The international school in Stockholm perfecting the art of giving

“They encourage you to take leadership over a project,” says Elia Gelabert, a native of Barcelona now living in Stockholm. “When you have an idea for a fundraising project, they don't take it and finish it themselves – they let you see it through until the end. You have to lead and drive the project by yourself."

The international school in Stockholm perfecting the art of giving
Elia and Jonathan at Futuraskolan in Stockholm. Photo: Futuraskolan. Photo credit: Futuraskolan

These words are spoken like a seasoned fundraising professional, someone who’s been in the charity sector long enough to recognise and appreciate the nurturing qualities of the organisation that employs her. But Elia is not a veteran fundraiser. She’s just 14 and she’s talking about her teachers’ approach at Futuraskolan, a network of 14 pre-schools and schools in Greater Stockholm for children aged up to 15.

The way in which she is allowed to take responsibility also helps her focus on which ideas are really worth pursuing, she adds, knowing that “if you’re not interested in it, you’re never going to finish it.”

Around 3,000 children attend Futuraskolan, which has three core values: progressiveness, energy and respect. The school also promises that every child will be given positive challenges, with a focus on opportunities to develop both ”inside and outside the classroom.” 

Looking for bilingual English and Swedish schooling? Find out more about Futuraskolan and its emphasis on personal development

Picasso’s children

To emphasise this approach, a recent letter to students from the CEO of Futuraskolan, Tom Callahan, cited a legendary artist as inspiration: “Pablo Picasso once said, ‘The meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away.’ So we ask of you, what will you hone and develop within yourself today, so that you can better lend your gift to the world tomorrow?”

Jonathan Matta, also 14, is another student in the process of finding his ’gift’ and who, like Elia, seems mature beyond his years. But it wasn’t always so. 

“I was always late handing in my homework,” says Jonathan, whose parents moved to Sweden from Egypt. “Then my technology teacher suggested I code a website to help organise the class’s homework. I had already learned coding languages such as Python, Java and C++ in my own time. But I got a bit stuck.” 

However, his teachers provided support to ensure the project didn’t fall by the wayside. “They were so good at encouraging me”, Jonathan says. “I sometimes give up too easily. The Futuraskolan teachers really encouraged me to finish the project. They gave me belief and it helped me complete what turned out to be a great achievement. Lots of students use the website now!”

Jonathan Matta at Futuraskolan. Photo: Futuraskolan

An international outlook

Elia is a leader of Futuraskolan’s Global Citizenship Program, which encourages more of the school’s staff and students to become involved in community service, both locally and internationally, in order to develop a deeper understanding of the world. She embodies Picasso’s idea of finding purpose by giving to others and has been the catalyst for many of Futuraskolan’s recent fundraising drives. 

Find out how Futuraskolan aims to be ‘the best stepping stone for future world citizens’

“One of the things that really helped develop my perspective is studying at an international school,” Elia says. “You get different outlooks from students from many countries. This international outlook influenced me to become involved in the Global Citizenship Program. I realised there are kids in the world still having a hard time, and that made me want to do something about it.”

And Elia did do something about it. She organised an array of fundraising activities, such as bake sales and Christmas markets, raising money to fund transport to school and meals for children in the Philippines. Elia’s use of her ’gift’ made a real world difference to many children thousands of miles away.

And so did Jonathan’s. “I saw what the problem was – we had a hard time organising all our homework and assignments. So, I tried to fix that problem with the skill I had and it worked. It helped the class organise their work and become better at studying.”

Elia Gelabert, a student and fundraiser at Futuraskolan in Stockholm. Photo: Futuraskolan

The teachers that nurture talent

Both children emphasise the huge role of the teaching staff at Futuraskolan in their achievements and the development of their respective talents.

“The teachers encourage us to ask questions and let our curiosity guide us,” Elia says. “I think that’s very important because when you let curiosity guide you, you’ll really know what you want to learn. We are encouraged to dig deeper into what interests us.”

Jonathan adds that his teachers have “brought out my talents” through their constant support. “They made me realise that I have to keep going, that I cannot just give up when my work gets hard,” he says. “They made me realise that I have a gift that I can use to help people in Egypt – I want to help Egypt with my talents in the future.”

