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Think global, act local: the Swedish schoolchildren inspired by Greta

No one is too small to make a difference. That sentiment is not only the title of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s book, it could also serve as the unofficial motto at Futuraskolan International Bergtorp.

Think global, act local: the Swedish schoolchildren inspired by Greta
Photo: Futuraskolan

Located in Täby, north of Stockholm, this bilingual school for grades 6-9 offers a combination of the Swedish curriculum and the International Middle Years Curriculum. Part of the Futuraskolan International network of seven pre-schools and seven schools in the greater Stockholm area, around half of the schooling at Bergtorp is in English and half in Swedish. 

The school’s vision is to be “the best stepping stone for future world citizens” and while that permeates everything at Bergtorp, perhaps nowhere is it more true than among the students in the Grade 9 Communication profile class, who have now set up their own charity. 

Progressiveness, energy and respect: find out about Futuraskolan International's core values – and promise to every child

Human rights for all

For one of those students, Jordan Watts, being a global citizen and making a difference go hand in hand. “I think of being a world citizen as being involved in global problems and trying to fix them by doing whatever you can to contribute,” he said. 

Watts and his fellow Bergtorp students draw a lot of inspiration from how Thunberg has shown that little actions can end up making a big difference. 

“We talk a lot in school about Greta Thunberg. Even though she’s around our age, she’s done a lot to affect the world by just going outside to protest. We then talk about how we can do our own small things to support global human rights,” said fellow ninth grader Stella Steen, who is half-Swedish and half-German. 

The Grade 9 Communication students, who are part of the school’s Global Citizenship project, have studied and drawn inspiration from the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, global frameworks for creating a better future and securing basic human rights for all. 

On their own initiative, they created a charity organisation called ‘Futura for the Future’ to play their part in these global challenges. Through it, they support a mix of international charities, like The Red Cross and Save the Children, as well as local groups. 

So far, they’ve raised almost 3,000 kronor by selling ‘fika’ in their student café with more charity fundraisers coming soon. Younger students at the school are working on an EU-financed ‘Climate Change and the Future – Food for Thought’ Erasmus + project with peers in France, Italy and Greenland.

Look to your child's future: find out more about Futuraskolan's aim to be 'the best stepping stone for future world citizens'

So far, they’ve raised almost 3,000 kronor by selling ‘fika’ in their student café with more charity fundraisers coming soon. Younger students at the school are working on an EU-financed ‘Climate Change and the Future – Food for Thought’ Erasmus + project with peers in France, Italy and Greenland.Photos: Jordan Watts and Stella Steen/Futuraskolan

An education in empathy

Learning to be a global citizen does not stop the children from also wanting to make a difference in their own backyard.

“Last year we had a project in the city centre to collect Christmas gifts for the less fortunate,” Jordan said. “There are people here in Sweden who also need help, so even doing something like that helps affect greater change.” 

Kevin Munro, principal at Futuraskolan International Bergtorp, said the Christmas gift collection, which supported the non-profit organisation Stockholms Stadsmission, was a good example of the school and its students embracing the “think globally, act locally” approach. 

“We try to find relatable ways to deal with these larger issues. There are already a lot of big organisations working on eradicating global poverty but Stockholms Stadsmission helps people living on the streets here,” he said. “The students thought that was really a good, concrete way to contribute to the larger problem of poverty.”

Munro said such projects help give children at Futuraskolan International Bergtorp a well-rounded education that goes beyond learning through textbooks. 

“In most Swedish schools, it’s all about the curriculum and grades. Those are, of course, very important but here it’s all about preparing kids for the future world,” he said. “It’s not purely about academic knowledge, we also want children to develop skills like communication, the ability to work together, flexibility, being open and empathetic to those who do not have the same opportunities as us.” 

The Global Citizenship project is one of three after-school enrichment programmes that students can join to complement the core curriculum, along with Fitness and Wellness and Creative Arts. Each of them is run by a board of students who constantly bring forward new ideas. Stella was ready to join the fitness programme but changed her mind after hearing of the chance to go on a student exchange trip to Germany to help the children understand cultural heritage.

Jordan, who has a Swedish mother and an American father, also loves the chance to learn more about other countries. “No friends of mine at other schools have gone on school trips abroad like we have,” he said. “We really get deeply involved in other cultures.” 

Photo: Futuraskolan

The way forward: small but concrete steps

Both students said that, despite the many serious challenges the world faces, what they are learning helps them better relate to global issues like human rights and climate change and feel they are not insurmountable. 

Jordan said taking concrete actions, whether recycling in one’s own home or helping others less fortunate in your community, makes things seem more manageable. “If I can do little things to help, so can everyone else,” he said. 

“We’re doing the best we can, and I know there are others out there doing the best they can, so I’m hopeful,” added Stella. “I think in another ten years we’ll have had some really big positive changes.” 

One thing is for sure: if everyone follows these students’ example and remembers that no one is too small to make a difference, Stella’s optimism will surely prove justified.

Interested in international and bilingual schooling in Stockholm? Click here to find out more about the Futuraskolan network and its vision to be 'the best stepping stone for future world citizens'

 

 

 

 

BREXIT

‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.

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