The Stockholm preschool shaping tomorrow’s global citizens

What do internationally-minded families in Sweden most want from a preschool? For Polish-born Sylwia Haczkiewicz, the number one priority was teaching in English and Swedish, followed by a stimulating curriculum. Alin Serbana says a multicultural environment was a major factor for him after his family moved from Romania.

The Stockholm preschool shaping tomorrow's global citizens
Sylwia Haczkiewicz and her daughter Rosie. Photo: Alin Serbana

Both also initially looked at preschools very close to home, but now say they are happy to travel a little further to take their children to Futuraskolan International Preschool Danderyd. With no fewer than 26 nationalities among its 72 children and staff, it’s no surprise that their main criteria have been resoundingly met.

“They really live with this international spirit,” says Sylwia, who moved to Sweden two years ago from the UK, where her daughter Rosie was born. “Rosie has friends from Sweden, England, Ireland, Italy, Mongolia. They all speak very good English as well as their native languages and they are all learning Swedish. I think it’s the best pre-school we could have found in Sweden for our child.”

It also now has a unique status among preschools in Scandinavia and the Baltics, having become the first to be granted membership of the Nordic Network, a collaborative group of international schools in the region.

“Several of our Futuraskolan schools are already members,” says principal Adriana Marx Norén. “The network promotes conferences, music festivals and other activities we’d like to participate in, so I asked our CEO if they accept preschools.

“He said ‘we can ask’ and we’re very proud to now be the first preschool member. This allows us to collaborate with international schools that share our vision and learn from each other.”

Looking for a bilingual preschool or international school in Stockholm? Learn more about the Futuraskolan network

‘We’re not babysitters. We want the kids to thrive’

Parents showing interest in Futuraskolan International Preschool Danderyd soon learn what that vision entails. After arriving in Sweden in 2021, Alin began contacting preschools around Solna, a family-friendly area in the north of Stockholm, where he and his wife live with their four-year-old son Alexei. Most were slow to respond but Futuraskolan replied the next day inviting them to visit. 

“It’s a bit further away, but we’re happy with the results and all the parents are happy with how their kids’ progress,” says Alin, who is now a Parent Support Association representative, liaising between parents and teaching staff.

“We really like it here but Sweden isn’t necessarily our final destination, so the fact that Alexei’s growing up in an international environment is very good. He’s at a pretty good level of English, and he even talks a little bit of Swedish and Romanian!”

Alin Serbana, his wife and their son Alexei celebrating Halloween at Futuraskolan

Such a desire for an international early education and overseas work/life opportunities are common among parents at Futuraskolan, says Adriana. Originally from Brazil herself, she’s also the principal of Futuraskolan’s Näsby Park and Skarpäng preschools in Täby.

“Many of our kids move to the UK, the US or somewhere else and then they start school earlier, so we want them to be ready,” she says. “We’re not babysitters. We’re a stepping stone, we want the kids to thrive and we have teachers dedicated to enabling that.

“When kids start learning different languages early, they become quick learners. Most of our kids speak three or four languages and that means they make extra neural connections they otherwise wouldn’t.”

Futuraskolan’s preschools use a combination of the Swedish National Curriculum for the Preschool (LpFö18) and the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC). Children learn in both Swedish and English, with the latter being the crucial common language. 

There are also distinctive approaches to maths, and arts.

It’s not about whether your kid can count to 20,” Adriana states. “Do they understand what they’re doing? We use the Montessori Maths method, so the children put out the quantity as they are counting and learn by doing. 

“For arts, we’re inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. When the children come to the art room, it’s like a candy store where they can get their hands on everything. We teach them to respect the materials, rather than putting things away so they cannot destroy them.” 

Check out the full list of Futuraskolan’s six preschools in Greater Stockholm

Adriana Marx Norén, principal of three of Futuraskolan’s preschools. Photo: Alin Serbana

Budding hackers and blueberry jam

With literacy, Jolly Phonics is vital to getting Futuraskolan’s young learners on the right path. It is an effective method to help children start reading and writing in both English and Swedish as it focuses on Phonetics.

Sylwia says this method, along with the dedication of co-ordinator Marta Ahlgren, is aiding the development of five-year-old Rosie, who has Down’s syndrome.

“She says maybe 20 or 30 words but she signs a lot thanks to Marta, who does sign language with her supervised by a speech therapist. Marta also helps her with Jolly Phonics and other stuff. Rosie participates in all the classes to the best of her ability.”

She also enjoys Futuraskolan’s embrace of digital technology. “Rosie can get into any iPad like she is a hacker, she’s quite skilled with it!”

Alin says his son really appreciates the many opportunities to extend his learning environment to the natural world. “He’s in the group Sunflowers and loves going on outings. A teacher takes them into the forests around the preschool. In autumn, they gathered blueberries and he made jam on the spot that they ate with crackers – Alexei still talks about it!”

Futuraskolan Coordinator, Martha Algren. Photo: Supplied

Nordic Network, Global Citizenship

Adriana believes the three preschools of which she is principal can only benefit from the opportunities for knowledge exchange within the Nordic Network. Joining was not a formality, she says; representatives from two international schools visited and inspected Futuraskolan International Preschool Danderyd.

