2011

FBC Swedish Student-Staff Exchange

Karin Hendricks
Deputy CEO: Innovation and Development
Exchange Project Coordinator

False Bay College is committed to exposing its students to a broad education and training experience and we have actively pursued international partnerships to meet this objective.

 

On the 28 November 2011, fifteen Engineering students and four staff members left South Africa to spend three weeks at its international partnering college, Ebersteinska  Gymnasiet, in Norrkoping, Sweden. The exchange offers staff and students an incredible educational experience, exposing them to the similarities and differences in educational methodologies but also deepened their understanding of different cultures.

For many students in the group, who come from poor economic backgrounds, it was their first trip overseas and it was a life-changing experience, the impact of which has been felt on many different levels and will live on in the minds and the lives of the students and the staff for a long time to come.

The visit programme was both educationally and culturally rich. We walked through the old industrial town, visited the Town Hall and learnt about Norrkoping’s rich cultural history.  One highlight was taking the walk to the Tower at the top of the Town Hall and taking in the beautiful views of the city. The municipality is the highest level of government in the city and it decides how the city budget is spent, so it was a huge honour to meet the major of Norrkoping, Li Teske, a born and bred citizen of Norrkoping, who took us on tour of the city hall which was designed by Prof Gustaf Clason and built between 1907-1910. Looking at the city’s industrial, one can understand why it is often called “Manchester of Sweden.” 

We were exposed to a number of cultural visits to various places such as the Vasa Museum which houses a huge ship that foundered and sank after sailing less than a nautical mile (ca 2 km) into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. After it was located again in the late 1950s in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor, it was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961 .We braved the icy coldness of the Nordic winter during the visit to Stockholm but our richest and most important learning experience   was the time students and staff spent in the workshops, training with our Swedish counterparts and the social time spent with our Swedish hosts. This gave us excellent insight into and understanding of Swedish culture. We learnt to value FIKA and appreciated the work- life balance imbedded in the psyche of the Swedes.

Educationally
The students and the staff learnt a great deal educationally. The programmes are not much different to that at our college and while there are similarities in our training, we observed that there are differences in our teaching approach. We were very impressed with the manner in which the Swedish students worked on practical tasks often without   supervision from their lecturers. They seem to have a very mature and responsible approach to workshop training.  We observed that the lecturers demonstrated in a great deal of trust in students’ ability to work with expensive and sophisticated equipment There is also a very strong emphasis on Work based experience and thus there are strong college –industry partnerships to support work integrated learning.

Industry Visits
During our stay in Sweden, the staff and students visited the following:

  • Bräviken (Paper mill)
  • Scania plant ( where they make 40 trucks and 300 engines a day)
  • Volvo workshop in Norrköping
  • Nobina or bus company workshop
  • Lantmännen Maskin AB( heavy machine agriculture)
  • Dairy farm (Robotic milking machines)

The impact on the students’ lives is indescribable, as captured through their comments: 

 “To me, it was an eye-opener. I  have a better understanding of the relationship between college and industry, that in working together, you can produce a better quality student for our country”, Sivuyile Songgwaba

“This exchange programme has had a huge impact on the way I view my life and how I see my purpose in life”, Kim Bowman

It is our view that such a programme gives life to the words of Nelson Mandela: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.   The experience gained from this exchange will have huge spin-offs for our students in terms of growing their understanding of vocational training, deepening their understanding of their own careers, raising their employability, and producing graduates that industry would be happy to employ.