Be yourself. The world worships the original.

“Be yourself. The world worships the original.” (Ingrid Bergman)

Our week in Sweden has finished but it will stay with us for a long time to come. Friends were made, partnerships were established and seeds towards an even more tolerant, embracing and open-minded Europe were sown.

The 74 participants left Sweden taking more than kanelbullar in their suitcases, and more than the concept of fika to accompany the sweet treats. Among the beautiful images of Stockholm, with its harbour, countless islands, Royal Palace, Gamla Stan including the picturesque Stortorget, Strandvägen and of course it’s myriad of museums there are surely even more images of how Sweden made them feel. To walk past the birthplace of FridaysForFuture during the week when 15 years old Greta Thunberg addressed the UN makes one believe that anything is possible. You just have to believe in yourself. And this is how Sweden makes you feel.

A society that believes in itself and its people, Sweden seems to flow. Throughout the week the participants in the course Structured Educational Visit to Schools & Training Seminars got an inside view of an education system that is not afraid of change, it is open to new ideas and willing to adapt when necessary and possible, without thinking in extremes.

The general consensus in society is that everyone should have (and has) equal opportunity to go through the school system where both public and private schools are free to the students and the aim is to educate a highly specialised workforce, that will be useful in our times of rapid change.

Sweden seems to merge the more traditional aspects of education (standardised testing) with its current needs and incorporates digitalization from an early age but in a limited and effective way. It also incorporates more ‘down-to-earth’ needs such as knitting, cooking and how to run a household, important life skills that are often overlooked to make way for more theoretical learning.

Participants were seen to feel inspired by Sweden’s unassuming and practical attitude to education without needing to ‘sell itself’ in any way and being proud of a context where students and teachers work together in an environment of mutual trust and responsibility towards maintaining a fair and peaceful society.

We left with heavy hearts and minds full of ideas and inspiration to take back to our schools, our colleagues and our students.