Millersville collaborates with IES school system to help education majors teach in Sweden

Millersville students explore Stockholm and snowshoe through Lithuania while on the Milversville guided trip to Sweden, led by Professor Jason Petula. The program took place last winter of 2018 and was geared towards students working on their ISEM minors. Participants got the opportunity to work with the students and teachers in the IES system and experience a new culture. Photo courtesy of Millersville University

Carly O’Neill
Associate News Editor

Millersville University collaborated with the Internationella Engelska Skolan or International English School, the largest free school organization at the compulsory level in Sweden, to send primarily education majors to work and teach in Sweden.

A Millersville student, named Nicole Doty, many years ago was hired by swedish delegates to teach at their schools, since their special education is not as great as the United States. After experiencing this once in a lifetime educational opportunity, Doty then reached out to Millersville to ask their faculty members to partner with the Sweden educational institutions.

From this collaboration between the two schools, the first American school was built in Sweden to help students become fluent in English. What started as a single school, quickly expanded into 34 schools, mostly as what the U.S. would refer to as the middle school grade level. Due to the high education demand, there are currently 100,000 families on the waitlist to get into these schools.

The teaching program started with one school through the IES, Nacka, located in the suburbs of Sweden, and the university hopes to eventually expand the teaching locations to Karlstad, Falun, and Täby schools.

Originally, Swedish delegates would come to Millersville to hire candidates to teach in Sweden, and if pursued then they would sign a contract and prepare for their departure date. But the problem was students would get nervous before the trip and back out of the agreement because they had never studied abroad before.  

In order to prevent this fear of going abroad, Assistant Professor and Faculty Coordinator of Internationalization, Jason Petula led a group of ten students on a MU Guided educational program in Stockholm, Sweden this past winter of 2018. The trip was directed towards students working on their Integrative STEM Education Methods (ISEM) minor, and participants had the opportunity to work closely with students and teachers at the International English School.

For most of these students it was their first time abroad and they were slightly hesitant. “They see the world is much bigger than they thought it was,” said Professor Petula.

Through this program students can become familiar with the culture of Sweden and get a feel for what it would be like to teach abroad, in hopes that they would want to come back. To further integrate these students into the Swedish lifestyle, participants stayed with host families to experience what it would be like not only to work in Sweden, but to also live there.   

In 2020 Professor Petula hopes to bring over more Millersville students to Sweden in the spring or summer that would be open to all students, and emphasize what the country is like as a culture. 

“We’re trying to develop a pipeline from entry into the university to employment at Internationella Engelska Skolan,” explained Petula. 

This is the fourth year Swedish delegates have come to Millersville to engage with students and recruit possible candidates. They focus on establishing a relationship with the freshmen and sophomore undergraduates, in order to get them considering an international career choice.

These visits as well as the abroad trips have decreased students from backing out of the teaching program.

Professor Petula is putting together a working pipeline for this student teaching process. It consists of first, International English School delegates coming to Millersville University and conducting classroom visits and informational sessions regarding the program. Next, students will be encouraged to participate in one of the several short-term study abroad programs offered in Sweden and IES schools. From there students will move on to student teaching. Half of the program would consists of students teaching in the U.S. and then the second half would allow them to teach at a selected IES school. 

The next phase would consists of delegates from IES schools visiting the university each spring to interview possible employees. If selected, applicants are offered a two-year contract or probationary period which could potentially lead to a permanent position if successful. After completing all these steps, a special program for non-Swedish students will be offered to participants that would allow them to earn a masters degree in education over the course of three years. 

Millersville is currently working with the school system to provide a student loan at no interest through IES for the masters program. Finally, after the completion of the program, students would either have to commit to two additional years at IES or pay the loan back.

“We’re trying to build multiple entries into this pipeline,” Professor Petula elaborated.