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Opinion and Analysis For Members

'International school funding cuts will hurt Norway's ability to attract foreign talent'

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The Local - [email protected]
'International school funding cuts will hurt Norway's ability to attract foreign talent'
Cuts to international schools in Norway will prevent Norwegian companies attracting top foreign talent. Illustration Photo by CDC on Unsplash

The Norwegian government's plan to cut subsidies to certain private and international schools will hurt pupils and ultimately make it harder for Norway to attract foreign talent , argues Thale Herbertson, the acting head of Trondheim International School.

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If this change (to private school subsidies) is approved, it will not only significantly reduce the quality of the pupils' experience very quickly, but it will, in the long run, lead to many private school closures.

In the short term if these cuts go through it will be necessary to reduce costs by significantly reducing the level of activity, stripping away non-essential - but hugely beneficial and educationally important - parts of the offer such as school trips, community events and participation in external projects.

READ ALSO: How Norway plans to cut subsidies for some international schools

We would have to refrain from investing in new learning resources or equipment and postpone much needed maintenance and upgrades of buildings and grounds.

In the long term many private schools, Trondheim International School included, would have to significantly reduce the number of staff. In our case, we would be looking at closing 5 or 6 full time positions. This would make it impossible to deliver our curriculum or run the school responsibly, thereby forcing us to close our doors. 

Schools have built their operation on this model

Most Norwegian private schools receive the majority of their income from state subsidies.

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We receive 85 percent of the amount per student that is allocated for students in state schools, and can charge the remaining 15 percent in school fees. 

Hence, all the subsidies are essential for the schools to exist. As an average sized private school with just over 200 pupils, the proposed cut represents 19 to 20 percent of the pupil subsidy, or approximately 4.9 million krone per year once fully implemented. 

Schools have built and planned their operation on the model they were presented with. Some fluctuations are expected of course, but nothing of this magnitude.

Some of the largest costs, such as the number of staff needed to deliver our curriculum, or the buildings we rent or own, are based on this expected income and can not be reduced without having a significant negative impact on the school.

READ ALSO: How many children in Norway attend private or international schools?

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Pupils are ultimately the greatest losers in this situation

In some cases the cuts to subsidies may cause fees to increase, however, this is only possible to a small degree due to the cap on the percentage fees can constitute. Many private schools are opposed to increasing fees because we believe our educational offers should be accessible to as many students as possible, despite the misleading narrative of 'elite schools for the rich' as we have been criticised of being by the government.

Raising fees increases exclusion, which is in absolute conflict with the values of our schools. 

Pupils are ultimately the greatest losers in this situation. Initially, they would be faced with larger class sizes, fewer support staff, fewer opportunities for learning outside of the classroom; poorer quality resources and equipment; less maintained classrooms and so on.

Eventually they may well find themselves having to find a new classroom and being split up from their friends, trusted teachers, preferred way of learning. They would lose their community. 

International schools are essential to attracting international expertise

International schools are essential to many foreign nationals making the decision to move to Norway for employment opportunities.

As a hub for research, science and technology, Trondheim is dependent on having an international school offer in order to attract international expertise.

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Both local businesses and politicians have been vocal about this. 

For families moving to Norway for a shorter period of time, it is extremely important for their children to be able to access an international education which allows them to transition onward smoothly when the contract/project is complete. The majority of the international schools in Norway follow the IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum, which is taught in over 5,000 schools globally. This allows students to continue to learn within a system they are familiar with.

The same is true of many other private school offers in Norway such as the Steiner or Montessori schools, or the Christian schools. Their school offers sit within a familiar context, allowing students and their families to find a sense of belonging very quickly. 

Schools were never consulted

Also in places such as Trondheim where many state schools are well beyond capacity, I am concerned about the extra stress this could place on those schools.

There will definitely be an impact on international recruitment to Norway. I also think it would be huge loss to diversity and freedom of choice. Private schools are a supplement to state schools, not competitors. Students choose us for many different reasons and those who do choose us, need what we have to offer. There are a lot of non-monetary factors that do not seem to have been considered. 

There has been no consultation or even conversation with private schools on this matter before the proposed state budget was published. A lot of the reasoning is clearly flawed.

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