A SCHOOL FOR THE WORLD
“For many expats, the school’s families and programmes become a focal point of their life in Munich,” says Dr Chrissie Sorenson, Director of the Bavarian International School in Munich. This strength of community is the strongest first impression for students at BIS and their families, yet this warmth and friendliness is complemented by an innovative, focused and international-looking educational strategy that has seen the school grow from small beginnings to offer a broad international curriculum and the latest modern amenities.
BIS was founded in 1990 and opened with only six pupils in 1991. The growing school moved to its current location in the picturesque grounds of Schloss Haimhausen, 10 km north of Munich, in 1998. Today the school’s Haimhausen campus comprises five buildings and caters for 1,150 pupils representing 58 nationalities. In 2016 the school opened a city campus in a beautifully renovated facility on Leopoldstrasse in Munich-Schwabing, a primary and junior school for students from age three to Grade 5.
The school’s early childhood programme provides a co-operative, caring environment that promotes the development of each child’s individual potential from the first year onwards. “This programme offers a high-quality preschool education,” says Sorensen, “enabling children to develop their social, emotional, physical and cognitive skills, using both the indoor and outdoor environment.”
BIS has always placed the child’s individual development at the centre of its educational focus, encouraging active, engaged participation. “Questioning is encouraged, and student-led inquiries prioritised, enabling students to follow their interests while exploring and constructing their own meaning of the world around them,” explains Sorensen. At BIS language and mathematical skills are integrated in a natural and practical way.
Learning through play and working with natural materials, students extend their creativity and participate in music, art and drama, learning to take on different roles. They undertake group projects and are encouraged to work collaboratively. Parents respond effusively. According to one, “We have seen our three children grow so well, in a wonderful community. We are very grateful to you for the great experience that our children have had at BIS in the last four years.”
AN INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK
BIS has always been committed to the widely recognised International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, and has been authorised as a World School by the International Baccalaureate Organization to teach the IB primary years, middle years and diploma programmes. The school added the IB Careers Programme (IBCP) in 2018, one of only four schools in Germany to offer the qualification.
This programme combines academic and vocational education, to give students practical career-related tuition while gaining transferable skills in applied knowledge, critical thinking, communication and cross-cultural engagement. “As the workplaces of the future become more complex, the ability to respond to rapid change is essential,” says Sophie Kropman, IBCP Coordinator at BIS. “The IBCP recognises the growing needs of 21st-century employment and places considerable importance on students developing crucial skills such as critical thinking, intercultural awareness, leadership, collaboration and communication.”
All IBCP students participate in a work placement at a suitable company and have the opportunity to attend a motivation week at the Sustainability Management School (SUMAS) in Switzerland. The IBCP qualification is accepted by many British universities, and private universities in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
FULL STEAM AHEAD
Another innovation in the curriculum is the school’s approach to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), the focus of much educational practice in recent years with the aim of attracting bright students, particularly girls, to the sciences. At BIS, this cluster of disciplines becomes STEAM, with the arts included, to add to the scientific focus a creative vehicle for engaging the students and a way to apply creative thinking across all disciplines.
A new Creativity and Innovation Centre at the Haimhausen campus, and dedicated to STEAM subjects, is due to open soon. According to Sorensen, “STEAM is a way to take the benefits of STEM and complete the package by integrating these principles in and through the arts. STEAM removes limitations and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry, and innovation.”
STEAM will be taught through what Sorensen calls Design Thinking Education, which employs the skills of empathy, analysis, creativity, and testing to “take the interdisciplinary learning of STEAM to the next level by bringing real-world problems to the educational process. Design thinking is the driving process of innovation at many companies around the world and fits perfectly with the BIS mission. We hope that this will lead to more students choosing to pursue fields in the sciences and engineering while at the same time making students who were already inclined towards the sciences and engineering more creative.”
Bringing real-world expertise into school life was the principle behind another successful BIS initiative. At the suggestion of two alumni, in 2016 Bavarian International School launched an annual series of talks and conferences operating under the motto “Believe. Inspire. Succeed.”
The BeInSp!red series consists of a TED-style education summit for Grade 9 to 12 students, held at the Haimhausen campus every October. Inspirational short lectures are given by influential and agenda-setting speakers from the fields of education, science and international business. “The diversity of the guest speakers helps us as students expand our vision,” said one student after the 2017 series.
A partner event, the BeInSp!red City Talk, takes place at the city campus every spring. Alongside talks by leading figures in business and higher education, there are informal discussion groups with attendees and the visiting experts. “For participants like me,” said one City Talk guest after the 2017 talk, “these events emphasised the need to engage business and entrepreneurial leaders more actively in the educational context.” As Sorensen explains, “The aim of the event is the exchange and dialogue of interdisciplinary competences to inspire education experts. With the City Talk, BIS creates a stage for ideas, visions and people who inspire and shape the future of education.”
It’s all part of the BIS philosophy of integrating the arts and sciences, inspiring open dialogue and connecting the school and its students with the local community and the wider world.