How to choose the right secondary school for your child
Academics, languages, qualifications, values – weighing the criteria to find the best fit!
When searching for the right secondary school, it is important to understand that not only is your child joining the school, but the school is also joining your family: for the next eight years we are going on a journey of growth and change together, the impact of which will last a whole lifetime. So, no pressure there!
Choosing the right school need not be daunting however: you have an understanding of your child, and with a little research, you can also acquire an understanding of any prospective schools you look at: exam pass rates and university destinations of alumni are readily available, and a good start. But the ‘feel’ of an institution is also vitally important: does it promote values that you share? Does daily life in the school provide an environment that fosters healthy personal development? To answer these questions, you will need to read through the school’s website, attend information events, meet with the leadership, talk to parents already at the school, and visit the campus.
On our international, bilingual campus, our International Secondary School, the English-language school section, guides students towards the IB Diploma, while the Gymnasium bilingual + leads students through the German curriculum to the Abitur, with an extensive English-language program. As an international school – and an IB World School – that incorporates German into the center of our curriculum, IFK/CIS International Secondary School is uniquely positioned in the Cologne area to help international families adjust, embrace and enjoy life in the country. And we see that the reverse is also true: our German families receive an international education experience that opens doors all around the world while still being connected to their roots.
We are a school that has long embraced the power of technology to drive our quest for an individualised education experience: our online learning platform enables students and their families to have constant access to lesson content and resources, teacher feedback and reports. This has always been useful, but during the pandemic has enabled us to easily maintain a full curriculum at a high standard.
English is the language of instruction in the International Secondary School, so when students join, we do an English assessment to help us understand what each student’s developmental needs are. We can then provide extra support where necessary. German is taught as an additional or a native language, depending on the students’ previous knowledge and level of proficiency. As we share our campus, extracurricular activities and other programs with our sister school, the Gymnasium, our students are immersed in a bilingual learning environment.
We use programmes provided by Cambridge International and the International Baccalaureate, the pre-university course being the IB Diploma. This is a demanding course that we see time and time again is great preparation for university. In addition to studying six academic subjects (typically three to a higher level and three to a standard level), students must also design and perform community service tasks, write a 4,000 word essay on a topic of their choosing, and develop an understanding of the ‘Theory of Knowledge’.
As an inclusive school, we do not have academic requirements for entry. We do expect students to embrace an ethos where hard work and cooperation have a high value, however.
If you are looking to place your child in Grade 5, this may all seem very far away and somewhat fantastical – but the years do march on, and 10 year olds have a habit of turning into 18 year olds. Together we can make sure that these years of growth and change are positive and constructive: our alumni are multilingual, respectful, critical thinkers who are multicultural world citizens. And that is something to celebrate!
Shaun Roberts, International Secondary School
To find out more about our International Secondary School and bilingual Gymnasium, contact our Admissions Office to schedule an individual appointment.