How this Stockholm school is creating global citizens

Utilising the UN"s Sustainable Development Goals is just one way Stockholm-based network of schools, Futuraskolan International, is encouraging well-rounded, empathetic and open-minded students.

How this Stockholm school is creating global citizens

“I want our students to walk away with an understanding that we have an internal responsibility to do something good,” says Kosma Smiechowski, Head of the Global Citizenship Program (GCP) at Futuraskolan International.

The school, located in greater Stockholm, develops an international mindset among its students via its Global Citizenship Program (GCP), which aims to broaden the horizons of students by exposing them to diverse experiences and community service projects.

The importance of generosity, empathy and altruism are instilled in the children via the program’s projects – through everything from making cards and visiting elderly care homes to fostering international relationships with children in the Philippines, where they helped with school supplies and meals.

“Engaging students in the process of giving to others, without reward or recognition, is the focus of the program,” says the school’s CEO, Tom Callahan. 

Futuraskolan International is a network of six pre-schools and seven international schools. It provides education for around 3,000 children up to the age of 16. It teaches in both English and Swedish and has core values based on progressiveness, energy and respect.

The school organisation has a strong international focus and encourages its students to actively contribute to the wider world. Indeed, its vision is to be a “stepping stone for future world citizens”.

Everything that the GCP does is tied into the Sustainable Development Goals,” says Kosma, who holds a Master of Environmental Management and  brings his passion for sustainability to his role as Head of GCP.

Community service at the core

The GCP was set up in 2016 with the initial aim to broaden the horizons of students by exposing them to diverse experiences and community service projects.

Restrictions during the pandemic meant a scaling back of global projects but presented an opportunity to focus on the local instead. During this time there was more attention given to local organisations and the local community, like collecting donations for people experiencing hardship in Sweden.

Discover the innovative teaching approach of bilingual school network Futuraskolan International

Futuraskolan International students on a recent trip to Italy as part of GCP together with the EU’s Erasmus+ program; Head of GCP, Kosma Smiechowski.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

Futuraskolan International’s GCP has a yearly plan that outlines a theme for each month, each of which is linked to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Examples of these monthly themes include world languages in September, food waste in November, and healthy earth, healthy person in April. When it comes to the kind of projects that can evolve from these, the only limit is the imagination, says Kosma. 

The UN’s SDGs are a set of 17 objectives that aim to create a common path and language toward a sustainable global future. The goals include items like clean water and sanitation, quality education and reduced inequalities and have been adopted by the likes of councils, companies and schools.

One recent Futuraskolan project saw 50 grade four students spend six months producing a play themed around the SDGs. It was eventually staged for parents at the sporting complex Satelliten in Stockholm. The students did everything from writing the script to making the props to acting. 

Also as part of GCP, in April and October this year, groups of students travelled abroad to Greenland and Italy for cultural and environmental enrichment projects through the Erasmus+ program (an EU-based student exchange program). During the recent Italy trip, for example, Futuraskolan International Bergtorp students spent the week with other students from Greenland, Italy and France. They learned about sustainable food and visited important cultural sites, like Pompeii, where they discussed how to preserve cultural heritage in a world of climate change. 

On school ground, the GCP is leading food waste education, investigating how to improve the school’s operational sustainability, and while some campuses are already involved in active Erasmus+ projects, the school is working towards gaining Erasmus+ accreditation school-wide. 

Kosma believes the clearer a picture children have of sustainability and of the world, the better off they will be. 

“With the opportunities that we build for our students, we are trying to give them a much broader perspective of the world and in particular, a big focus of that is the Sustainable Development Goals,” he says. “We see that sustainability is going to be, in some way shape or form, the future of our kids’ lives.”

Futuraskolan International is a progressive school network dedicated to educating children to be open-minded, thoughtful and successful. Find out about enrollment here

“A stepping stone for future world citizens”: Futuraskolan International students undertake cultural and environmental enrichment programs abroad.

