This summer, the German Swiss International School opens its new Peak campus. Rebecca Simpson went along to have a look.
The German Swiss school (GSIS) has enjoyed a long and successful history in Hong Kong. And this summer
sees yet another milestone, with the grand opening of its extensive, eight year-long refurbishment of the upper primary campus. Established in 1969 by German and Swiss families looking for a bilingual German/Swiss education for their offspring, the school first opened in a residential house at 1 Barker Road on the Peak. It grew, and in 1975 it opened its first ‘proper’ school building on Guildford Road. In 2007 the government awarded the school a second campus on Pok Fu Lam Road, which in 2010 became the permanent home to the kindergarten.
But for the last eight years, upper primary (six-ten year olds) has been operating out of temporary accommodation in Wan Chai, while the Peak buildings are refurbished. Next term sees the grand unveiling of this project, with new library facilities, a dedicated art and music department just for upper primary students, and new classrooms. It will also house a large, modern, multi-purpose area that can be reconfigured depending on the needs of different student and school events. The school prides itself on a fierce academic reputation. “We are academic as everyone knows, but we also provide an holistic experience”, says school principal Annette Brandt-Dammann. “We have a great approach to every single student. We have a good ratio and take time to give each child perspective, not just direction for academic development”.
This strong sense of identity and belonging, coupled with the school’s creative and sporting excellence, is a powerful combination, and the school fosters a strong sense of pride and belonging – a lifelong experience for many as the school hosts a strong alumni program and enjoys great success attracting support from ex-students. GSIS in Hong Kong is unique among Germany’s international schools. Here, the school offers two streams of education – one stream in German, reflecting German curriculum and taught in German.
“Applicants are not just assessed on academics – a wider portfolio of skills is essential these days.”
A second international stream is taught in English and follows a curriculum based on the British curriculum but extended and adapted to suit GSIS students. International stream students sit their IGCSE examinations in Year 11 before starting the IB Diploma Programme in their senior years. The split between the two streams is roughly one third in the German stream and two thirds of students in the International stream. There are currently around 30 nationalities within the student body and around 20 nationalities on the staff-role.
GSIS educates pupils ranging from two years-and-eight-months, through to those in their mid twenties at the school’s business college in Sai Ying Pun. While the playground language is English, German is a prevalent language in both streams. In the International stream, German is a compulsory subject from year two (approx seven years old). Children are also offered a third language option – of Mandarin or French. In the German stream, the students are offered a choice of English, Mandarin, French and Latin to study.
Getting a foot in the door
According to the school’s principal, “We only look at the child, it doesn’t matter their background or wealth. This is not of interest, every child has the same chance.” While the applicant’s family’s financial situation is not taken into account while being assessed, interested parents must note the cost to be assessed for this selective school is a non-refundable HK$4,300.
Each potential applicant is accessed not just on academic merit, but on their wider portfolio, such as communication and social skills. “As we know, the Ivy League schools are no longer just looking at applicants’ academic results. You have to have something to add on to the academics. Worldwide, and especially here in Asia, there are many academic achievers but that doesn’t make them the type of people who should be in leadership positions after University and beyond,” says Brandt-Dammann.
The school also fosters strong links with the wider community. “Parts of our social and charitable activities are student-led, parts are supported by teachers,” explains GSIS communications and relationships manager, Petra Loho. “The student council also picks one or two charities at the beginning of the school year to support.”
“This year we’ve worked a lot for Crossroads here in Hong Kong and on an international level we led some initiatives for children in Syria. As part of the IB program, the students have to do work beyond the classroom. Students also travel outside of Hong Kong to complete community service work. This has included teaching music to students in Cambodia, working with orphans from Katja House in Nepal and helping build a school in Thailand,” says Loho. According to year 10 student George Newick, who helped on the Thai school building project, this was an unforgettable experience. “There was a great sense of teamwork as we ferried the buckets of cement along our conveyor belt of students.
The gratification in seeing the building assembled from the materials we had raised money for was immense.” This year has also seen some 2016 impressive ‘upcycling’ initiatives. Earlier this year, students set out with Hong Kong based German artist, Liina Klauss, to create an upcycle communal art project. Klauss met them on a Lantau beach where they collected trash and colour-sorted their trash findings, using the rubbish to create a beautiful sculpture on the beach.
German Swiss International School
Number of students: 1,300
Curriculum: The German stream follows the German curriculum preparing students for the German International Abitur examinations. The English stream follows a curriculum based on the British curriculum but extended and adapted to suit students and the international nature of the school. Students are prepared for the IGCSE examinations in Year 11 before commencing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in the senior years.
Fees 2015/2016: $133,400 (Kindergarten) to $170,900 (Secondary).
Non refundable capital levy: N/A
Address: 11 Guildford Road The Peak, Hong Kong Tel: 2849 6216.