For more than 50 years, Munich International School (MIS) has been a pioneer in international education. But while there are many achievements to celebrate, the school is determinedly looking ahead to the future. To meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world, it has launched a new strategic plan to enable students to be the masters of their own learning processes.

“Jobs of the future will require students to continually learn new skills all the time,” says school head Timothy Thomas. “And the most powerful tool for the future that any school can give children is the ability to take control of their own learning. Rather than just communicating content to children, we’re helping them to formulate meaningful questions. Once they have identified these questions, learning units encourage students to investigate, research and experiment to discover solutions and possibilities.”

Skills for life

The skills that empower students to manage their own learning are also now central to the International Baccalaureate (IB), whose curriculum is followed by MIS. The school has been recognised as a leader in what the IB refers to as “Approaches to Learning”: a film on the IB’s website demonstrating its approach in action was made at MIS. “Our school is honoured to collaborate with the IB in piloting many of its programmes,” says Thomas. “The collaboration has benefited both organisations and supported MIS in its drive to be an educational innovator and incubator for best practices.”

MIS is parent-owned and not-for-profit. It was founded in 1966 by a group of organisations and companies that saw a need for international education in Munich. The school quickly outgrew its original location and in 1968 moved to its current campus – a former castle set in 26 acres on a nature reserve, with views of the Alps. Today, MIS caters for 1,200 students from age four to 18, with more than 65 nationalities represented. Facilities include a performing arts centre, an Olympic-sized track-and-field complex, and a languages, arts and design centre.

The school is currently creating a Makers’ Laboratory, providing the space and resources for students to explore, create and build their ideas. “It’s an opportunity to apply their learning in multiple disciplines to projects that inspire and captivate them,” says Thomas. “We want to nurture students’ imaginations and provide opportunities to develop their entrepreneurial skills.” Students are already engaged in a host of diverse “passion projects” – such as one boy who has designed and constructed a set of high-performance skis. Many access the tools and expertise they need off campus but the Makers’ Laboratory will make these more broadly available to all students.

Listening to students

Much of the school’s new strategic plan is based on time spent listening to its students, and Thomas says the close relationship between pupils and teachers is fundamental. Many students come from internationally mobile families, and teachers understand how to nurture students who are often on the move, creating an enriching experience from the cultural mix. The language of instruction is English and each student also learns German, as well as their mother tongue and additional languages like Mandarin, Spanish and French.

With over 50 years of expertise to call on, MIS already has much to be proud of, and with its innovative and ambitious approach to preparing for the future, it is set to continue its tradition of pioneering excellence in education.