“They want to see whether you have an equality plan, how we work with our Global Citizenship Program, our work with sustainability, and to assess the quality of our pedagogical approach. They looked at everything and spent all day asking questions to the children and teachers.”

The representatives reported back to the network’s board, which in due course invited the preschool to become a member.

“I’ve been a principal in Swedish schools too, but you cannot compare the richness of the environment we have here,” adds Adriana. “When you come together from around the world, using Sweden’s norms and values but also learning from each other, something really fun and unique comes out of that.

“The children become citizens of the world, learning to accept differences and to respect each other. I couldn’t work in any other place.”

Want your child to be a citizen of the world? Find out where your nearest Futuraskolan school or preschool is located

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FACT CHECK: Can you get a residency permit if you buy property in Sweden?

There have been several reports of foreigners who bought Swedish property after they were falsely made to believe that it would speed up their process towards a Swedish residency permit. But what do the rules actually say?

FACT CHECK: Can you get a residency permit if you buy property in Sweden?

I’ve never been told buying property in Sweden will give me a residence permit. Is this really a thing?

The short answer is a firm no, but despite this there has been a series of incidents of non-EU foreigners who were allegedly tricked into buying property in Sweden before moving, believing that owning property would make them eligible for a Swedish residence permit.

What’s the story? 

These incidents most recently grabbed headlines in June 2024, when public broadcaster SVT reported that a number of properties in Sweden had been sold to buyers in the Middle East well over market price, after the buyers were led to believe it would help them gain residence permits. The properties are all linked to businessman Kadry El Naggar, who runs the company Sweden for Investment.

As far back as 2013, SVT reported that another company owned by El Naggar, Swedish Connections, at the time told buyers in Egypt that buying property in Sweden would help speed up the process of getting a residence permit or even Swedish citizenship.

El Naggar has never been convicted of any crimes, but he has been sued by two previous buyers. In one of the cases, the purchase was cancelled, and the other buyer won their court case. He denied to SVT that his company offers its services under false pretence.

“I buy old houses and sell them on. I don’t sell permanent residency permits. That’s clear if you look at our sites,” he told SVT.

A note on his website reads “we do not issue visas or guarantee any residence permits as these are determined individually by the Swedish Migration Board”. But SVT reports that in several social media posts, El Naggar falsely claims that all foreigners need to get a Swedish residency permit is a bank statement showing a balance of at least 20,000 dollars (210,660 kronor), as well as a company and property.

How many properties have they sold?

According to SVT, there are 50 properties up and down the country linked to El Naggar, his wife or their company, with 32 of those in Norrland. Thirty-six properties currently have one or more foreign owners, with a total of 53 owners registered as living outside of Sweden.

The broadcaster also linked 37 different Sweden-registered companies to these owners, who are registered as living in a number of different countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Palestine.

Many of the properties are in relatively bad condition, sold via executive auction through the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Kronofogden).

One pharmacist from Egypt told SVT he had paid 188,000 kronor for a home in the village of Undrom outside Sollefteå in northern Sweden, with the dream of giving his children a better life, after Facebook adverts promised that he could get residency through buying a property.

He hasn’t even been able to visit his house in Undrom due to the cost of travelling to Sweden from Saudi Arabia, where he lives. 

He told SVT he had been warned by someone else who had been in a similar situation just before he was due to make the final payment on the home, and he then demanded to cancel the purchase, but the company refused. He has now hired lawyers in Egypt and Sweden.

“We’ve seen that this method has been ongoing for a while,” Migration Agency official Anette Bäcklund told SVT.

“And all of those people who have applied for a residence permit from us have had their applications denied. You need to follow certain rules to qualify for a residence permit, and that hasn’t been the case in these cases.”

How do I move to Sweden as an entrepreneur or investor?

It is possible to get a temporary residence permit as a self-employed person in Sweden, and permit holders who can support themselves and their families are eligible for permanent residency after just two years, but this requires more than just having a high enough bank balance, registering a company in Sweden and owning a property.

According to the Migration Agency, self-employed people must meet the following requirements in order to be granted a two-year residence permit:

  • hold a valid passport
  • show you have good experience of your industry and previous experience of running your own company
  • show you have relevant knowledge of Swedish or English. For example, if you have contact with a number of suppliers or customers in Sweden, you need to be able to speak Swedish to a very high level
  • prove that you are in charge of running the company and that you have decisive influence for it
  • prove that you have enough money to support yourself and any family accompanying you (200,000 kronor for you, 100,000 kronor for an accompanying partner or spouse and 50,000 kronor for each accompanying child)
  • show a credible foundation for your budget
  • show that you have built a network of customers or other business network
  • pay a fee in most cases (equal to the fee for a work permit)

The Migration Agency will then assess your business plans to determine whether or not you should be granted a permit. There is no requirement for applicants to own a property in Sweden.

If you are granted a two-year permit and want to apply for permanent residency once it runs out, there are further requirements. You will need to prove that you are still running the company, are complying with good accounting practices and have all the necessary permits for the business, among other things, at the time you renew your permit. 

Permanent residency applicants need to prove that they and their family have been living in “reasonable” housing conditions, but there is no stipulation that they must own this home.