Empowering student leaders

While community service projects are at the heart of the GCP, along with the clear direction provided by the SDGs, another important aspect of GCP is student leadership. Students’ imaginations and sense of autonomy and responsibility are engaged as much as possible. They are encouraged to suggest projects and take control of them. 

In grade eight, for example, one of the study units is entrepreneurship. “We get students to think about how they would address one of the sustainable development goals through an entrepreneurial idea and really try to nurture that,” explains Kosma. 

Futuraskolan International schools also have student GCP councils that meet to ideate plans – from project strategies to organisation to donate to. The central idea being to encourage students to have a say in the GCP. 

“We want students to experience what other parts of the world are really like. And to give them the opportunity to give back or help. But it’s also about getting students involved in the decision-making process of how to do that.”

Ultimately, the GCP is about instilling empathy and a sense of responsibility – in the future of our world, in sustainability and in encouraging good leadership. 

“We have ambitious ideas to continue to build on,” concludes Kosma. “We want to impart on the students that we bear a responsibility to reach out and help others.”

Futuraskolan International is nurturing the development of global citizens through local, national and international community service and exchanges. The result? More globally aware and enriched students, who will go on to contribute positively to the world around them, with empathy, respect and responsibility. 

Learn about the school program that can help your child become a good world citizen here. Want to see more of what Futuraskolan Learners and Educators are doing through the GCP? Follow their Instagram account: @futuraskolan_gcp. Or for more on what Futuraskolan International schools and preschools do, visit their main Instagram account: @futuraskolan_media 

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Seven things you need to know before coming to Sweden to study

You’ve been accepted to university in Sweden, accepted your spot, and applied for your residence permit. Now it's time to prepare for your move. Maybe you’re wondering what life in Sweden will be like? Here are some tips based on my first year living in Lund, where I'm currently studying.

Seven things you need to know before coming to Sweden to study

Buying new is so passé

Need a winter jacket? Bedroom furniture? Maybe a new baking sheet for whipping up something from Sweden’s never-ending list of seasonal pastries? Whatever you do, don’t buy it first-hand. Sweden is teeming with second-hand stores, selling everything from wine glasses and patio furniture to boardgames. On my walk into Lund’s city centre, I pass a second-hand shop which frequently has bras hanging in the window – undergarments is where I draw the line, but to each their own.

Some shops are well-curated; others appear to be a dumping ground for anything and everything cleared out of junk drawers and closets after a long cleaning hiatus. But the search for the perfect formal dress for a sittning (one of Lund’s popular formal dinners) or a ball is half the fun – so grab a friend, and get browsing!

Want a drink at home on a Sunday? Plan ahead

Sweden’s Systembolaget shops have the monopoly on alcohol sales in the country – you won’t find anything over 3.5 percent anywhere else. And these shops aren’t open 24 hours. They close early on Saturdays, and don’t open at all on Sunday. If you fancy something other than a warm beer from your local supermarket on a Saturday night, plan ahead and pay a visit to your local Systembolaget. If you’re in a student-filled area, you’ll find plenty of your peers doing the same, walking out with cases of beer, boxes of wine, and whatever liquor they can afford. Be warned: drinking in Sweden is not cheap! Downing a pint at home instead of at a bar will save you a few kronor.

Failing a class…isn’t as bad as it sounds

So you’ve failed a class. Now what? Well, not much. You can take the exam again and again until you pass, so long as the material on which the test is based is not changed. If that happens, you may have some new topics to learn. In my media and communication studies MSc programme at Lund University, professors provide three deadlines for submitting the essays that we must write in place of exams. If I don’t submit my paper by the first deadline, I know I’ll have two more penalty-free opportunities to get it done. And if I receive a failing grade, that grade will not go on my academic record – instead, my record will not be updated until I submit a passing paper. While I’ve yet to take advantage of this system, knowing that missing a submission or failing a class is not a disaster is a welcome change from the strict, deadline-driven American environment in which I completed my bachelor’s degree.

