Iain Fish, head of the European section at the German European School Singapore (GESS), talks to Expat Living about values, diversity, and preparing students for the future.
EL: Your website mentions “traditional European values”. What exactly are these values and how are they woven into the curriculum?
IF: European values are, of course, not so easily defined, and at GESS they take many forms. We understand the expression to mean “valuing your cultural roots”, which we believe is the best way to understand and empathise with others. We also focus on multilingualism as being a core value. Many of our students are bilingual or trilingual, and all middle school students follow at least three languages.
Like other Western international models, we maintain a student-centred approach to learning, whereby students are encouraged to develop their skills to facilitate independent learning. For example, student representatives are encouraged to speak their minds and sit on various committees and decision-making groups in the school. As in continental Europe, there is an emphasis on the role of organisations and groups that support the community, through action and debate. In this way, students are empowered to choose the best path as opposed to being told the route by teachers. It is my impression that at GESS, students and parents are very involved in the ongoing development and progress of their school. I see it as a very open community dialogue that facilitates better understanding and relations.
EL: How are children from other cultural backgrounds accommodated in a European-centric school?
IF: Although approximately 80 percent of our students are from a European background, other cultures and nationalities are warmly welcomed. Our strong sense of internationalism allows us to incorporate others into our programmes without any drawbacks. We even support non-European languages at mother-tongue level, while Mandarin is taught in the secondary school as an additional language.
EL: What size are the classes and what is the teacher-to-child ratio?
IF: The maximum class size in the European section is 22, and our teacher-to-child ratio is about 1:6. In the first two cohorts of graduating IB diploma students, we have averaged 31 points, and several students have achieved 40 points.
I would like to stress the importance of adding value to a child’s education. At GESS, we aim to exceed expectations to realise potential. We hope to provide students with opportunities and learning environments that mean they can do better than expected, at whatever level they enter.
EL: Aside from the academic curriculum, what enrichment classes and after-school activities are offered?
IF: We have so many clubs, including robotics, orchestra, football, volleyball, swimming, basketball, dance, Model United Nations, and science club, to name but a few. We also have an active community-service programme called CARE that involves itself in charities and community events.
The main campus is at 72 Bukit Tinggi Road (Call +65-6469 1131) and the primary school is at
300 Jalan Jurong Kechil. Call (+65) 6461 0802) or visit www.gess.sg
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