Why are the Scandinavian Schools Obsessed with Social Competence?

This article is focusing on explaining what social
competence is in the Nordic schools and our aim is to
share what we have experienced in the Scandinavian
schools from a local (Casper) and a foreign (Jim)
We also want to show you how you can adapt
the Scandinavian methods to professional learning
programmes in your own school.

If we only had one word to summarise the education
system it would be ‘trust’.
Trust is seen at one scale from teacher to pupil
and vice versa all the way through the system to local
authorities and national policy. And while there will be
multiple individual and cultural factors that contribute
towards this, we believe the quality of the relationship
between staff and teachers and students is central to
the success. The fact that there is no public inspector
system in any of the Scandinavian countries perhaps
stresses the trustful relationship between government
and schools in general.

Trust is built up over time and we believe that it is the
Nordic schools’ focus on working with the teachers’
Social Competence that is key to building this trust in
all areas of school life.
We are social beings. Neurologically we develop
through social interaction and we appear to socially
construct knowledge and are far more effective and
happier to work collectively than in isolation (Fullan and Edwards, 2022). The pandemic showed us that.

So, while schools are complex social environments,
at their very heart is the relationships and rapport
between professionals and between professionals
quality relationships we are adopting a
mechanistic, industrial model of education.
And we do not want that!

The Scandinavian schools understand that
any effort to improve the quality of teaching
and learning needs to be delivered on a strong
foundation of trust, effective relationships and

Why don’t all school systems? Why are
they relentless testing the focuspoint in so
many countries? Coming from two different
school backgrounds, we wonder if part of the
problem is that some people think that trust,
relationships and rapport are very personal,
hard to define and often perceived as entirely
down to personality and intuition?