Icelandic Student Takes Second Place in European Statistics Competition

Ólöf María Steinarsdóttir, a student at Reykjavík’s Technical College, won second place in the 16-18 age group of the European Statistics Competition (ESC) for her statistical analysis of why Iceland has such high greenhouse gas emissions per capita. RÚV reports that 17,000 students from 19 countries took part in the competition.

The ESC is a competition organized by Eurostat and participating national statistical institutes, aimed at encouraging secondary students to become literate in statistics and official statistical sources. The competition is divided into two phases, national and European. Participants first participate at the national level and then those winners proceed to the European finals. This is the fifth year the competition has been held, but the first year Iceland has participated.

After winning the national competition in Iceland, Ólöf María and her fellow finalists were asked to produce two-minute videos on the environment. “Contestants had to present their findings on what official statistics tell about the environment in their country/region,” explains the press release on the Eurostat website. “The students produced really powerful videos, some even in the form of a rap song. Their message is clear: we need to build (statistical) knowledge about environmental issues and take action!” A jury of European experts reviewed the 66 submissions and selected the top five videos in the 14 – 16 age group (32 submissions) and the 16 – 18 age group (34 submissions). Ólöf María’s video placed second in the latter group, behind the team from Bulgaria. (A description of, and links to, all the top-placing videos can be found here.)

‘The Green Facade: The Story of Iceland Told by Statistics’

In her video, ‘The Green Facade: The Story of Iceland Told by Statistics,’ Ólöf María examines why Iceland produces 5.24x as much in emissions as its larger European neighbours. This despite the fact that on a household-level, emissions are low in Iceland, and have been consistently so for over 25 years. Industry, and most specifically aluminum production, produces 90% of Iceland’s emissions. See the full, two-minute video, in English, below.

What is Iceland’s high school graduation culture like?

Dimmisjón - MR

For students graduating from upper secondary school (menntaskóli), Iceland’s closest equivalent to US high schools, celebrations begin on the last day of classes, when students on the verge of graduation celebrate their dimmisjón (also spelled dimmition or dimission, from the latin dimissio). Dimmisjón traditions differ between schools, but celebrations usually last all day and can include breakfast with teachers, school dinners, and house parties. Most notably, classes or friend groups decide on a group costume, and spend the afternoon cavorting down Laugavegur street dressed as animals, objects, or movie characters. Though Iceland’s legal drinking age is 20, it is rumoured that dimmisjón celebrations involve a few glasses of alcohol.

During the graduation ceremony, graduating students put the costumes away. There’s not a robe in sight but most students wear student caps. These are black caps with a black band and peak, decorated with a silver star. During graduation, menntaskóli students wear the cap covered in a white crown. One year after graduating, graduates remove the white cover and many wear their black cap to subsequent graduation celebrations.

Different versions of the student cap have been introduced next to the traditionally white-coloured crown. Students graduating from vocational education specialising in, for instance, trades, agriculture, or the fishing industry, use red and green instead.

Nazi Propaganda Distributed at Reykjavík School

Flyers for the Norðurvígi neo-Nazi group have twice been found hung up on the grounds of the Menntaskóli við Sund (MS) junior college on the east side of Reykjavík, reports.

A concerned parent notified about two flyers that had been found taped to the side of a shipping container on the school grounds on Friday. The flyers were taken down but the very next day, another one was found taped up on the same shipping container, which the school uses as a storage shed.

“Did you know,” read the flyers, “that it is illegal to doubt the Holocaust in 23 countries?” It goes on to give examples of people it says have been jailed for “asking questions” and holding “different ideas and opinions.”

“I’m appalled about this,” said MS principal Már Vilhjálmsson, who hadn’t known about their presence on the school campus until he was contacted by a journalist about the incidents. Már said that the flyers would be removed and that school officials would be vigilant about removing any that might be posted in the future. He continued by saying it wasn’t a problem the school has had before – they’d had issues with graffiti, but never Nazi propaganda.

“This reflects in some ways society today,” Már continued, “where fanaticism is increasing more and more.”

This isn’t the first time that Norðurvígi has distributed its Nazi propaganda on school campuses. Last year, neo-Nazi flyers were found on the University of Iceland campus. A few members of the group made an appearance in Lækjartorg square in downtown Reykjavík, where they handed out flyers and waved flags, actions that spurred an anti-Nazi demonstration in the square in September of last year.

Costumed Teens Run Wild in Reykjavík

Dimmisjón - MR

Tourists strolling through downtown Reykjavík today may be surprised to come upon groups of costumed teenagers in high spirits, cavorting about the streets. The reason is a decades-old tradition called dimmisjón (sometimes spelled dimmition or dimission), a celebration that senior students across the country take part in around one month before their graduation. Due to shortening the school program from four years to three, this year there are two classes graduating simultaneously, which means there have never been more  costume-clad youngsters wandering around town.

