Ecolint is the second largest international school in the world, and birthplace of the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
Ecolint – short for Ecole Internationale de Genève – was founded in 1924 by local pedagogues keen to make learning more child-centric, and international civil servants from the ILO and League of Nations looking for educational alternatives for expatriate families like themselves. Starting with just eight children, working from the home of one of their founders, Ecolint now comprises eight school divisions, spread across three magnificent campuses in Geneva and Vaud, with 4450 students and 1300 staff.
The COVID‑19 pandemic has affected the way the school operates. How do you see the school after COVID ?
In many ways, the experience of COVID‑19 has reinforced the importance of what we already do so well and highlighted the unique value which schools bring to young people, which is much more than academic – developing their abilities to form productive and meaningful social and human relationships, whether that is with their classmates or with teachers and other staff.
COVID‑19 forced us to deliver our educational provision differently – using online tools – and the speed with which our staff rose to that challenge, and the outstanding feedback we have received from parents, is testament to the quality and dedication of our staff. It also demonstrates that should there be a second wave of confinement caused by COVID‑19 – or any other pandemic or major disaster – then Ecolint would be able to change gears seamlessly and move back to distance learning. Having now gained so much experience with these tools, it also seems inevitable that we will use them more often in future.
Virtual parent meetings for parents who are not able to come in person ; teaching or mentoring students on different campuses ; holding virtual staff meetings to avoid unnecessary travel – which will also help us reduce our carbon footprint in line with our campus mobility plans – are just a few examples of how our new familiarity with online learning approaches and technology will change the way we operate in the future.
What won’t change, however, is our commitment to the social and pastoral development of our young people, and the focus on human relationships, and whilst these are still possible using virtual collaboration tools, we are all delighted to be able to welcome our students and colleagues back to school in person.
How do you differentiate yourself from other international schools in Geneva and its surroundings ?
Ecolint is the world’s oldest international school, and the birthplace of the International Baccalaureate diploma, which has become the standard of reference for international schools all over the world.
Our IB Diploma examination results are exceptional, with an average 96 % pass rate over the past five years, nearly 20 points higher than the world average, despite an admissions policy which is entirely inclusive and which means that we have students who span the entire range of academic abilities. As well as being by far the most popular school among international parents in the Geneva area, Ecolint is also the most diverse school on the planet, with students and staff representing over 140 nationalities and speaking over 80 mother tongues.
Whilst we are not an “official” UN school, Ecolint’s creation by, among others, the USA’s first envoy to the newly created League of Nations, means our UN connection goes back even further than the creation of the UN ! One of our Governing Board members is always a UN appointee, and many other members of the Board work in international agencies, including such eminent figures as Mr Kofi Annan.
“We are told there are more UN children at Ecolint than any other school in the world.”
— Michael Kewley
International civil servant and diplomatic corps parents find themselves among their peers, and the strong humanitarian values, which underpin the vital work of international organizations, are shared by the school. Whilst some other schools are run as businesses, with corporate or private equity shareholders, and corresponding financial objectives at least partly the focus of their management, being a resolutely not-for-profit Foundation, the only thing which drives Ecolint is our mission to educate for peace and the future of humanity.
Children of international civil servants represent a large percentage of the students enrolled in your school. The rules for the reimbursement of school fees have changed, putting a strain on the budget of some families. Do you plan to take measures to remain competitive with other schools?
Having always been, since our creation in 1924, a not-forprofit organisation, every Swiss Franc invested by families is used to deliver an outstanding educational experience for our 4450 young learners. Whilst our fees are not the lowest in the Geneva marketplace, we know from parental feedback and our strong enrolment trends that the value for money we are offering justifies the expense. As well as delivering outstanding academic results, we also pride ourselves on offering services which most other schools do not – such as our Extended Support Programme which has been recognised as “one of a kind” in Switzerland – and on having world-class facilities to develop fully rounded young people well beyond the academic domains.
“Our fees are not the lowest in the Geneva marketplace,
but we know that the value for money we are offering justifies the expense.”
— Michael Kewley
Our La Grande Boissière Centre des arts and STEM Centre facilities, our Campus des Nations collaborative study space or “CoLab” and the world class sports facilities such as those at La Châtaigneraie are just a few examples of the added value provided at Ecolint. We also believe in rewarding our staff in a manner which is commensurate with the high expectations we – and fee-paying parents – have of them.
Given that one of our founders was a senior member of the ILO, it is natural that we believe in providing a secure and stable working environment, where staff enjoy favourable conditions and good job security, and which enable us to recruit the very best people from around the world.
* Michael Kewley is Director of Marketing & Stakeholder Relations of the International School of Geneva ECOLINT.