When considering a relocation, an important factor for potential expats with children is, how will the move affect the child(ren) and where will they attend school? Because of this, companies looking to attract foreign employees feel that access to an international education is important. Fortunately, this access is available for Primary students in Ghent.
In 2010, The University of Gent, Volvo, VIB, and Barco suspected that the presence of an International School in Ghent (not existent at the time) would make an international relocation to Ghent more attractive for the foreign talent they were recruiting. They worked with Deloitte to conduct a feasibility study which confirmed that, while there were International Schools in Brussels and Antwerp, there wasn’t a sufficient International School option servicing East or West Flanders, and that the need for one existed.
With Ghent’s central location in Flanders and its reputation for being a diverse, international city, it was the perfect location to fill this need. Thus, the four entities became the founding members of the International School Ghent (ISG), a Primary School serving East and West Flanders. The school provides an international education, taught in English, following a curriculum that is recognized on a global scale.
The International School Ghent opened in 2012 with nine pupils. For two years, it was located above a Flemish school. At that point, it outgrew that space and moved to a location in the Leopoldskazerne for another couple of years. Continued growth made it apparent that the school was ready for its own, permanent facility.
At that time, Stad Gent became a supporting member of ISG by providing a one-time €750,000 subsidy to assist with the construction of a new building, and by providing a 50-year lease of space on University of Gent grounds for the building. ISG’s headmaster, Maija Lusher says, “this support acknowledges the value the city places on having it [the international school] here,” particularly for its service to expats and companies who wish to attract foreign talent with families to the city.
With this support, ISG now has a permanent home in Ghent, south of the city center, with space to continue to grow. The new building opened in 2016 and can accommodate 150 pupils in Primary levels, from age 2 ½ to 12 years.
ISG’s mission statement reads: “ISG is a supportive and caring community where pupils of all nationalities, religious and cultural backgrounds are challenged to become active and open-minded learners and pursue academic and personal excellence.”
ISG delivers the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) which is used in more than 1,800 schools in more than 90 different countries. ISG also uses the UK Curriculum for literacy (reading) and numeracy (mathematics).
The use of the IPC is an attractive offering for many families, be they foreign families on an expat assignment in Flanders, or Belgian families preparing for, or returning from, foreign assignments elsewhere. ISG enables families to start or continue their children on an international curriculum so that they can seamlessly carry on with their education before, during, and after relocations.
Families also find it attractive that the school teaches in English and can work with pupils who speak English as a second (or third or…) language. The school offers small class sizes which, among other teaching and learning benefits, allows for teachers to personalize their work with pupils to account for each student’s different proficiencies in English.
The IPC is designed to equip children with skills and knowledge for the 21st century through an integrated way of learning. Pre-Primary classes use crafts, role-playing, and social games that are integrated by different topics. Primary classes learn in units with a central theme that extends into all subject areas. This allows them to make connections between the subject areas, and to recognize that all learning has context.
The IPC puts an emphasis on the knowledge that pupils are acquiring and the skills they are developing. “Those skills and knowledge combined create deeper understanding,” explains Lusher.
In addition to the standard curriculum, ISG pupils receive weekly lessons in Dutch, music, swimming, and sports. Pupils also have the opportunity to participate in after-school clubs in order to explore other interests like Lego Robotics, sports, dance, other foreign languages, and more.
Along with the academic curriculum, ISG focuses on the development of personal and social values with the following goals in mind: enquiry, adaptability, resilience, morality, communication, thoughtfulness, cooperation, and respect. “These skills are equally important to develop confident, respectful, well-rounded citizens,” says Lusher.
The ISG Community
ISG serves pupils and families who represent between 30 and 40 different nationalities. Many, but not all, live in Ghent. Parents work for companies that are equally spread out across East and West Flanders.
The teachers and staff at ISG also represent a number of different nationalities, bringing international education experience to the school. With their experience, according to Lusher (who is herself an expat, originally from New Zealand), “they come together with a shared philosophy about teaching and learning within an international setting.”
The school has an active Parents’ Association which plans events throughout the school year for the ISG Community. Events include an International Festival, BINGO night, Coffee Mornings, Teacher Appreciation Day, and more.
Spend any time at all in an ISG classroom, walking the halls, weaving amongst the children playing on the playground, or attending the lively and colorful school events and you will see, the families and staff at ISG embody the mission of being a supportive and caring community which respects and values diversity.
Anyone with an interest in an international education for their children which uses an internationally recognized curriculum, taught in English, should consider the International School Ghent.
Families who are interested in learning more about ISG can contact the school by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (+32 9 221 23 00) to arrange an in-person visit or Skype meeting. Enrollment can occur at any time during the year. Tuition and fees are listed online here. Enrollment requirements and a contact form to begin the enrollment process is available on the ISG website here.
Individuals with experience in primary education who are seeking employment or volunteer opportunities with ISG can view vacancies here, or can contact the school directly.
The International School Ghent is located at De Pintelaan 258, 9000 Ghent. It is easily accessible by car from all main roads (E17, R40, R4, and N60); by tram (lines 4 and 21 to Gent De Pintelaan); and by bus (Gent UZ – De Pintelaan or Gent Universitair Ziekenhuis). Please contact the school to make an appointment before visiting.