Kista International School has been named the second best school in Sweden, while in the Swedish capital it ranked first. This would not be surprising if it were not for the fact that almost all of its students (94%) are of Somali descent and only one out of 540 of all students speaks Swedish as their mother tongue .
Despite extensive funding, children and youth from disadvantaged areas often fail to succeed in school. It happens due to a number of factors.
What do the numbers say?
According to a report presented in 2019 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Swedish schools are facing inequality and increasing segregation among students . The authors pointed out that Swedish classrooms are less diverse than those in Norway or Finland.
As a result, significant differences can be observed in the results that each institution achieves. The disparities have increased sharply in recent years. A negative effect has been the free choice of school, which, instead of reducing inequalities, has only increased them.
According to the data released in the Spring of 2019, more than twice as many students in vulnerable areas failed to receive a promotion from 9th grade (the last grade in elementary school), that is 35.4% compared to the national average of 15.7% .
Against the odds
Contrary to the statistics, according to a recent study by the National Education Agency, Kista International School was ranked as the second best school in the country. It is also ranked first in the capital. This conclusion was based not only on the academic performance. The socio-economic conditions of the students in grade 9 are also considered. Taking into account only the grades, the students in the last grade of Kista International School have about 10% better results than the national average.
Kista International School is located in the Akalla district. Many of its’ students live in nearby neighborhoods that are considered particularly vulnerable. One of them – Rinkeby – is called “little Mogadishu” due to the large community of inhabitants with Somali origin. The facility was established as an aid project to support kids doing their homework. It is still owned by the parents who manage it through a foundation called Al-Kowneyn Utbildning Centrum .
Why this success?
The students are divided into small groups. There are 20 students in the younger classes and 23 in the older ones. On one hand the school adapts its educational methods of high expectations placed on the young people. But on the other hand – the pupils receive a lot of support from the teachers. There is a strong emphasis on learning Swedish. Insufficient language skills can also affect success (or lack thereof) in other subjects.
The school is also characterized by a close contact between teachers and parents. Parents are quickly made aware of what is going on with their children at or near the school. For example, teachers also report to parents questionable acquaintances accompanying the teenager during his or her free time. If the caregiver does not speak the language as well as the teenager, it is especially important that he or she receives information directly from the school and not from the child. It is because the child may give the message a subjective character. Ongoing contact builds trust between both parties .
A recipe for victory
Despite the worrying figures nationwide, headmaster Johan Segerfedt seems satisfied. He has good reasons to be so – last year all of his pupils were accepted into secondary schools. By comparison, only 48% of students were accepted at a school located in a nearby district .
Competition and school choice can improve the quality of education. But it is also important to reduce asymmetry and segregation in education. More socially diverse groups of students should be promoted to avoid the deepening of divisions.
Moreover, as the example of Kista International School shows, not only financial inputs are important. The key is a wise management of the institution, as well as building trust and committed relationships between the school, students and their parents.
, , ,  John Falkirk, Expressen, Skolan i Järvaområdet bäst i hela Stockholm,
 Maja Lagercrants, SverigesRadio, OECD: Segregation stort problem i svensk skola,
 Fredrik Nejman, Hampus Hagman, Var tredje i utsatta områden klarar inte grundskolan.
Cover photo: aymanfakhry1999 via Pixabay.