In Iceland, after completing compulsory education at the age of 16, the overwhelming majority of students attend a non-compulsory “framhaldsskóli,” a sort of junior college, between the ages of 16 and 19. Completing a junior college exam is a requirement for university admission in Iceland. Junior colleges usually celebrate dimmisjón in April, about one month before the senior class official graduates.

[media-credit name=”Golli.” align=”alignnone” width=”1024″]Dimmisjón - MR[/media-credit]

Though dimmisjón traditions vary from school to school, celebrations tend to last all day. Events can include an early breakfast with teachers, and end in a fancy school dinner, or privately-organised house parties. Classes or friend groups usually decide on a costume the whole group will wear, and in Reykjavík, they spend the afternoon strolling down Laugavegur as animals, objects, or movie characters. Some groups ask passers-by for photos or while others may sing or dance in celebration. Though Iceland’s legal drinking age is 20, it is rumoured that dimmisjón celebrations occasionally involve a drop or two of alcohol.

[media-credit name=”Golli.” align=”alignnone” width=”1024″]Dimmisjón - MR[/media-credit]

Kvennaskólinn Students Celebrate Peysuföt Day

Reykjavík’s Kvennaskólinn, or Kvennó, upper secondary school held its annual Peysuföt Day on Friday, RÚV reports. This is an almost century-old tradition wherein the second-year students dress in Iceland’s national costume and celebrate with traditional songs and dancing.

Peysuföt is the name for the Icelandic women’s national costume that was introduced in the 19th century. As explained on the Icelandic National Costume website site, 19th century peysuföt was simpler and less decorative than the costume it proceeded from, which was known as faldbúningur. Generally black or dark blue, it consisted of a tasseled cap, woolen skirt with a patterned apron, and long-sleeved jacked, or peysa, from which it takes its name. In the 20th century, “peysuföt…evolved with changing times, fashion trends and the availability of materials,” continues the site, but it still included the tightly-fitted peysa, the plackets and cuffs of which were now “trimmed with velvet, and the sleeves were slightly puffed at the shoulder.” A lace or embroidered stomacher was also added, as was a large silk bow tied at the neck.

Accompanied by an accordionist, Kvennó students began their celebrations on Friday by singing and dancing in front of the Ministry for Culture before moving along to a nursing home where they performed for residents and staff. There was more dancing and singing in front of one of the buildings on the students’ own campus, as well as at another nursing home and in Ingólfstorg square downtown after lunch. Students were then served cocoa and cake back at their school and were treated to a more expansive spread of treats than usual this year, in honor of the 100-year anniversary of their student association.

See a video of previous Peysuföt Day celebrations held by the Versló school:

Preparations for this year’s celebrations at Kvennaskólinn have been underway for a long time, as in addition to learning a number of songs for the occasion, the students were also taught to dance the skottís folk dance.

See the skottís performed:

Interestingly, students at Kvennaskólinn were required to wear the national costume to school from 1874, when Kvennaskólinn first opened as a women-only upper secondary institution, until 1906. (Kvennó became a co-ed school in 1977.) Although it was no longer required dress after 1906, many students still wore the national dress as something of a uniform until 1920, when only a few students are remembered as maintaining the tradition. The first official Peysuföt Day was initiated by students the following year, in 1921, and has been celebrated every year since.

Fewer Immigrants Graduate from Upper Secondary Schools

Reykjavík school

New data published by Statistics Iceland shows that graduation rates among students in Iceland’s upper secondary schools vary depending on student’s origin.

According to the report, “[w]hen examining all graduates at the upper secondary level in 2016-2017, as a share of the population aged 18-22, then almost 24% of the population with Icelandic background graduated this year. On the other hand, 16.5% of those born abroad with one parent born abroad graduated this year, and just over 8% of immigrants.” Immigrants, in this study, are people who were born abroad and have both parents of foreign origin.

There were 5,098 graduates at the upper secondary and tertiary levels combined in 2016-2017, which is 617 fewer graduates overall than the previous year. Of these, 5,630 were graduates from upper secondary school, which is 645 fewer upper secondary graduates than the year before. The study coordinators say that this can partially be credited to the fact that there were changes to the curriculum at the upper secondary level which led to fewer students graduating from two-year business certificate programs.

The study also found that fewer students graduated at the tertiary, or university level: 4,479 graduates, which is 2.3% fewer than the year before. Of these, 2,664 received undergraduate degrees, 1, 275 received master’s degrees, and 62 received PhDs. Women comprised 66.3% of university graduates.