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Icelandic educators tour OCPS classrooms
Posted on 02/25/2019
Windermere visit

On a professional development trip, approximately 40 Icelandic educators visited four Orange County Public Schools to learn more about the digital learning implementation and for a more global view of education.


“I think my biggest takeaway was the reassurance that every school you go into, the teacher student relationship is the most valuable thing. We saw great teachers connect very well to their students, and I believe that is the core of educating the students and working well together. I saw great examples of that,” Borkur Vigporsson, Icelandic principal, said.


The visiting educators rotated through a variety of classes: English, digital information technology, digital video, engineering, mathematics, photography and world languages. They were impressed with the level of technology throughout the campuses, but especially within the TV production studios.


Each of the visitors complemented the students on how “kind, polite and well behaved” they were in the classrooms they visited. They felt the students had a “refreshing” level of maturity.


The educators are from Kopavogur, the second most populous city, just south of Reykjavík. One of the major differences they noted between their school and state-side schools is how the students are divided into three separate types of schools and bused to the closest elementary, middle or high school.


In Iceland, students age 6 to 16 attend compulsory school together – usually within their immediate neighborhood. Then ages 16-19 choose a path of study for their upper secondary schooling: grammar, industrial-vocational, comprehensive or specialized vocational.


After completion of secondary school, students can apply for higher education, known as háskóli. The literal translation means “high school,” but is the equivalent to an American university. Much like the United States, students must test into their desired school. While the state-run schools do not charge tuition, students do pay a registration fee and for their textbooks.


“I think school is very well equipped with technology. For such a large campus, there’s good discipline,” Kristin Sigurdardottir, Icelandic administrator, said about Windermere High School.


The guest educators toured Windermere and Freedom high schools and Bridgewater and Freedom middle schools.


“I also noticed all the levels of support, like for teachers. I think our teachers would like to have that type of support,” Sigurdardottir said.