Teachers and administrators gathered from all over the west coast - from Vancouver, BC, Canada to Los Angeles, CA. The conference was to improve collaboration between the schools, the foundation of bilingual children. Skolverket (The Swedish National Agency for Education), Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt (The Royal Society of Swedish Culture Abroad) and Svensk Utlandsundervisnings Förening (Swedish Education Abroad) sent representatives from Sweden to present information about the support they can offer the schools.

After the introductions, Pia-Lotta Sahlström discussed all the expected changes for the Swedish school system in the coming school year, 2011-2012, including the education of new teachers, the new demands on teachers, the educational plan for preschool (which they never had before), the new grading system, a new educational plan and a new Educational Law starting July 1, 2011.

This comes on the heels of the Swedish students' performance rates dropping, and the big gap between boys' and girls' scores. The girls in Sweden score a lot higher in every subject except physical education.
A concern today in Sweden is that the Swedish language is changing—the new generation is using more and more English mixed with their Swedish. But Professor Bo Ralph, from Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt, says this is nothing new: There have always been periods of time when another language has influenced Swedish—mostly German, Latin and Greek; English is minimal.

Use Swedish every day
Lena Power has worked many years, first within preschool, then as an elementary teacher. She started the Swedish School in Seattle with Stina Cowan. She also worked on developing the educational plan LPO-94 and the development of mixed-age teaching.
Power has also had pupils for whom Swedish is a second language. Power, who is married to an American, raised her children with English as a second language at home in Sweden. Her children received English as home-language instruction from the regular school a few hours a week. Then it changed the other way around when the family moved to the U.S. in 1997—the second language at home became Swedish.

Power explains that to support children's language development, parents and teachers need to be consistent and understand the basic rule that a language is a code. It is expected at Swedish school that for a certain amount of time each week only Swedish is spoken, and it's important to use Swedish every day at home and never translate.

Motivating teenagers
Mariana Jäder Näslund is a teacher for grades 1-7. In Seattle, Näslund taught teenagers, a group that's hard to motivate. It is up to the teacher to be creative and find out what interests the children; the Internet is helpful with some Swedish TV programs and Youtube.
Rolf Ornbrant, president of Svensk Utlandsundervisnings Förening, discussed how to get a plan started, and to network with board members from different schools.
Dr. Anna Hannesdottir talked about how helpful and fun it's been for the children and adults to learn Swedish. There are not only regular dictionaries but also Lexin (lexikon for invandrare), a dictionary for emigrants, created specially for helping to understand Swedish very easily.

Support from Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt
Secretary-General Lars Bergman from Sverige Kontakt gave information about creating a working collaboration over the next three years between North America’s Swedish Schools and Sverige Kontakt. One of the benefits for the Swedish Schools is that they can order their books through Sverige Kontakt and get a large discount, and if a board member or teacher from a Swedish School travels to their office in Gothenburg, they can pick up a few books for the school library.

Submitted by Carola Williams