International school in Belgium

The 9 characteristics of high-performing schools in Belgium and around the world

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What makes an effective school? Is there something that sets high-performing schools apart? Research indicates that yes, high-performing international schools have nine characteristics in common. [Contributed by ISF Waterloo]

We’ll look at each characteristic and show how ISF Waterloo, a small international school in Belgium with 200 students, strives to fulfil these goals to improve student achievements.

1. Clear and shared focus

If everyone in an international school community is working towards the same vision and mission, and each person knows the role they play, research indicates students attain better results, since everyone is moving in the same direction.

At ISF Waterloo, we have a clear and shared focus. We are truly international; with 49 nationalities and eight religions on campus, it is important that our whole school community shares the same values and aspirations for our children. With the children, we reinforce our goals through tutorials and assemblies while allowing us to recognise student achievement and embrace student presentations and performances. We communicate our goals to parents through curriculum evenings and weekly communications.

2. High standards and expectations for all students

Setting high expectations for every student is essential in high-performing international schools in Belgium and beyond. To do so, schools must teach children how to work hard and equip them with skills to overcome adversity and rise to challenges.

High expectations are set for every ISF student, and we understand that all children in our school are individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences and learning preferences—but our lessons and teaching strategies cater to this. We believe in our students, and more importantly, we want them to believe in their own abilities, raising their aspirations to do well in all areas, whether academic or extracurricular.

3. Effective school leadership

Research indicates leaders need to be visible, accessible and able to build leadership and responsibility within the whole team.  ISF has an open-door policy, which allows for easy communication between all stakeholders. ISF strives to build leadership capacity at all levels—and that includes the students as well, equipping them with the skills and the opportunities to make a difference.

4. High levels of collaboration and communication

Collaboration and good communication have been found to be characteristics in all high-performing schools, and not only for students and teachers but with parents and administrators. Collaboration and communication are also part of the ISF Waterloo school culture. There is strong teamwork among teachers across all grade levels, and teachers and parents work in harmony to solve problems and make improvements. Our Secondary student council work alongside our PTA to improve the school and organise great events.

Schools in Belgium

5. Relevant curriculum, instruction and assessments

The curriculum of effective schools is up to date and has a global perspective. More importantly, the instructional strategies and how the lessons are differentiated play a factor in the success of the students. At ISF we follow the IPC curriculum in Primary and the Cambridge Programme in Secondary; both programmes are recognised internationally. We are a Google for Education school, using the G Suite apps to enhance learning in all areas of the curriculum using 21st-century skills.

6. Frequent monitoring of learning and teaching

Effective schools ensure that assessments are used for learning. Students understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process, and it will determine the way forward. At ISF Waterloo, students get regular feedback on how they are progressing and how they can improve; they are also given the time to go over areas that they have not understood. We use student data to inform determine the next steps for each child. Our teachers meet in teams to discuss student learning and how it can be improved.

7. Focused professional development

Professional development and training is part of the culture of high attaining schools. The staff is committed to learning new strategies and keeping up to date with current research. One of ISF’s missions is to encourage life-long learning, and our staff is no exception—continued professional learning is an expectation of every staff member. As a team, we decide on school training priorities, and teachers are also able to complete courses in the areas they would like to further develop.

8. A supportive learning environment

A common characteristic of effective schools is classrooms where children feel safe to learn. They have support if they experience difficulties in academic aspects as well as social and emotional well-being. ISF classrooms are warm, inviting and personalised, and there is always a positive learning environment. We value respect. Our small class sizes increase student contact with teachers and the opportunity to actively participate.

9. High levels of family and community involvement

High-performing schools work closely with the parents and the community to provide the best possible opportunities for their students. At ISF, the education of children means teamwork. We encourage parents and families to get involved in the learning process as well as in school life. We have a PTA, which organises events to bring our community together and also raises money for the school. We also partner with businesses in Belgium to provide authentic work experience opportunities for our Secondary students.

For more information or to organise a tour of ISF Waterloo contact or 32 (0)2358 5606



Contributed by ISF Waterloo

ISF Waterloo



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