As the world reopened for international travel in 2022, few were more excited than the sixteen U.S. school and district administrators selected for an professional learning program.
These talented administrators were excited to engage with their colleagues in Finland and in Singapore to better understand their education systems and share best practices through briefings, panel discussions, and events. Program activities included visits to schools and other educational institutions order to observe and collaborate. Since their programs, they continue to work together to share lessons learned with colleagues in the United States.
Learn more about these Fulbright Seminars for School Administrators, programs of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.
Demonstrating “Sisu” in Finland
The first group of eight administrators arrived in Helsinki, Finland in May 2022, where the Fulbright Finland Foundation provided a briefing on the Finnish education system and facilitated networking opportunities between the U.S. and Finnish educators.
“The most valuable professional experience was to learn about the practices, programs and services offered to students and families in Finland. But equally as valuable was the time learning about my colleagues and their work across the United States of America,” one participant reflected. “In some ways, the work happening state to state was incredibly complex and different - almost like different countries.”
During the program, the group observed classrooms firsthand and met with students and teachers from schools in Helsinki and Oulu. Throughout their ten days in country, the administrators also had the opportunity to learn about Finnish culture while enjoying Kahvitauko (coffee breaks), making Tikkupulla (sweet bread) over a campfire, and visiting important natural sites like Nuuksio National Park and Pehkolanlampi.
The program concluded with an opportunity for reflection and a farewell dinner. Dr. Richard Surrency of Putnam County Schools (Florida) reflected, “One thing that really stood out to me about the entire school system is they really value equity over excellence…. They really spend a lot of money on providing basic necessities for students to make sure that they have what they need. And because of that, students excel because they have all the basic things they need in life to be successful in school.
Learn more about Dr. Surrency’s experience and takeaways in his September interview with K-12 Dive.
Exploring Education in the Garden City
In July 2022, a second group of eight U.S school and district administrators traveled to Singapore to network and collaborate with education leaders there. The Singapore Ministry of Education coordinated interactive discussions on building sustainable networks, special education, and holistic approaches to educating the whole child.
This series of discussions was supplemented by numerous visits to primary and secondary schools in the city. The administrators experienced the intersection of education and culture in Singapore through visits to sites including the Singapore Youth Festival Art Exhibition and the Science Center Singapore.
Upon completion of the 10-day intensive program, one participant reflected that “the program was a life-changing experience, and I am grateful to have been selected as a representative of the United States. I am eager to continue my learning of high-performing systems in the world and incorporate best practices into my work at the state level.”