International schools in Wroclaw

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Leon Susmanek, an honorary member of the Council of the Foundation for International Education in Wroclaw, talks to Barbara Deregowska about the need to provide more school places for children of foreigners.

The amount of foreign investment in Wroclaw keeps increasing and more foreigners are coming to the city from around world, bringing their families with them. Does Wroc³aw have appropriate schools for such children?

This investment boom in Wroclaw started over a decade ago. While in the beginning most foreign businesspeople came to Wroclaw on their own, even back in the mid-1990s it became obvious that the problem with education for foreign children would emerge sooner or later. Foreign partners in business talks more and more asked about international schools.

The Foundation for International Education was established in 1998 with the goal of starting a school like that under the patronage of foreign companies and honorary consulates operating in Wroclaw at the time. We opened the Wroclaw International School (WIS) in a building we took over from the city authorities and renovated. We became a member of the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) and the Council of International Schools, then we acquired rights to issue diplomas that are recognized around the world. Classes at the Wroclaw International School are conducted in English. The school syllabus is the same as everywhere in the world.

Establishing a school like that is fraught with considerable risk and responsibility. Does the satisfaction make it worthwhile?

It was not easy, that's for sure. When you open a school, you engage in a lot of different projects, some of them are very difficult to carry out. You need to have passion and that is something the Foundation people do have. You have to obtain certification for your school, compile the syllabus and provide appropriate textbooks and aids which comply with international requirements. Then you have to invite appropriately qualified teachers from across the world. The costs are enormous, but we succeeded!

We opened the school in 2002, at first we had seven students aged from five to seven. The first teachers arrived from Australia. More children kept coming and by the end of the school year, we had over 30 students and then we reached a point where the school became too small to accommodate everybody. We decided to enlarge our building, managing to increase its size four times in just eight months. We built two new gyms, a theater room, labs and all the necessary facilities. Just as we thought we had modernized the school for years to come, the school was full again in just six months.

Would it be right to say that without the international school for children of foreigners, there would not be so much investment in Wroclaw?

This is exactly what I heard from Rafal Dutkiewicz, the mayor of Wroclaw, when I asked him for help after the school had turned out to be too small again. The city and the foundation resolved to join forces to save the day together and renovate another building, to which we moved around 70 children from the youngest grades. Today, in the two buildings of the Wroclaw International School we teach over 130 students from 30 countries. Their age ranges from elementary school age through the end of junior high. There is a new idea to open a large Center for International Education in two years, providing education for 900 children and young people from preschoolers to high school graduates.

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Source: the Wroclaw Voice

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