The principal purpose of international schools is to promote learning across cultures. At Engelska Skolan Norr, based in the Swedish capital Stockholm, this approach is taken a step further. Its 520 pupils, aged from six to 16, do not just study side-by-side in a multicultural environment; they learn from each other.
“We all benefit from gaining knowledge from each other in what is a continuous process,” says Principal Dominique Roosen. “The school has a highly multicultural student body and staff. We’re all united by a passionate commitment to shared human values and achieving excellence.”
The full English
Founded in 1993, this pioneering educational establishment’s maxim is that a top-quality education is a gift for life. And learning English is central to that vision. The school was the first in Sweden to provide a bilingual programme, which teaches the Swedish curriculum but with half of all lessons conducted in English. Ninth-grade students also have the opportunity to prepare for, and graduate with, the Cambridge exam in English language.
“We make a real effort to ensure all the students are fluent,” says Roosen. “That’s why we started offering students the Cambridge exam. That and to reinforce our reputation for giving our students the best-quality bilingual education available.” If good results are an indicator of success then Engelska Skolan Norr passes the test with flying colours. The Swedish average for a school’s merit points is around 225; and Engelska has achieved 283 last June.
It’s no wonder that it’s not just expat parents who want to send their children there. The school is also popular with local families who want the very best education for their children: something Roosen says makes the school feel very proud. “We have a very mixed group of students,” says Roosen. “It’s not just those from wealthy families and embassies but also children from the local community. A lot of our parents choose our school because it has a good reputation in terms of results; but also because every single person is respected for who they are, regardless of where they come from or their background. We have high expectations for all our students.”
Excellence is also the benchmark for teaching staff, who have to speak both Swedish and English. In Sweden, recruiting qualified teachers with degrees from more than one university is a challenge, according to Roosen. However, all teachers at Engelska Skolan Norr have been through higher education and many have attended multiple colleges or universities.
The broader picture
Helping pupils achieve their best in exams is only part of the teachers’ role. An emphasis is also placed firmly on developing pupils as people too. The school invests resources in its professional student care team, whose remit is to promote a caring community environment. Again, part of that involves recognising the importance of being part of a bigger world: United Nations Day, for instance, is a highlight of the school calendar.
Above all, the gift that Engelska Skolan Norr gives to its pupils is the fulfilment of their potential, both academically and as human beings. As Roosen says: “All teachers at ESN have high ambitions for their students. As they all know, students carry this gift forward into their future lives. It’s their gift to us too.”