Getting a bank account is a long process

Don’t bring cash with you. You’ll never spend it. I’ve still got some cash sitting in a drawer, because I keep forgetting which ATM near me will let me deposit cash into my account – my bank branch is cashless, and won’t help me there. Make sure to let your bank at home know you’ll be using your card in Sweden.

I moved to Sweden at the end of September. I didn’t open my bank account until mid-January. Opening an account entails a lengthy journey through Swedish bureaucracy, beginning with an application for a personal number, or personnummer. You can apply for a personal number at your local Skatteverket, or tax agency, office, provided that you can document you will be in Sweden for more than one year. I’m lucky enough to attend one of the universities piloting a two-year student resident permit, so proving the length of my stay was easy. While I got my personal number within 10 days, the process can take up to 18 weeks.

So you’ve got a personal number. The next step is to get an ID card, also from Skatteverket. There are three offices that issue ID cards: in Malmö, Gothenburg, and Stockholm. And appointments book up fast. I waited six weeks for mine. I got my ID card quickly, within two weeks – a friend waited months for hers to be issued.

Finally, with what I thought was sufficient documentation in hand, I walked into a Nordea bank to open my account. I was sent home account-less that day though, with the bank requesting statements from my Pakistani accounts. Armed with even more paperwork a few days later, I finally completed my application for a bank account. About a week later, my account was open. And finally, I had BankID – the magical Swedish eID that opens all sorts of doors, including, finally, digital access to my Covid-19 vaccination records. Swedish bureaucracy is a multi-layered beast, each layer tightly entwined with the others, and it took me months to unlock all the layers, starting with my personal number and ending with my digital ID.

Stock up on candles

The winters are dark. And long. And depending on where in Sweden you are, either delightfully snowy, or constantly slushy. In Skåne, there’s slush. So when you get home and peel off your jacket and scarf and hats, and it’s 3 pm and dark and dreary, you light a candle. Or two, or three. Preferably scented. Candles have gotten me through dark Scandinavian winters before when I lived in Copenhagen, and they continue to do the trick. I brought a favourite coffee-scented offering from a small Pakistani company with me, that I’m still rationing. If you don’t have a favourite to bring with you, you can browse through the selections at IKEA and Lagerhaus. Some friends of mine opt for fairy lights to brighten up their apartments, but I prefer the warm glow of a candle’s flame. Perhaps I just like fire.

Don’t worry if your Swedish is stuck at a basic “hej”

Almost everyone can communicate in basic English. That said, learning the local language is never a bad thing. After all, if your hope is to stay on in Sweden, you might soon need to prove a basic level of Swedish proficiency before getting permanent residence.

But ditch the Duolingo – or at least, don’t rely on it exclusively. One of the benefits unlocked by a personal number is the opportunity to enroll in SFI, or Swedish for Immigrant, language classes, offered by your municipality free of charge. You can choose to study in person or online, morning or evening. Do it! It’s a great way of understanding the language – wait until you hear about all the different ways in which adjectives can end – and as a bonus, you can also expand your social circle with the other students in your class.

Holidays and traditions are a serious business

If you’re currently waiting for your student visa, you may have already experienced how tough it is to get hold of office workers in July. Annual leave is taken seriously here, with workers taking several weeks off during the summers. No checking email, no answering work calls – pure vacation mode.

This commitment to time off for enjoyment also applies to holidays throughout the year. On Valborg, on April 30, I saw my largest Swedish crowds: about 50,000 people crammed into Lund’s city park, well on their way to total inebriation by 11am. The celebration, to welcome the coming spring, brings Swedes out of their homes after the winter, with massive bonfires burning bright in the evenings. Midsommar, the summer solstice, is also celebrated hard, with families and groups of friends bringing picnics into parks around maypoles, where they sing about small frogs and dance around, gripping onto their partners’ earlobes.