The Inspection Report 2017 and the renewal of the "Seal of Excellence" 2017
What does “BLI” mean, and how does the BLI inspection work?
From September 11 to 15, 2017, the German European School was inspected for the second time since 2011 by a school inspection team sent by German authorities to ensure that quality standards are complied with at our school just as in all the other 140 officially recognised German Schools outside Germany.
BLI stands for “Bund-Länder-Inspektion”, the inspection by a team sent out by the 16 German federal states (Länder) and the federation (Bund) to the 140 officially recognised German schools abroad on behalf of the Conference of the German Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs. In addition, heads of the inspection teams are sent abroad from the Central Office for German Schools Abroad (ZfA) in Cologne.
Those inspections of German Schools abroad have been regularly carried out for over 10 years in order to improve school quality and professional development of German education. Since then, all German schools abroad have been or are going to be inspected for a second time (the so-called BLI 2.0).
In this first inspection, the GESM was awarded the Seal of Excellence signed by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. With our success in the BLI 2017 this quality seal has now been renewed. It will be valid until the next inspection in about seven years, the “Inspection 3.0.”
The inspection teams will be rearranged for each school inspection; no school will be visited twice by the same team. Our BLI team was headed by an experienced school development expert from ZfA, the second and third inspectors were sent by the federal states of Lower Saxony (Niedersächsische Schulinspektion Hannover), and Bremen (KMK representative of the federal state of Bremen, member of the federal state committee for schools abroad).
Inspection of our school
Our team made three inspections in a row, first visiting the German Schools in Bangkok and Sydney. Preparations for the inspection at GESM started well over a year ago after the date of the inspection had been communicated to us. Months and months of critical analyses of all aspects of educational quality followed, all these laborious preparations led by GEMS’s head of pedagogical quality management (PQM) and the German Steering Group. Many educational and structural measures of innovation were carried on, adjusted, or started.
In October 2016, teachers from the German Schools in Jakarta and Taipei visited GESM as “critical friends” for a Peer Review, representing an important step in the preparation.
In spring 2017, extensive interviews with parents and students provided additional information for the further development of GESM. The final step was the electronic transmittal of numerous documents to the inspection team in June 2017.
At the beginning of the school year 2017/18, preparations focused on planning and organising the inspection week. Again, the team was supplied with many documents needed for the planning of class visits and interviews.
During the week of inspection, the five days had a strong effect on the daily school life at GESM in both sections. In the morning, the focus was on visits to classes; afternoons and evenings were dedicated to interviews with Board members, parents and students as well as ten teachers. Part of the program was also an interview with the new Head of Administration, Mr. Volker Ross.
For the visits to classes, school scouts helped the inspectors to find the classrooms on the campus which proved to be much larger and complicated than they had imagined before.
On Tuesday, classes were cancelled due to the weather conditions. Therefore, planning had to be reorganised at short notice to offset the lacking class inspections to get to the required minimum number for valid and reliable results.
On Thursday, the team was busy trying to elaborate and “hammer out” the results of the inspection which had to be presented on the following day. Even on this day, further documents had to be included in the analysis and more interviews were held to complete and round out the picture.
The Principal and his Deputy, the Board, the teachers, parents and the Head of Administration were to be informed independently about the results in different feed-back groups, making preparation even more intricate and time-consuming for the team of inspectors.
The following day, Friday, was completely dedicated to the feedback and explanation of results. With the teachers, the inspection team chose to have a workshop to have teacher groups discuss the results concerning teaching methods: a new form of transmitting results, involving teachers much more than by just presenting the results to them. On Saturday, the team started their journey back to Germany.
The BlI report covers 15 characteristics of educational quality, focusing this time on quality of teaching: Educating and forming, developing school satisfaction, preparing the GIB, acquiring competencies, structuring of teaching, personal growth of students, differentiated teaching, establishing DaF- and DFU-structures, student support, Inclusion, Administration, Management and Leadership of the school, managing resources, selection, training, qualification, and management of personnel, school development.
Since the German schools abroad acquired a high competence to systematically improve their quality, the BLI is increasingly focusing on school process management.
Among the strongest points of the GESM laid out by the inspection team are the “climate” of learning and working, and the multicultural character of the school. Students feel at home with us, in the sense of feeling a caring and nurturing environment around them, where everybody knows the others personally and is ready to understand and help. This is seen as a traditional characteristic of our school, due to its pedagogical principles and also owing to its moderate size.
Satisfaction is considered generally high among all members of the school community, and educational skills and performance were evaluated positively, too. Students are taught efficiently and prepared intensively for the diverse school degrees, certificates and school leaving examinations. They experience personal growth.
This explains another of GESM’s strengths, mentioned in the report: Something far beyond the performance of a normal school is the achievement ratio or success rate in the International Baccalaureate, which is close to 100%, with the the average performance of students higher than usual.
There were some shortcomings noted, though, in the implementation of social learning and students taking responsibility for their own learning process, and in language sensitive learning. Also, there was seen some need to improve differentiation of teaching methods and provide materials for different levels of performance and skills.
Most schools world-wide show the same shortcomings in these areas. The management of “heterogeneity” is methodically one of the most difficult tasks to achieve. As long as the rather strict curriculum standards students have to reach in time cannot be bent into shape according to every individual’s needs and abilities, this problem cannot be completely resolved.
The report shows that the acquisition of German as a second language or as a foreign language should be supported and facilitated even more than we have done before. This applies also to German as the language of instruction in other special subjects (DFU): the foundations have been laid, as the team acknowledged, but it should now be put into practice more effectively in the sense of “language-sensitive” teaching.
The creation of the Senior Management Team (SMT) was considered an important step forward for school management and strategic school development, which had mainly rested on the shoulders of the headmaster alone. The new governance structure that has been created can now take effect, according to the BLI.
The same applies in their view to the newly created middle management level. Both changes in the organisational structure were considered as allowing a broader and deeper anchoring of development projects throughout the school community.
In all, the inspection results have made it very clear that teachers at GESM know their craft, and they have also shown areas of possible or necessary improvement.
The core of school development and identity has been and will be the language policy and the role of German as a foreign language.
The development of GESM over the last ten years has been a story of success without any major setbacks. This success story will be continued. What has to be done in the next years is consolidating and strengthening of what we have achieved.
The international and German sections will continue to see their close relationship as an asset, create win-win situations and continue growing closer together for reasons of synergy and variety.
The Seal of Excellence
GESM received the final version of the BLI report in January 2018. For its good results, GESM was rated an “excellent German school abroad”. In February, the German Federal President, Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, signed the “Seal of Excellence” and had it sent via German Embassy to the Head of School, Mr. Thiergen.
Have a look at our Seal of Excellence!
martin gabel 2018