UNITED IN LEARNING
In Sweden’s capital city there is a school that caters to a particularly diverse group of children. Over half of the children at the International School of the Stockholm Region (ISSR) are only temporary visitors – their parents are truly international and the children move countries often – yet the school manages to foster a real sense of community.
Part of the reason for this is that ISSR offers the Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma Programmes of the globally recognised International Baccalaureate (IB) to the 500 children that study there.
The children – aged five to 19 – hail, for the most part, from other schools across the IB network, which means that the work they encounter is already familiar to them. This helps to foster a sense of belonging but, in addition, these are children that share a similar peripatetic experience. As a result, ISSR brings more than 40 different nationalities and 50 different languages into classes taught in English by a diverse teaching body.
“The IB curriculum is very well rounded,” says Karin Henrekson Ahlberg, Head of School. “There is a lot of emphasis on extras, such as the Theory of Knowledge, which teaches students critical thinking. By the time our students get to university they are familiar with critical thinking and extended essay writing.”
Those “extras” also include the Community, Action and Service education scheme, which is coordinated by Yes Blijden. “One of the great things about the programme is that children are constantly doing extra activities together,” says Blijden. “Sometimes that is outside of school hours, and this creates another community for them. There are so many native languages around the school that children usually pick up an interest in somewhere they may never have visited and they want to learn that language with the help of their fellow students.”
ISSR is also a United Nations-certified school, which means that the school engages in activities that help young people become internationally minded. Among the projects is an official cultural exchange with a school in India.
“It’s not just a cultural exchange, we actually raise money here in Sweden to fund some of the needs in their surrounding area,” says Blijden. “But we stress to our students that they find a balance in everything they do. So, we encourage them to think globally and act locally. And not just in the community, but in the school as well: our older students help the younger ones find their footing or spend time reading to them. And we engage them in these sorts of activities from a very young age.” The IB programme is also academically rigorous, and the school’s results – which are higher than the world average – speak for themselves.
Every year, the school’s alumni network organises an annual reunion that continues the sense of community far beyond the end of a student’s time at ISSR.
“It’s quite likely that they will end up in the same country together again,” says Blijden. “So our alumni network is an important link to their past as well as to their future. We have a very friendly atmosphere at he school, so they remember us with great fondness. They are prepared to work anywhere in the world because they have received so many experiences from each other from all different countries; they have seen different values and different approaches to things. They are really well prepared for working in a global society.”