Exclusive Interview with Annika Hedås Falk, Head of Educational Programmes at Nobel Centre
By Sofie Kinnefors
Annika Hedås Falk isconvinced that every child has the right to a quality education and that each school should strive to be the very best possible.Her passionate ideals have been strengthen many years as a teacher and headmaster.
Today as Head of Educational Programmes at Stockholm’s new Nobel Center, she is confident that the Nobel Center will also be a catalyst for education and understanding. It will become a world center, “where students are encouraged to learn, think, reflect, explore, and engage.”
Annika Hedås Falk. Photo: Björn Tesch
Swedish Press: Please tell us a little bit about your background.
Hedås Falk: I grew up in a household filled with music in Hedemora, Dalarna. After high school I spent time in Stockholm and Uppsala working in hospitals, as well as studying music and Swedish at the University of Uppsala, the Royal Academy of Music and Stockholm University.
As a girl what kind of student were you?
I liked school a lot when I was a child (like many others, who have chosen the teaching profession). I remember that I used to long for more difficult homework! I was so excited when I started high school and was able to study Latin, philosophy and psychology. I also did a special project on Pär Lagerkvist, who was my favorite author.
Since I didn’t experience any difficulties in school, I remember those days as being filled with ease. At the same time, I recognized that everyone’s experience was different. Some had difficulty learning, others didn’t receive any help from home, others were bullied and some skipped out on most of their classes. My mission as an adult is to ensure that all children receive a solid education regardless of their background.
Tell us about the exciting new concepts you are developing at the Nobel Center.
Pupils and teachers are important to the Nobel Center. Every day, 300 school children between the ages of 6-20 will be working with school programmes at the center.
School programmes given at the center, as well as digital learning resources and an ambitious approach to teacher training and teacher networks, enables the Nobel Center to become an important platform, from which teachers can learn about research and best practices.
An extensive after-school programme is going to provide children and young people with the opportunity to participate in the center’s science club, peace club and literature club, just as easily as the local soccer club or swimming club.
The Nobel Center will hopefully become a model for how these activities can be organized both by the Nobel Center, but also through nonprofit leaders around the country who are going to receive support from the Nobel Center’s expertise.
Will Nobelists participate in any way?
Of course, allowing the children to meet with Nobel prize winners is going to be one of our strengths. Our students will get to know our Nobel Prize winners through exhibits, programmes and stories, but also through personal encounters at the Nobel Center. My task is to develop digital solutions and Internet-based programmes and activities so that schools around the world can learn more about the Nobel Prize.
Name others you are collaborating with.
The educational concept of the Nobel Center has been created in collaboration with the Nobel Museum, several universities and a large number of teachers and principals.
You’ve mentioned that one of your main tasks is to teach students about the Nobel Peace Prize. How will you accomplish that?
All of us at the Nobel Center under-stand that so many young people are inspired by our peace prize winners. Fantastic people, like Malala, Dag Hammarskjold and Mother Teresa have proven that every person has the ability to make the world a better and safer place.
We are going to offer school programmes, in which our students are encouraged to consider, question and debate. These are key ingredients, which they will need in life. We hope that people walking out of the Nobel Center will feel as if they are one step closer to contributing to a better world.
The Nobel Center received a large donation in October, which has been earmarked to focus on children/youth education. How will you use the money?
Since the start of our project in December 2011, the objective has been to finance the construction of the Nobel Center through donations. In 2013, we received two large donations, each of 400 million SEK from the Erling-Persson Family Foundation and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.
We have since collected nearly 300 million SEK. The latest donation came from one of the largest foundations in Denmark, A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal, who chose to donate 50 million SEK to the Nobel Center.
These generous donations will benefit young people, not only in Scandinavia, but throughout the world.
Why do you think the Swedish educational system is so successful? What are some of its strengths?
The best thing about the Swedish school system is that we focus on everyone’s equal value. I love our School Act, which establishes our school’s mission, knowledge and values. It also states that teaching must be adapted according to our students’ needs and that our schools need to firmly establish respect for human rights.
The best teachers are those who manage to support weaker pupils and challenge the academically motivated without dividing their class. These teachers plan based on the heterogeneity of the class and see differences as a strength.
They work with tasks that can be solved at multiple difficulty levels, they vary methods, give the students major influence, use modern digital tools and create friendly working environments, camaraderie and focus.
Who inspires you in your work?
Some of Dr. Martin Luther King’s words are probably what inspire me the most: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
In my job as a headmaster I have met with a lot of upset/angry people. I sometimes play a little game called “snällast vinner”, “the nicest person wins”. I try to face angry people with kindness. It is sometimes difficult, but I find that in most cases the kindest person actually does win. It usually turns out that fear, sadness and anxiety lie behind the anger.
Like Alfred Nobel, I try to accomplish things that makes the world a better place. Nobel’s goal was to honor people who had made the greatest amount of good to mankind.
School programmes will take place in the Nobel Center. Photos: Alexander Mahmoud