World-class IB education in Switzerland for young expats and locals
As the only school offering all three IB Programmes between Geneva and Lausanne, GEMS continues to grow into one of the top international schools in Switzerland. [Contributed by GEMS World Academy Switzerland]
From the moment it opened its doors in Etoy in 2013, GEMS World Academy Switzerland (GWAS) has set out to offer students, parents and families a different style of education in Switzerland. Part of a family-run, globally recognised network of 87 international schools with a 57 year heritage of academic excellence, the Swiss international school is one of only five in the GEMS Education network to have the premium 'World Academy' status.
Following this interview with the newly appointed Head of School Catherine McKeever – who has extensive experience in teaching and leading schools and who is new to GWAS but not to GEMS – the international school's monumental growth within the Swiss education system looks only set to continue.
When you talk about the school to parents and students, what do they comment on the most?
The most important aspect of the school that parents talk about is the high quality of teaching. This always comes through really strongly and parents feel passionate about it. That’s followed by our commitment to students’ wellbeing and happiness – we have our own Director of Student Wellbeing – and our families are welcome to use facilities such as the indoor swimming pools, fitness and dance studio and the World Language Learning Centre (WLLC). Students love the level of technology they use in class and how it enhances their learning, our extensive offering of after school activities and our Sports Centre. And everyone loves the food in our restaurant!
Can you tell us a bit more about the teaching and learning?
We have over 20 nationalities of highly qualified and dedicated teachers coming from a wide variety of international and IB experiences. From a curriculum standpoint, we are the only school in the La Côte region between Geneva and Lausanne that offers all three International Baccalaureate (IB) Programmes – that’s the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the Diploma Programme (DP). For our students, aged 3 to 18, this means a smoother transition between primary and secondary school and by the time that they arrive at the Diploma Programme, they’re very familiar with what the IB expects from them.
At GEMS World Academy Switzerland it is as much about teaching students how to learn as it is in telling them what to learn. The approach is very much ‘inquiry-based’, which means that students learn to ask questions, think critically and challenge what they are told. Students appreciate that unlike a more traditional style of learning, the IB approach encourages two-way dialogue.
How important are languages at your school?
All of our programmes are taught in English, with French as a second language and then German and Spanish as third languages from age 11. The level of French instruction is adapted to individual needs as over 30 percent of our student base is currently mother-tongue francophone. All students are prepared throughout their schooling to be able to pursue a bilingual IB Diploma during their last two years should they choose to do so.
The World Language Learning Centre in school offers courses in more than 11 different languages and uses learning through drama techniques to build self-confidence. Courses are open not only to students and their families but also to the wider community, whether it is public school students wanting to take advantage of their free Wednesday afternoons to improve their English or business people wanting to learn another language in the evenings.
What are some other differences that GWAS offers?
In most schools, if children want to have music lessons, they usually have to do it when the school day ends. We make sure that these music lessons are integrated into the school day without sacrificing any of our students’ other key lessons.
In addition to having a Director of Student Wellbeing, who is responsible for making sure that student wellbeing is at the heart of the school, we also have a Parent Relations Executive and a strong Parental Engagement Programme. GWAS offers a welcoming and inclusive environment for parents to meet new people and make new friends. We encourage our parents, grandparents or brothers and sisters to come and join students for lunch in our restaurant, for example.
We also encourage students to understand their place in the wider world and to develop a social conscience by helping them lead and take part in charitable activities both in the local community and globally.
I am very proud to lead a school that produces not only well-educated young men and women but also well-rounded, well-balanced ones! At GEMS, we like to think that we are 'a school built around your child'.
Contributed by GEMS World Academy Switzerland
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.