but sometimes the teachers surprise you! Sometimes they say ‘Let’s play a game!’ or they have us focus on a different topic instead.”

Compared to traditional curriculums, the IMYC is admittedly much more creative but it’s also rigorous and intensive. It’s a hard balance to strike but one which Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm has achieved, a success cemented by its accreditation.

Students from Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm on a trip to Birka.

“It’s a stamp of approval,” concludes Simon. “Lots of schools follow the curriculum but they haven’t had that quality assurance.”


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


Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime