From Macedonia to Denmark
Nedzat shares with US what it took to become the Head of the International School of Hellerup.
ISH turned ten in August. It has not been an easy road, yet after a decade of hard work, a great team of educators, and a collaborative effort, ISH is offering affordable, high-quality education in Copenhagen. This dream has now become a reality, says Nedzat Asanovski, the head of school of ISH.
Photographs: Céline Martin-Pedersen
Text: Greete Eluri
Q: Tell me about yourself and your background?
A: I was born in Macedonia. I came to Denmark when I was 7-8 years old. After I finished high school, I studied English Language and Literature at Copenhagen University. Before my current job, I worked at a private Danish school for four years where I taught Math, English, and History. I also took an extra Master's degree in Education at UCL. I am married and have three wonderful children aged 1, 5 and 10.
Q: So, why Denmark? What attracted you here?
A: We moved to Denmark, because of my father’s job, my parents then decided to move to Sweden, but I chose to stay in wonderful Copenhagen, and I do not regret that. I love Denmark, and I think it is a wonderful place to raise children. I do not have any plans on leaving Denmark for the next 2-3 years, but once the children are a bit older I could consider moving to a country that is slightly warmer – that is the only thing that I miss here in Denmark.
Q: Is there something you have done/experienced for the first time in Denmark? (Any hobby or interest or something completely different)
A: Denmark is a country of voluntary unions (foreninger). There are many of them for whatever you can think of. I have been very actively involved in youth unions in the years I was studying in high school and university. What I am proud of is all the work that I did in these years to help hundreds of students with another ethnic background, other than Danish, change their mindsets about studying. I have been a mentor for several students, tutoring them in these unions, and doing various activities to get their interest in schooling. I would say that this is one of the best things I have done in Denmark in the years I was 16-25 years until I got married. I still catch up with some of those people I used to tutor and mentor and I am constantly being reminded of how appreciative they are. This is also the reason I chose to become a teacher and work in the education sector. I simply LOVE it. Nowadays, I have a more indirect impact on students considering my role. However, I still teach History to high school students at ISH.
"We have more than 70 nationalities represented in our student body and seeing the diversity and how all these students get along so wonderfully gives me hope."
Q: How did you end up as a principal for the International School Hellerup?
A: I became a principal gradually. First, I started helping some businessmen. I did it to help them, and because I love being involved in new projects. I did not know that it would end up with them offering me the role of founding head. Initially, I was approached by some businessmen with this idea in August 2008. At first, I thought that it sounded like a very interesting idea and that it would be a very good challenge for me. I had no idea what this would mean in terms of the work that I was going to do concerning this.
We started doing some research and communication with the Ministry of Education. In January 2009, we had found out that this was possible, so we started looking for a campus. This was a very difficult part, but we managed to find a building that we could rent in May 2009, which gave us little over two months to find students, hire teachers, buy resources, etc.
I created a folder introducing the school, put together a website, and started doing house visits to expat families, visited embassies, universities and HR departments in larger companies. This was a very interesting experience, as I did this while I had a full-time job, as a teacher, and my wife in her 6th month of pregnancy for our first child. In the meantime, I did job interviews to hire staff, research to buy suitable furniture/resources to the school, ordered books, and many other things.
Q: Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of ISH! What has changed since you started,
and where do you see the school will be heading toward?
A: So many things have changed in the past 10 years. I remember when we had the first day for students in August 2009. Honestly, I did not believe that we were going to manage to open the school in such short time. So many things were lacking due to the quick start. One thing that we struggled with most was to find students as people did not know how the project was going to end up being. I can mention two things that have changed significantly:
Quality of education at ISH is at a stage now that I am truly amazed by. We have such a wonderful, capable and professional team who have all grown tremendously in their roles. We have a great team of educators.
We had a dream when we opened the school. To be an affordable school in Copenhagen that would offer the highest quality of education. I believe that we are living that dream right now and I am so proud of the achievements of our staff. This is a collaborative endeavor.
Q: When you compare the education program at ISH and in a regular, Danish folkeskole –
what are the similarities and differences?
A: I love the International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, and ISH is a full continuum school, offering Primary Years Program, Middle Years Program and Diploma Program. I truly believe in the IB Philosophy which has the students in the center and a strong focus on international-mindedness. This is truly amazing at ISH.
We have more than 70 nationalities represented in our student body, and seeing the diversity and how all these students get along so wonderfully gives me hope. I hope that the world will become a better place where people will come together and not focus on nationalities but view themselves as world citizens and focus on solving everyone’s problems. Having said this, I am not saying that the Danish education system is not doing this. I highlight that this is more evident at ISH.
Q: What is your opinion about the Danish school system in general?
A: I think that there are great aspects of the Danish school system. One thing I love most about it is that it focuses tremendously on developing students' critical thinking skills. This is vital for achieving success and also one of the reasons that Danes are good at developing systems and constantly improving these. If you accept things to be as they are you will not be able to achieve great results and it is therefore essential that students learn to question and challenge the status quo. The Danish school system encourages students to think critically, question things and think of alternative solutions to problems. Also, the focus on democratic thinking, equality and “dannelse” is what makes the system great.
Q: What is the difference (for newly arrived parents) between an international school
and a folkeskole?
A: They are two very different products. I would say that parents find school culture the biggest difference between the two types of schools.