A bilingual education can set your child up for life, helping them develop their language skills while gaining internationally recognised qualifications.
In our Q&A, Bart De Roeck, Headmaster at the International School of Leuven, touts the benefits of providing younger students with foreign language skills, and explains here why the advantages of an early exposure to different cultures cannot be overstated.
Q: How did you end up in international education?
A: I have been working in education for over 23 years now. I started out as a teacher before becoming head of a local school here in Flanders, but international education has always fascinated me. When I got the opportunity to start up this brand new International School of Leuven, I obviously jumped at the chance.
Q: What are the key merits of taking up a language early on in life?
A: When young children are exposed to different languages at an early age, they will feel comfortable growing up in a world where different cultures and languages intertwine on a daily basis. Equally, young kids just love to learn, especially when it’s done in a fun way! There are so many ways of introducing a new language to young students, like nursery rhymes, songs, games etc.
Q. What do you say to parents who are afraid that introducing a new language when the first one isn’t fully developed may be too challenging?
A: For most children, the introduction of a new language is very organic. Children’s minds constantly process new information, so the best time to learn new languages is definitely at that young age, when their brain is flexible and completely open to new structures.
Q: How many languages are spoken amongst the student body at IS Leuven?
A: At the moment, we have 24 different nationalities on campus, so the diversity in languages is enormous. We have families coming from all over the world, though some of our most common nationalities at this moment are Korean, Japanese, Indian and US citizens.
Q: What is your goal as an international educator?
A: We want to create an inspirational learning environment, with an international curriculum to pre-primary and primary students with a range of bilingual components. Belgium has an extensive community of expats, as well as local students who are returning from or are preparing for a spell abroad, so international schooling aspires to help young learners become self-assured world citizens.
Q: What is a ‘world citizen’ to you?
A: A world citizen appreciates and values the diversity of the cultures in this world. One of the reasons our school chose to work with the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) is that International Mindedness is present in every aspect of the curriculum.
Q: What are the long-term advantages of an early international education?
A: With an increasingly international job market, as well as the enduring appeal of pursuing a university education abroad, the international school system represents an excellent starting point for new generations of students preparing for a global world. The earlier you enter that international school system, the better prepared you are.
Q: What would be your advice to your students as they prepare to graduate from your school?
A: My advice for students graduating from ISL is to have big dreams and ambitions and never be afraid to fail. At ISL, we really work hard on building our students’ confidence, focusing on every individual student’s strengths so that they are more than ready to move on to new adventures after finishing Grade 6!
Bart De Roeck has been working in education for 23 years: first as a teacher, then a headmaster. His passion for international education led him to open the International School Leuven in 2013.
International School Leuven / Expatica