Education: It's an investment

THE NUMBER of schools offering an English language curriculum is increasing in Slovakia. This could be linked to the arrival of foreign investors and their children. Or it could be that modern Slovaks want their children attending English language schools as well.

THE NUMBER of schools offering an English language curriculum is increasing in Slovakia. This could be linked to the arrival of foreign investors and their children. Or it could be that modern Slovaks want their children attending English language schools as well.

English language schools are generally thought of as offering high quality, private education. As such, they are becoming an extremely interesting option for Slovaks willing and able to make the investment.

In fact, Slovak students are the majority at most private international schools. Of five major institutions contacted by The Slovak Spectator, only QSI Bratislava reports a different demographic. Korean students make up their biggest student group.

The British International School (BIS) in Bratislava currently has 420 students, up from 300 last year. Thirty percent are Slovak.

According to BIS, the jump in enrolment was a one-time phenomenon. "We do not expect such a high increase again. We do think that year-on-year increases will continue but on more stable levels," said Barbora Kanclířová, the school administrator at BIS.

BIS provides preschool through high school education. In September 2005, it started teaching AS and A-Level courses, examination units of the University of Cambridge International Examinations group. Yearly tuition ranges from Ł3,800 to Ł7,300 (€5,600 to 10,800), depending on the type of education.

Forel International School currently serves 100 students. The majority of its students are Slovaks or children of mixed nationalities.

Forel's director, Zarin Buckingham, thinks English language schools are becoming more popular among Slovaks because of curiosity. "I think that many schools will start offering an English language curriculum and people will try them out. Depending on the quality, price and location, some of the schools will be very successful and some will not."

Forel positions itself as a private school focussing on quality education in a friendly environment with added benefits, such as on-site activity clubs. Forel offers preschool through high school education and charges from Sk150,000 to Sk255,000 (€3,900 to €6,600) per year.

Galileo School is a newcomer on the English language instruction scene. Andrea Karbanová, one of the school's founders, told The Slovak Spectator that Slovaks are starting to think of education as an investment. So far Galileo has 60 students, all Slovak. It provides elementary school instruction in English. An English language high school programme is one of the school's future goals.

Karbanová said that in addition to teaching in English, Galileo practices its own teaching methodologies. For example, PCs are integrated as teaching tools in all subjects. "The children use what they learn to discover something new," she said. At Galileo, tuition ranges from Sk100,000 to Sk130,000 (€2,600 to €3.400) per year.

QSI Bratislava has 231 students registered for the 2005-2006 school year. Enrolment has been stable, with the biggest jump happening last year, when about 40 more students registered than the previous year. QSI Bratislava's director, Merry Wade, said that most of her students come from families who desire an American-style education for their children, as well as courses taught in English.

"Parents who want a school offering English language education using an American curriculum come to QSI. We also offer small classroom sizes and a caring, creative environment where students can experience success," said Wade.

QSI Bratislava students have an opportunity to earn the International Baccalaureate Diploma, the QSI Academic Diploma with Honours, the QSI Academic Diploma, the QSI Practical Diploma and the Slovak Maturita.

QSI Bratislava's students come from 22 countries. The largest student population is Korean; the second largest is Slovak. The school offers preschool through high school education. The yearly tuition ranges from about $5,000 to $12,000 (€4,000 to €9,600) depending of the type of education.

Four years ago, QSI opened a branch in Košice. According to its director, Ray Varey, student numbers are increasing every year.

"As the foreign business community builds here in Košice, people will seek alternatives to the Slovak state school system. QSI Košice is a very good choice. Slovak parents who want their children educated in English find the school attractive," he said.

This year, QSI Košice has 35 students - German, American, Slovak, Mexican, Macedonian and Belgian. Like QSI Bratislava, the Košice branch offers preschool through high school education. Tuition is approximately $12,000 (€9,700) per year.

State schools branch out

Slovak state schools are starting to see the benefits of offering international education programmes. One of them, Gymnázium Jura Hronca (GJH), has been offering an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme for 16- to 18-year-olds for 10 years. In September 2005, GJH expanded its offerings. It now provides the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP), also based on International Baccalaureate Organization standards.

"The Regional School Office in Bratislava came up with the idea of creating an international school within GJH, since we are the only state high school in Slovakia offering an IB Diploma Programme," Eva Žitná, deputy director for GJH international programmes, told The Slovak Spectator.

The school intends to fill the strict requirements of international investors, foreign diplomats and Slovak diplomats coming back from foreign missions who insist on quality, English language instruction for their children - and do so at a state school price.

About 40 students are enrolled in PYP; 60 in MYP and another 60 in the IB Diploma Programme. In the future, GJH is planning to double its number of students, to 300.

Four teachers from the US and Canada; several young Slovak teachers with a strong English language background; as well as former IB Programme teachers are on staff at GJH.

As the school is state financed, there is no tuition fee. Žitná says the school also uses funds from Foundation Novohradská, in which parents can contribute to cover some of the costs connected to teaching IBO Programmes.

Žitná pointed out that teaching in English is not the only difference between GJH international school and traditional Slovak schools. GJH distinguishes itself by adhering to IBO standards that stress less on developing encyclopaedic knowledge and more on fostering creativity and individual thinking.

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