B.I.S offers excellent academic opportunity and a strong community spirit, writes Stephanie Mee.
When Bali International School opened its doors in 1985, there were just eight students on the roster. The school was entirely paid for and run by the parents, and just one Canadian couple, Bill and Gundi Robertson, were in charge of the teaching and administration. Fast forward to the present and the school (now named Bali Island School) is one of the most sought-after learning institutions on the island.
This August, over 240 students began classes at Bali Island School. Most hail from far-flung places like Belgium, Japan, the UK, Russia, and the USA. They are studying fully accredited International Baccalaureate programmes and taking part in a plethora of after-school activities, inter-school competitions, and projects that connect them to the local community.
As the student base has grown over the years, so too have the facilities. The school still sits on the original site in Taman Banjar, Sanur, but it now has a library with 40,000 titles in its database, classrooms with state-of-the-art learning equipment, a 25-metre swimming pool, three sports fields, and a covered area that is used for basketball, volleyball and tennis.
Yet despite all the changes, some elements have remained the same. Garth Wyncoll, Head of School at BIS says, “When the school was just starting out, the teachers knew their students very well and that still holds true today. We have a ratio of seven students to every teacher, so the teachers are able to learn each student’s interests and learning styles and there is a real sense of family and community.”
Just like the students, the teachers at BIS come from all over the world. Each is International Baccalaureate certified and has considerable experience and expertise not just in the subjects they teach, but also the after-school activities they run.
Garth says, “I worked at a school for 15 years where all the teachers had to be coaches outside the classroom as well. That experience has affected my thinking and hiring. It’s so important for teachers to really get to know their students and make a connection. Once a child gets to know and trust a teacher, it really opens the doors so much more learning can take place.”
The staff at Bali Island School understand that transitioning to a new school can be difficult, particularly an international school. Many students are far from home, so trying to adapt to a new environment can be challenging. To help with the transition, each new student is assigned an advisor and a buddy who is a returning student. A counsellor is also available for one-on-one chats.
New parents are also given a warm welcome and plenty of support. The PTA often holds coffee meet-ups and invites all parents to attend meetings where they can learn more about the school programmes and become involved if they wish. In addition, every class is assigned a parent of a returning student who can answer any questions new parents may have about the school and living in Bali.
This sense of community is central to BIS and extends beyond the campus. Students are encouraged to engage with the local community through an array of projects that include teaching English to Indonesian students, assisting animal welfare organisations and taking part in beach clean-ups and other environmental efforts.
“We are an internationally minded school and our community involvement stems from that,” says Garth. “We want our students to appreciate and respect all the aspects of living in another country. Many students will move to other countries for university and get jobs where they will be working with people from all over the world. Having the skills to be open to other people’s views and communicate your views so they’re understood is incredibly valuable.”
This ethos coincides with the school curriculum, as the International Baccalaureate’s mission is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. BIS offers the full IB continuum from preschool to grade 12 including the Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma Programme.
For older students who are starting to think about what they want to do after they finish high school, BIS offers college and career counselling and coordinates an annual college fair attended by approximately 55 universities. Every year, 90 to 100 per cent of BIS graduates get accepted into universities around the world.
Garth says, “There’s no doubt that we produce strong students. In fact, our highest IB results in many years came through this year. Our students get accepted into great universities and I really believe it’s because we are a highly functioning small school, which allows students to get that closeness and community spirit feel you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”