Moving Mount Tai
There is a Chinese saying, ”When people are of one mind and heart they can move Mount Tai.“ In the eight years that I have had the privilege of leading GSIS, we may not have moved Mount Tai (nor the Peak for that matter) but as I look back, I marvel at how much we have achieved together, and I am deeply grateful for all the support I have received over the years.
When I came to Hong Kong in 2004, the school was looking to address its space needs on the Peak. The German Stream was preparing to shorten secondary schooling from nine to eight years, and it was looking for ways to strengthen its international character without compromising its German-Swiss nature. The English Stream was debating whether to adopt the IB Diploma as the passport to top universities, and the Administration was embarked on a course of modernisation, user-friendliness, transparency and accountability.
Eight years on, GSIS has an ambitious long-term Campus Development Plan with clearly identified stages and review points. Besides its Peak home, it comprises a campus in Pok Fu Lam for its Kindergarten and Lower Primary, and a campus in Sai Ying Pun for its Business College. With the help of committed parents, it has secured a temporary campus in Wan Chai, and, with the support of a very active Development Committee, it is ready to embark on the next stages of its building programme.
The Kindergarten has extended its hours to allow for a broad and balanced curriculum and more language exposure. The German Primary and Secondary have strengthened and diversified their language programmes to cater for short- and long-term expatriate families. A growing number of German students fulfil their Second Foreign Language requirement in cross-stream Mandarin classes. Three cohorts of students following the eight-year secondary course have successfully sat the bilingual German International Abitur, and more and more Business College graduates have taken up the credit transfer options offered by English-speaking universities. The English Stream is well on its way towards authorization as an IB World School, and has been praised by the International Baccalaureate Organisation for the thorough and strategic manner in which it is transitioning to the IB Diploma.
GSIS has a customer-friendly and efficient administration, and it has defined more clearly the responsibilities of School Management and the Boards. Its print and online publications are easily accessible and present a unified, contemporary look. In the words of the recent German Government Inspectors, GSIS conducts public relations systematically and very successfully.
At the same time it has maintained its focus on education as its core business. Unlike other independent schools who work very hard to create a perception of who they are, GSIS has not been caught up in the marketing game. It chooses substance over style and prefers to invest in education rather than marketing campaigns. No doubt, this is one of the secrets of our success, and as long as GSIS remains true to this, it will remain one of the best-loved and most respected schools in Hong Kong.
When my wife and I return to Germany at the end of the school year, we will take with us very fond memories of Hong Kong. Thank you, GSIS colleagues, students, parents and Boards, for eight full and rewarding years together. Our good wishes are with you as you keep moving mountains.
Dr Jens-Peter Green