The launch of a new school year is always an exciting time for faculty, staff, students, and parents. Everyone’s rested and refreshed from vacation. All the students’ supplies are freshly purchased, blank pages waiting to be inscribed with the evidence of learning and academic accomplishments. The school’s facilities have been given a loving shine. August and September feel full of possibility, with the promise of an exceptional school year just waiting to be fulfilled.
This fall, that promise seems even grander than usual at Geneva’s Collège du Léman, thanks to two significant developments that occurred since last spring. The first was the acquisition of the school in April 2015 by the renowned international education group, Nord Anglia Education, based in Hong Kong. The second was the school’s appointment of its new Director General, Mr. Thomas Schädler succeeds Mr. Yves Thézé, who decided to retire after the 2014 school year.
Mr. Schädler, who started in his new position on August 1, was hired for the directorship after an intensive international search for an appropriate candidate.
At the time, Mr. Schädler was the Director of l’École Suisse in Rome and held several international school directorship positions over the course of 23 years, which involved the supervision of six global campuses, from Berlin to the Bahamas.
Mr. Schädler was recruited, in part, because of his deep knowledge of the Swiss educational system, but there was another attribute and domain of experience that was equally important, according to Mr. Thézé: “He is an educator who knows how to build community.”
“The members of our school community were very impressed by the degree of diversity that characterizes Thomas’s experience,” said Mr. Thézé. That diversity includes Mr. Schädler’s own academic background: he holds two Masters degrees, one in educational leadership from the American university, Lehigh, and one in business administration from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. Also, Mr. Schädler was one of the visionaries who contributed to the creation of the THINK Global School, an exclusive, innovative high school that has been described as a borderless classroom (students live and study in three countries a year over the course of three years). The school is known internationally for its tight-knit community and its high-performing students, as well as its exceptional core and guest faculty and its immersive ‘in-thefield’ learning experiences. Though there is no direct relationship between CdL and THINK Global School, Mr. Schädler w ill inevitably be inspired by THINK Global School during his directorship at CdL, and draw on the THINK Global School network he helped to build.
Mr. Schädler’s career has taken him far and wide, but to return to Switzerland to direct Collège du Léman, which was founded in 1960, represents an exciting opportunity for him. “CdL is an extraordinary school,” he says, “its diversity of programmes, academic rigor, and quality of life offered to students are all without equal.” He says he is thrilled to be stepping into the directorship at this point in the school’s history; “this stage of its development is terribly stimulating,” he adds.
Mr. Schädler recognizes the opportunities— as well as some of the practical challenges—of leading the Collège du Léman. As a school that offers both day and boarding options, the Director General and his faculty and staff must manage two sets of students whose academic needs may be the same but whose beyond-the-classroom needs can be quite different. The student body, which is now at over 1900 in number, including over 200 boarding students, many of whom originate from countries other than Switzerland. In fact, the school’s student body includes 105 distinct nationalities. Mr. Schädler is fully aware of the level of support and services required by such a diverse student body, and is attentive to their individual needs, while ensuring that all students have access to the exceptional in-classroom opportunities afforded by the school.
In particular, Mr. Schädler wants to expand the school’s successful International Baccalaureate programme so that it includes greater emphasis on International Baccalaureate’s ‘Careerrelated Programme’ (IBCP). Designed for students ages 16-19, IBCP is intended to provide hands-on learning that can lead to an apprenticeship or other practical, career-oriented outcomes. Obtaining the IBCP, says Mr. Schädler, can offer the student up to one year of university credit.
Plenty of Collège du Léman students seem on track to do just that; last year, 97 percent of them passed their IB exam with a combined average score of 33.5 points. It’s an achievement Mr. Schädler hopes to maintain, if not build upon. As important, he says, is teaching students to formulate, recognize, and solve complex problems by choosing the right tools.
This kind of practical, 21st-century focus is likely to characterise Mr. Schädler’s tenure. “The future of education will require more agility, mobility and an expansive worldview,” he has said. Mr. Schädler has also stated that he is deeply invested in maintaining the school’s tradition of bilingualism while continuing to offer a rich variety of language learning options. Similarly, he is fully aware of the importance of life outside the classroom for all students, whether day learners or boarders, and he supports the array of extracurricular activities from which students can choose, including sailing. Over the years, Collège du Léman has nurtured close ties with local sports associations, among them Club Nautique de Versoix. CdL Athletics has a long history of sports excellence, with football and basketball as the pilars of the competition program. In basketball, CdL’s all age group boys and girls teams, have won more 1st place t itles than a ll other fellow member Swiss Schools combined. Football has also achieved remarkable results in CdL’s storied history, including 2 recent national level titles by their girls’ teams.
This kind of can-do spirit and winning attitude have long characterised Collège du Léman, and with Mr. Schädler at the helm, will likely continue to be among the school’s most remarkable attributes. Loving the school where one studies is certainly among the predictors for future success, and Mr. Schädler intends to uphold the successes of the past while expanding opportunities for the future.
Article by Julie Schwietert Collazo