Munich International School

Fuzzy wuzzy education - confidence in an international education in Germany

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A team from a small international school in Germany visited Munich International School (MIS) recently. Their shareholder proudly exclaimed that the School’s curriculum, which is franchised from an international provider, is particularly strong in maths and science. [Contributed by Munich International School]

In any classroom in any school around the world using this standardised curriculum, the students have exactly the same lesson on the same day. He was horrified when he learned that MIS does not have a similarly structured curriculum with predetermined content.

Rather, learning at MIS is organised around concepts and approaches to learning skills. Content is selected flexibly to allow for the exploration of the concepts and practice of the target skills. 

“That’s fuzzy wuzzy”, he blurted out.

Education at Munich International School

Yes, Munich International School is different. Many parents realise this when they compare MIS to their own schooling, or to the school systems from which their children have transferred. I am not an educator, and I struggle with much of the pedagogic jargon. But over time I have come to better understand the MIS education by watching my four children and through work on the Board of Directors. What follows are my personal observations on what I value about teaching and learning at MIS.

When I was at school, I studied and was tested on many niche topics in much detail, organised by subject, most of which I never encountered again in my adult life. Conventional education delves deep into individual disciplines.

An education at Munich International School, however, embeds learning in a broader context by looking outward from these disciplines to inform students’ lives. Think of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) Units of Inquiry (e.g. “How We Organise Ourselves”, “Sharing the Planet”, “Where We are in Time and Place”), which are explored across maths, literacy, German, music, art, PE and library. The MYP One World essays require students to apply scientific concepts to a real-world problem and its solution, including an assessment of the usefulness or limitations of the science (e.g. “How Can Microbes Help Humanity?“). For her maths exploration in the Diploma Programme, my daughter analysed The Rule of 72 (a shortcut to estimate when a variable will double in time), and she tested its predictions against data on population and cell phone growth. Another student analysed the chemistry underlying a perfect cup of tea for her Extended Essay.

Underpinning this concept-based curriculum are the Approaches to Learning skills. Ten essential skills address communication, collaboration, self-management, reflection, information and media literacy, and critical and creative thinking. At MIS, teachers explicitly teach these skills within the framework of their disciplines. Students assess their own skill levels, set goals for improvement and reflect on their progress in becoming more independent learners. It is difficult to predict what knowledge our children will need for their future lives, but it is clear that the Approaches to Learning skills will set them apart as able problem-solvers, good communicators, team players and self-motivated learners.

This type of learning (as well as teaching) is much harder than solving quadratic equations or defining photosynthesis perfectly in a test. It requires students to become good at asking questions, defining the scope of a problem they are trying to address, employing higher level thinking skills and pursuing further learning based on what they know so far.

MIS wants students to engage in learning activities that are relevant to them and help them make sense of their world, enable them to evaluate alternatives for decision-making and action, and open up further possibilities for building on their knowledge and understanding. Teachers at Munich International School are not imparters of knowledge, but facilitators of learning. Their job is not to teach subjects; it is to teach students.

Munich International School

Learning inside and outside the classroom

Learning outside of the classroom is an essential part of Munich International School, whether through the Athletics, After School Activities or Community and Service programmes. My son did well in his most recent Design Technology unit, and he remarked that Lego League taught him all he knows about design. He had signed up to play with bricks after school, but instead, the group took part in a Lego competition with the theme Nature’s Fury. The MIS team submitted a design proposal for storm shelters at a golf course, and he learned how to plan, investigate, design and evaluate with the group—all while under strict deadlines.

My daughter has played soccer for many years. When she was younger, her team was regularly defeated but they kept on going. This year, the Varsity Girls were champions at Sports Council of International Schools (SCIS). She’s learned the importance of perseverance, teamwork and commitment. She’s learned to manage her time and work to accommodate the frequent training and away trips. She’s learned the pleasure of physical exertion, tasted defeat and celebrated success. I wish my children would sign up for Model United Nations, or debating, or drama, or tree climbing, but there are only so many days in the week and too many fabulous activities on offer.

The MIS Foundation funds proposals from teachers, students and staff for activities in the area of arts and culture. My junior schooler keeps asking for the author Chris White to come again. My middle schooler was excited about the visit from adventure filmmaker, Anthony Bonello. At Arts Day, I facilitated a grade 11 class to choreograph a small dance performance. When I met this motley crew of fidgeting teenagers for the first time that morning, I was sceptical.

But the class proved amazingly effective at working together on the task. Our theme was Sky, and they brainstormed its properties, created corresponding movements, integrated these into a group piece and danced for the camera. Later, the whole school gathered on the field to perform together. The energy of moving in synchronicity with 1,300 people was electric and unforgettable. These are the visits and events that inspire and are remembered as highlights. The recently created Science Innovation Fund will help do the same in the area of the sciences.

I could go on about the importance the School lays on digital competence, the centrality of the MIS values/IB learner profile, cite numerous examples of how global-mindedness is promoted and wax lyrical about the stunning campus—and by the way, we also support our students in excelling in the Diploma exams and get into their universities of choice, worldwide. Beyond this, our students are as prepared as they can be for their future lives. It maybe ‘fuzzy wuzzy’ education to some, but I have every confidence that my children are well-served at Munich International School.

 

 

Contributed by Wanching Ang, Chair, Munich International School Board of Directors

Munich International School

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