His parents are thrilled with how Futuraskolan has helped him to develop. “In Egypt, we didn’t have a computer or even a phone, so learning digital skills was not possible,” Jonathan says. “Here at Futuraskolan, we have the technology but also the amazing teachers. My parents are so happy with the way the teaching staff here have encouraged me, supported me, but also helped me solve problems.”

Elia says her parents have been impressed with how the Futuraskolan teachers have encouraged their daughter to think globally, rather than just locally, and how they’ve inspired Elia to lead projects herself, rather than expect the teaching staff to do so.

“In my previous school, none of this would have been possible,” she says. “Now it’s all possible.”

The future of schooling: find out more about the Futuraskolan network and its innovative, international and bilingual approach to educating your child

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More difficult to break into Swedish housing market now than ten years ago

Although it takes roughly the same amount of time to save up enough money for a deposit as it did ten years ago, other factors have raised the threshold for young people and newcomers looking to enter Sweden’s property market, according to a new report.

More difficult to break into Swedish housing market now than ten years ago

For young adults earning around 28,000 kronor, it takes around 3-5 years to save up enough money for a deposit on a small apartment in one of Sweden’s major cities, a new report by Handelsbanken states, which is roughly the same amount of time as it took in 2013.

This is partly due to the fact that the price of smaller apartments has remained relatively stagnant, with one room apartments going for roughly the same price now as they did in 2016, as well as the fact that average salaries and prices for small apartments have both increased at the same rate.

Having said that, other factors have made it more difficult for newcomers to break into Sweden’s housing market, and prospective buyers now need to earn more than Sweden’s median income in order to afford a small apartment in the capital, according to the report.

One of these factors is changes to legislation governing the rules under which mortgages can be awarded, which was designed to lower the amount of debt taken on by Swedish households.

In 2010, a rule was introduced which required prospective buyers to have a deposit of at least 15 percent of a property’s asking in order to qualify for a loan. Mortgage rules were further tightened up by two amortisation requirements, introduced in June 2016 and March 2018.

The first of these new requirements introduced compulsory amortisation of between one and two percent per year for anyone borrowing more than half the value of their home, while the second introduced a further one percent amortisation requirement for any households borrowing more than 4.5 times their yearly income.

This means that prospective buyers with a deposit of less than 30 percent the value of their property and a home worth more than 4.5 times their yearly income have since 2018 had to pay off 3 percent of their mortgage per year, while buyers in the same situation in 2010 could have chosen to only pay interest.

Although the amortisation requirements have successfully lowered the amount of debt taken on by new buyers, they also mean that buyers need to earn more in order to have enough money to qualify for a loan.

“On the one hand, the rules have led to young people taking on less debt than otherwise, but on the other hand, it’s been more difficult for them to be granted a mortgage,” the Handelsbanken report reads.

“This means that more young people in practice are locked out of the home ownership market and can be forced into the expensive second-hand rental market, as first-hand contracts on rental properties are difficult to come by,” it adds.

Although the report focuses on young people in Sweden, many of the same issues are also faced by newer immigrants to Sweden regardless of age, such as struggling to find cheaper rental properties due to the long waiting times for rental queues, or having less savings due to using the money for other costs, such as those related to moving countries or paying international student fees, for example.

Additionally, the 3-5 year estimate for the time taken to save up money for a deposit is based on a young person saving 25 percent of their income in order to buy a small one or two room apartment – with expensive second-hand lets eating into disposable incomes and saving capabilities, saving up for a deposit takes longer, even for those who earn close to the Swedish median income.

For families who are less able to buy cheaper one or two room apartments, the time to save up a deposit is even higher, as prices for larger apartments have risen by more than smaller apartments and it may not be possible to spare as much as 25 percent of the family’s monthly income after all other costs are paid.

A young adult aged 25-29 years old earning the median salary – around 28,000 kronor in this example – can, according to Handelsbanken’s calculations, buy a property worth just under 1.6 million kronor. That’s enough for a one room apartment in Skåne (average price around 1.2 million) or Västra Götaland (1.5 million), but not enough for a one room apartment in Stockholm, which costs on average 2.4 million kronor.

In 2013, the same person would have been able to buy a property worth slightly over 1.6 million kronor on a monthly salary of just under 20,500 kronor.

In order to buy a one room apartment alone in Stockholm in 2023 the individual in the example would need to have a salary of over 40,000 kronor, which is far above the average salary for most people in this age bracket.