Skarpnäck Folk High School
Skarpnäck Folk High School is one of the 150 Swedish folk high schools. A folkhögskola provides an education often found in community colleges and adult education courses in other systems. These schools offer a broad range of educational opportunities, helping adults to complete their high school equivalency for college admissions, teaching Swedish to immigrants, and preparing students for the workforce.
The oldest folk high schools date back to the 1860’s, and the most recent were founded in the 1990’s. The traditional model educates adults in rural communities. Over the years, the school’s role has grown to serve both urban and rural communities as a cultural center and meeting place as well as an educational institution. Above all, the folk high school is an alternative form of school. Folk high schools have always had and continue to have a civic responsibility in society.
At Skarpnäcks folk high school, we educate the whole student. Our core program includes high school basics such as Swedish, English and math, subjects essential in preparing for the “högskoleprov,” or the college entrance exam. But our school goes further. Our courses emphasize personal reflection and growth, essentials in non-formal adult learning and democratic development on an individual and community level. The school is an intersection for Swedes and students from other countries and cultures, and our goal is for all of our graduates to leave with knowledge and understanding of both Sweden and the world beyond. We approach learning holistically, and students gain both formal and non- formal competence at our school.
Skarpnäck is a modern suburb of Stockholm with a population of approximately 9,000. The community has three important priorities: the environment, youth and local development. The local government and the school cooperate on many levels to offer the area’s youth stimulating and interesting extra-curricular activities to add to their school and home life.
In addition to offering the fundamental high school equivalency courses, the programs at Skarpnäcks folk high school are developed to address Stockholm’s specific population and priorities. The school shares the community’s focus on environmental issues. Many courses offered at the school include environmental aspects, and our human ecology program puts ecology, green issues and issues of social justice at the center of students’ studies. Creative writing is included in most courses as a route for personal exploration and development. In addition, the school’s extra-curricular leadership training program addresses social issues in an urban environment and the problems and opportunities associated with them.
The school has four branches (faculties): General Studies; Studies for Immigrants, Spanish and international development work and Leisure Leadership-training programme.
General Studies are intended for those who wish to review or complete earlier studies to qualify for higher education. Students study Swedish, English, mathematics, history, social studies and art. Our approach to these studies is what distinguishes us from other adult education institutions: Teachers act as intermediaries, guiding students through a holistic exploration of knowledge.
We work thematically, using longer class periods to help students understand their knowledge in a larger context, recognize new patterns and fit new understandings into a familiar context. Students play an important role in planning their own studies, and all participants’ knowledge and experiences are important resources for their study groups. The goal of our education model reaches beyond the classroom; students learn to participate in, analyze and criticize aspects of the society we live in.
Studies for Immigrants
These courses focus on the Swedish language and culture. Many of the students in this program want to improve their language skills, either to qualify for further studies or to improve their ability to actively participate in Swedish society. We use both traditional and creative methods and materials as learning tools.
Spanish and International Development Work
This one-year program begins with a semester of intensive Spanish and international politics courses in Barcelona. Students spend the second semester in Chile as an intern with either a company or a non-govermental organization.
The Extra-Curricular Leadership Training Program
This is a two-year vocational program for students that have graduated from gymnasium, the equivalent of secondary school. A folk high school offers an environment for extra-curricular leaders that is less academically geared and more hands-on, compared to universities and colleges. Our approach allows individuals that traditionally have less access to higher education a chance to develop and specialize in their careers. These courses are built on current research and practical experience in conjunction with youth centre program.
Integration and cross-cultural encounters between students and employees are important for us at Skarpnäcks folk high school. We make it a point to offer opportunities for students to meet and work together across all boundaries.
Apart from our regular courses, we offer many specific courses that are directed by national and municipal authorities and organizations. These organizations request tailor-made courses for specific needs, which the school carries out for them and the participants they specify. Occasionally, the school earns grants try out a new idea that otherwise does not fit within the framework of our regular program. Recent assignments include personnel training within the extra-curricular and youth sectors as well as different courses for immigrants.
Quick facts about Skarpnäcks Folk high school:
- approximately 160 full-time students
- 25 employees
- located in southern Stockholm
- environmental profile in a large urban community
- special courses on assignment make up 15% of the total courses
- continually seeking partners locally and globally to start new projects
- an alternative college
- commuter school—no on-campus housing