Educational institutions, be they public schools or private facilities, must keep society’s evolution in mind in order to fulfil their mandate properly. One of the most important challenges of 21st century education goes beyond the frontiers of the classroom.
Like the Ice Age and the Black Plague, globalisation continues to transform human society, and is apparently unstoppable and without any apparent goal. Besides providing opportunities for making fortunes, it has also compelled educational institutions to take a long and hard look at their curricula to see how children and students can better deal with the new “multiplicity” – multiple cultures, multiple languages, multiple learning tools, multiple literacy and intelligence. By the same token, they, the schoolchildren are being asked to work in a more interdisciplinary manner.
An education of this type is necessary to create the kind of elites that the brave new world will require, and for all intents and purposes, the international schools are already, to a certain extent, ahead of the game by their very nature. They were originally conceived to cater to the needs of wealthy families working in diplomacy and trade in 19th-Century England. Today, they strive to address the complex needs of expatriated families navigating through a globalised world like rudderless ships, going from culture to culture as the winds of fortune happen to blow, the whole structure whipped into a frenzy by ever more efficient information technology.
In Switzerland, enrolment in private schools offering international education is on the rise. This success partly reflects the position of the country as an important international hub. However, there is no doubt that the international private schools’ dynamism, multi-cultural environment, bilingual and highly personalised and welladapted programmes and curricula are the reason today’s nomadic families gravitate towards them. The challenge for these families is how to choose the most appropriate school that will suit their particular situation and their children’s specific needs. In the Geneva area alone, 45 establishments are registered with the Geneva Association of Private Schools, a fact perhaps due, too, to the declining reputation of Geneva’s own public schools and schooling system.
The College du Léman, CDL, is one of those schools that is setting an example for the future. The presence of more than 100 nationalities in the campus already suggests a melting pot – a real picture of the global village, where respect and understanding for different cultures is a valued tradition. Bilingualism is at the heart of the school curriculum and there is an array of options for students when it comes to closing diplomas, the French Baccalaureate, the Swiss Maturité, or the International Baccalaureate (IB).
Yves Thézé, the new director of Collège du Léman, says that the aim of the school must be to “prepare each child for his future role as a world citizen.” To support this mission, the school has recently concluded a USD 20 million, three-year investment master plan supported by the Groupe Meritas. It covers renovations and the construction of new facilities, as well as hiring new staff to shore up its teaching and administrative services.
In his seminal Emile (1762), Jean- Jacques Rousseau (1712–1768), philosopher and writer, already suggested 350 years ago that education should encourage and follow the natural inclination of a child. A man who has been properly educated will be engaged in the society, he felt. A generation later, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1830), building on the works of Rousseau, stressed the importance of expression – the use of all the senses – and bringing out a child’s individuality in the process of learning. Time has passed and teaching technologies have evolved, but understanding the specific need of a child and providing the right environment remains a solid foundation in the journey of learning.
These pedagogical strivings are also at the heart of CDL’s investments. In addition to the new cafeteria, the construction of a sports and arts complex was started, to be completed in 2014. It will serve as a multi-purpose hall for up to 1200 people and is intended to boost the upcoming new IB in Sports, Music and Fine Arts programme. “Up to now, the school has been focusing on the major academic programmes but with the new plan, students who have inclinations in the arts such as music, dance, drama, visual arts and other related fields will be able to find their place,” says Thézé. CDL’s master plan of renovation of school buildings also includes dividing big classrooms into smaller ones so as to respond to the needs of highly-personalised teaching methods that involve a small number of students.
Since the children are “natives,” that is born in a digitally run world, Thézé wants to make sure that the many different new communication technologies (Internet, Ipad, smart pad, etc.) are well integrated as tools in a child’s learning process. “We have to explore the use of different kinds of technologies today and equip both our students and our teachers so that our kids will be prepared to face the need of their future professional lives,” he explains. Needless to say, the school welcomes children with “special needs and disorders,” such as dyslexia, anorexia or attention deficit syndrome. The director believes that integrating these children has become more important than ever. “Whatever the handicap is, I want each child to gain confidence and self-esteem in this school, I want smiles reflected in their faces,” says Thézé. “We want to make sure that we have the proper programme and competent staff to address their needs,” he adds.
The school grows
The Collège du Léman in Versoix is part of the Meritas Family of Schools, a global network of international schools. Since its foundation in 1960, the school has gained vast experience in international education. Its students’ population has grown to 2,200 and it has an important network of alumni all over the world.
In the coming three years, the expansion projects of the Collège du Léman will also require a new team of competent staff to run the programmes envisioned. The school foresees three important positions – director for the future department Fine Arts and Sports to cater to the new IB programmes;
director of Students Services to establish and run the “specialised curriculum” for students with a handicap and special needs; and director of the Boarding School, to explore the potential of this section especially considering that the Collège du Léman is the only international school with a boarding section in Geneva. For further information: www.cdl.ch
Article by Jane Demaurex