A Tour ofGermany’s Bavarian International School

 Amy Sichel in Austria
AASA Past President Amy Sichel meets with Dr. Christine Sorenson at the Bavarian International School in Munich.

Munich, Germany—Can you imagine attending a school in the Haimhausen Castle which dates back to 1281? This large estate, a Baroque Castle, is home to the Bavarian International School (BIS) which is 10 kilometers north of Munich City, Germany. The school is headed by Dr. Christine Sorenson and is a pre-kindergarten to 12th grade comprehensive school with more than 1,000 students who speak more than 50 languages.

My husband Buzz saw a top-notch school from the facilities to the primary education program and the high school International Baccalaureate. Chrissie was a wonderful host and we shared our stories of educational leadership. It was a pleasure to learn the goals of this school are just like ours in the U.S. As Dr. Sorenson said, “We also understand that while academic rigor is important, a child needs a broad and balanced education in a secure and caring environment." That sure rings familiar.

The 1,000 students and staff are multicultural. Many of them are children of expatriates from around the world. They are children whose families are international businessmen and women, children whose parents attended international schools and of course, some locals. Most students attend on a tuition basis with some on financial assistance. Germany provides about 20 percent funding to BIS. There is a strong relationship with the local chamber of commerce and with businesses. The school has been in existence since 1997, so some of the alumni are now returning and building a network for fundraising.

The students, faculty and staff were warm and friendly as we toured the facility. The buildings and grounds were well maintained with students working and learning in the classrooms. A one-to-one laptop initiative occurs from the intermediate grades on through high school. An interdisciplinary approach is often used making connections to real-life learning. Students were eager to engage and teachers were pleased so show their work. I spent some time with the teacher of students who were in their first year at BIS and were learning in their "mother tongue.”

The program is based upon the International Baccalaureate (IB) so that the students are prepared upon graduation to attend colleges and universities around the world. For those students not headed onto higher education there is a diploma program where you may take a few IB courses in your areas of interest and strength. The teachers work in teams with a lot of professional development to ensure that they are both meeting the needs of students and providing best practices in a technology rich environment. Enrichment opportunities and service is emphasized as students understand the need to be responsible citizens in today's world. This was just realized by BIS hosting the International Wheel Chair Festival run by the students.

Buzz and I learned a lot and enjoyed our day at the Bavarian International School in Haimhausen, Germany. The more I travel and see international schools, the more I learn from the experiences while making educational friends along the way.

Guest blogger Amy Sichel is a past president of AASA and superintendent of Abington Schools in Abington, Pa. She is participating in this year’s International Seminar Delegation.

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