Our first official day in Iceland started with a magnificent view over the sea. We woke up surrounded by the sound of the sea and immediately fell in love with Icelandic nature. It set a great mood for the entire day.
The kick-off meeting started with a charismatic talk by Esther, who also prepared a workshop about an overview of the education system in Iceland. She also shared with us a story of their consulting company and how they started the School in the Clouds. We learned about the difficult beginnings of the education reform that started back in the 70s and found out about the obstacles Icelandic educators had to overcome on their way to a truly modern education system.
It was incredibly inspiring to hear how much can be done and changed with the right mindset and future-oriented attitude. Esther concluded that introducing high standards of education had always been and still is a demanding process that requires close cooperation between schools, teachers, parents and all parties interested in the subject matter. If it hadn’t been for the wholehearted involvement of the experts, Iceland would have never had achieved such great results. The idea or philosophy (as one might call it) behind all educational endeavours in Iceland is to teach and educate with the future in mind. We were surprised to learn that in many modernised public schools in Iceland there are no summative assessments - no marks and no exams to measure students’ progress.
Education is based on students’ willingness to learn and grow. It’s very personalised. The motivation for growth is rather internal. Teachers and parents mentor and support children in their development. There is no unhealthy competition or toxic comparisons between students. Most children though may benefit from having their own path and the individual timeline for achieving certain milestones and educational goals.
Last but not least, on day one, we became familiar with the idea of homeschooling in Iceland that is solely student-centred and designed to meet students' individual needs and interests. The system supports personal growth and the process is goal-oriented. Esther also presented the software designed and developed by Asgardur to support students' development in the homeschooling setting.
After lunch, we worked in two groups. Each group had its own subject to discuss and come up with some specific outcomes. The first group focused on the SCHOOL path of our project and the other on the FAMILY path in supporting homeschooling stakeholders’ cooperation.
The FAMILY group during workshops managed to define the purpose and plan the tutoring sessions for parents with the help of experienced facilitators. We developed the timeline and scheduled the key meetings that parents should attend to get inspired, informed, and learn about what good homeschooling practices are.
We finished the day by getting to know and discovering the beautiful city of Reykjavik.
Day two started with an on-site visit to the local school Selasskoli. Hosted by a wonderful Headmaster-innovator, we had a chance to observe local teachers in action. We noticed that there was a lot of project work being done in each class. The number of students amounted to around 24-22 pupils per class. Each class had two lead teachers who monitored and supported the students in their endeavours.
The school has a lot of open spaces and educational materials and resources on display. There are no bells that divide the learning time into periods and recess. What’s more, education in Iceland not only takes place in the school building but there are a lot of projects run outside the school. The students are taken to parks and nearby areas to expand their knowledge and do experiments. The atmosphere in the school was amazing. The pupils seemed very happy and relaxed. One could sense that the children come to school because they want, not because they have to. Being at school clearly constitutes an important element of their daily life.
When visiting this interesting place, we also had a chance to talk to some Polish children. They told us that they liked the school very much and had a very positive experience so far. Below you can see the photos take in the Selasskoli School.
After lunch, we continued to work in groups. The FAMILY group took part in a workshop about effective events planning in order to plan the conference that is supposed to officially inaugurate the project for the target audience that is for Polish parents who are interested in homeschooling. One of the participants, Łukasz created a visual note that summed up the work of two days.
We all ended the day in the Blue lagoon SPA. Some more project talks continued in this very informal setting until we left the SPA and came back to our hotel.