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Small Classes, Individual Teaching Mark German System

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Wednesday, January 10th, 2007 (21, Dhul Hijjah, 1427)

K.S. Ramkumar, Arab News

JEDDAH, 10 January 2007 - It’s nearly 8 o’clock in the morning. Nine-year-old Andre Mueller gets off the bus, passes the school gate of the German International School and returns the teacher’s greetings with a smile. He will meet this teacher again in one of the next lessons. And Andre looks forward to that.

He still remembers the time when he attended kindergarten and pre-school on the school’s premises with friendly and warm-hearted teachers. Those days, he had his first encounter with the English language. Now a few years later he has mastered English quite well, using the language easily in his everyday life.

Andre’s five classmates come from different countries, but they all speak German. Their parents have deliberately chosen a German school education for them - they have heard a lot about things that are made in Germany and, secondly, there are many German schools all over the world and so being part of this system could be advantageous for the child’s future.

Andre does not want to imagine being in a class with 25 or even 30 students.

"I appreciate the personal learning environment where teachers have enough time for each student and their individual needs and questions," Andre says. He enjoys the privilege of being in a classroom with minimum students.

The school bell rings and students and teachers rush into their classrooms. Classroom topics, discussions, project work and the needs of the students are among the activities on the day’s agenda.

Andre’s official school day ends at 1:15 p.m., but he stays for another two hours at the premises, taking part in study groups, ball games and arts. He also learns to play the guitar. He and his classmates appreciate the way they are supervised while they do their homework at school.

The school conducts interactive programs all through the academic year with professors, scientists and researchers visiting it periodically. A world recognized scientist, Professor Manfred Spitzer, medical director and chairman of the newly established Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Ulm (Universitatsklinik fur Psychiatrie) in Germany, is visiting the school on Jan. 14, a day after the school officially reopens for a new session. He will give a public lecture at the school the same evening. His research activities focus on the interface between cognitive neuroscience and psychopathology, using multimodal neuro-imaging techniques.

Founded 30 years ago, the German International School is one of 117 official German schools around the globe, including one in Riyadh.

German schools abroad teach German children, as well as German speaking students from all over the world, bringing them together with their different cultures and languages in one classroom. The families have one thing in common - they want to be part of the German school system, because they are convinced of the advantages and values of this system. "And the school tries its best to make it possible for non-German speaking children to attend the German school and help acquire the necessary language skills," Friedrich added.

German schools abroad teach and educate according to the German curriculum. Their exams and qualifications are accepted from every school in Germany as well as from any other official German school abroad. German government representatives regularly monitor to see that education and training are of high quality.

The local German school lays emphasis on language training, among many others aspects of education. In pre-school, the children start with English and in Class 1 they have four lessons per week with native English speakers. In Class 6, they take up French, also taught by a native speaker. Arabic is, of course, also taught - one advanced level for Arabic as first language speakers and one more basic level for Arabic as a foreign language learners.

Small classes, individual teaching and education remain the hallmark of the German school system. "Our teachers have these first-hand experiences. When they compare their educational work back in Germany in big classes with 25 to 30 students with the possibilities they have here in Jeddah, they are thrilled to be in a place where they can really put their pedagogical principles into everyday practice in small and individual classes," Friedrich added.

The local German school, which has the support and cooperation of the German Consulate General, also offers German language courses for adults. People from different nationalities come together to learn and practice German, from beginners to advanced levels on some evenings every week.

"All these schools are supported, both financially and with teaching staff, by the German government. Locally, they are organized by school boards, consisting of parents and volunteers from the school community, like many other international schools," says school Deputy Headmaster Thomas Friedrich.

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