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Frequently asked questions

For expatriate parents, the choice of an international school is a critical one. We believe that international parents new to Düsseldorf should investigate all the educational options available to their children before making a final decision. To assist this process, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions.

How to choose the right international school

For expatriate parents, the choice of an international school is a critical one. We believe that international parents new to Düsseldorf should investigate all the educational options available to their children before making a final decision. To assist this process, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions.

1. Who accredits the school?
For new parents, accreditation is an important reassurance of quality. New parents need to ask which organizations do the accreditation, what form the inspections take, and how often they occur.

ISD is the only school in Düsseldorf that carries full accreditation from the Council of International Schools. The Council of International Schools (www.cois.org) is a worldwide organization responsible for some 660 international schools. Of these, only 340 carry full accreditation. CIS accreditation compels a school to commit to a programme of continuous improvement. The accreditation process works through a ten-year cycle involving three inspections by trained external evaluators and extensive documentation of all school processes, from curriculum to safety to finances, which is externally assessed against CIS standards. ISD has successfully completed four accreditation cycles (one of only 16 such schools worldwide).

Because of the large American population, ISD also maintains an American accreditation. The school is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

ISD’s Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma programmes are authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization (www.ibo.org). This involves the initial authorization process (similar to the accreditation process) in each programme and regular (five year) reviews.

Additionally, ISD is certified as “German Ersatzschule” by the state of North-Rhine Westphalia.

2. What curriculum is offered?
New parents need to ask where the school’s curriculum comes from, how regularly it is reviewed, and how transferable it will be to the child’s next school or university.

ISD is authorized to offer all three of the International Baccalaureate Programmes (Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme and Diploma Programme). The IB Programmes are the most widely used programmes in international schools worldwide and their use is growing rapidly in many independent and state schools in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. The IB Diploma is very highly regarded by universities around the world.

3. Is the school set up as a not-for-profit organization?
If the school is set up as a not-for-profit organization, then parents can be assured that all of their tuition money goes to the students – none is used for company profit.

ISD is the only not-for-profit international school in Düsseldorf.

4. What is the ratio of teachers to students?
There is extensive research evidence to show that the size of the class in which your child is learning has a significant bearing on the effectiveness of that learning. New parents should ask about the student:teacher ratio (but be careful – some schools include administrators, teacher aides, etc.) and the class size policy.

At ISD, the student:teacher ratio is 8.38 to 1. “Teacher” means fully trained and qualified teachers, who are employed to teach students in the classroom – it does not include teacher aides, principals, admission managers, etc. Our class size policy stipulates a maximum of 22 students per class. Our average class size is 16-18 children.

5. How are the faculty selected?
Teacher quality and training is another critical predictor of learning effectiveness. In an international school, it is important to maintain a high quality teaching team with a range of ages, genders and nationalities.

Administrators at ISD travel to international school recruitment fairs in Europe, the United States, Australia, and the Middle and Far East to recruit the best possible teachers. Almost all ISD teachers have qualifications at Masters level or higher. ISD teachers come from 21 different countries, with the majority from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

6. Where do the students come from?
An international school can better reflect international ideals and perspectives if a wide range of nationalities is represented among the students.

ISD students come from 50 different nationalities. Our five largest groups are Germany (25%), USA (13 %), Japan (12 %), United Kingdom (7 %) and Netherlands (6%).

7. To what extent does the school welcome parent input?
For effective learning to take place, teachers, students, and parents must all be active participants. Parents must be able (and welcome) to speak directly to their children’s teachers whenever they need to.

At ISD, frequent communication between parents and teachers, parents and administrators, and parents and Board Members is actively encouraged.

8. Will my children be safe at the school?
All parents need to feel their children are safe and secure, particularly in these troubled times.

ISD employs two full-time security guards. Both men have extensive security training and experience. ISD facilities are monitored with CCTV coverage. All Elementary School parents and all staff are issued with photo ID badges.ISD employs two registered nurses. Both are English-speaking and have extensive experience in the Düsseldorf area. These are people whom new parents go to with questions like “Where can I find a good orthodontist who speaks English?”

9. Does the school provide counselling and guidance services?
An overseas posting can provide a stressful environment for children and for families. Adequate counselling resources are essential. Entry into university is a difficult process made even more so by the fact that international students will be seeking entry into one or more of a large number of possible university systems. College guidance resources need to be more extensive than those you would find in a national school.

ISD employs full-time personal counsellors in the Elementary and Senior Schools. In addition, ISD employs full-time university admission counsellors for European, American, UK, Canadian  and Australian universities. ISD also has experienced guidance personnel to assist students with applications to German and Japanese universities.

10. Where do the graduates go?
A school with a good track record for university applications has a better chance of guiding your children successfully towards university.

In recent years, ISD students were offered places at Imperial College London, King’s College London, London School of Economics, Royal Holloway, University of Bath, University of Edinburgh and 40 other UK universities, Universität Zürich, American University, Cornell University, Northwestern University, Georgetown University, College of William and Mary, University of Southern California, University of British Columbia, McGill University, Bishops University, as well as many major European and Japanese universities.

11. Is there provision for children with special educational needs?
This question is particularly important for parents whose children need learning support. New parents should ask about learning support resources, procedures, and admission policy.

At ISD we have Learning Support teachers in Elementary and Senior School. We do not have the capacity to deal with severe special needs, and our policy precludes admitting students for whom we cannot offer a programme. We do not admit children to ISD unless they will benefit from the ISD programme.

12. What about sports and after-school activities?
For children, the most difficult part of adjusting to an overseas posting is often the after-school hours. Away from their old friends and activities, afternoons and weekends can be long and lonely at the start. Parents should ask about sports and activities, but be sure to also ask about safety and supervision during these activities.

At ISD, we participate locally and internationally in most sports, with soccer, volleyball and basketball being the major sports. We take part in tournaments at other international schools in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Sports teams range from the under-eights to Varsity. Our Speech and Debate teams compete throughout Europe. Model United Nations takes place annually. After-school activities cover everything from acrobaties to Judo and Hip Hop dance to Rugby. All activities are supervised. Chaperones accompany all sports trips. Medical facilities are present at all sports tournaments.

13. How does the curriculum respond to modern educational research?
98% of what we now know about how children learn has been discovered in the past two years. Our children will graduate into a world totally different from the present one, and absolutely nothing like the world their parents graduated into – they will be applying for jobs that have not yet been invented. We cannot educate in the same way their parents were educated.

Regular curriculum review is a feature of all IB curricula. At ISD, we follow a curriculum review cycle to ensure that all curricula are thoroughly reviewed and updated every four years.

All ISD teachers are required to attend IB training workshops in their subject areas every three years as a minimum requirement. Most ISD teachers experience significant training every year. Some twenty ISD teachers are currently studying for their first or second Masters degree – two are presently writing PhDs.

At ISD, we are a learning community.

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