The timeless words of William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” eloquently express the vital importance of education, be it at the primary level or university. It’s a sentiment we endorse wholeheartedly. In an earlier feature, we spotlighted the nascent Amstelland International School (AIS) in Amstelveen. At the time, it was a burgeoning institution with lofty ambitions. Today, we return to AIS to see how far it’s come, and we are thoroughly impressed. Join us as we delve deeper into the transformative journey of this incredible institution, with insights from the school’s dynamic director, Jacquelene Da Silva.
Getting to Know AIS
AIS embarked on its educational journey in September 2019 with a humble 17 students. Soon after, the Covid pandemic posed significant challenges, causing intermittent school closures. Despite these obstacles, AIS now proudly nurtures over 200 students, supported by a passionate team of educators. Integral to this growth has been an unwavering vision and strong leadership, notably from Jacquelene, who graciously took the time to update us on the school’s progress.
Hailing from South Africa, Jacquelene brings a rich tapestry of cultural, linguistic, and educational experiences to her role. Her journey as an educator began at The American School of The Hague and included a stint at an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Bologna, famed for its Reggio Emilia teaching approach. She also lent her expertise to The Amsterdam International Community School, helping design and open a new campus. Drawing upon these varied experiences, Jacquelene took the lead at AIS, reshaping the concept of what’s possible in education.
Join us as we delve deeper into the AIS journey, Jacquelene’s inspirations, and her future plans.
Q1. We’re amazed by AIS’s progress. Can you share your secret to this success?
Our growth at AIS is a continuing journey of excitement. Our diverse team, composed of 21 nationalities, serves as the school’s heartbeat. Their daily passion for education engenders a love for learning among students and parents alike. Word of mouth has been our key growth driver, and we remain committed to cultivating an environment of curiosity and empathy. From two small classes in September 2019, we’ve expanded to 15 vibrant classes in September 2023.
Q2. As a ‘Language Friendly School’, how does AIS support multilingualism among students?
Answer: As a Language Friendly School, we welcome students from all backgrounds and languages. Our approach ensures that students don’t feel compelled to communicate exclusively in English. We consciously translate all instructional materials, providing equal access to learning for every child at AIS. Upon arrival, students receive a communication key with daily words translated into their native language and English. They are also invited to share their thoughts in their native language, thereby fostering active participation and celebrating linguistic diversity within our global learning community.
Q3. Could you expand on AIS’s incorporation of UNICEF’s 42+ Rights?
Answer: As an international school offering an international curriculum, integrating the Sustainable Development Goals was a natural progression. The UN’s 42+ Rights of a Child have also been embedded in our personal learning goals curriculum. The scarcity of children’s literature on these rights led to my own series of books, each one highlighting an individual right. As the books make their way into libraries around the Netherlands, we hope they will serve as educational resources for children, parents, and governments alike.
Q4. Could you elaborate on the Reggio Emilia methods you learnt in Bologna, and how it influences your staff?
Answer: Absolutely, as a school inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, we have prioritized our professional development budget to ensure all staff members, including administrative personnel, are trained and enlightened by this method. At AIS, we’ve crafted a unique philosophy focused on the holistic development of every student. We regard children as intellectual equals and have fashioned our learning environment to be an open-ended, project-based experience that encourages curiosity and inquiry.
Q5. Could you share any future plans for AIS?
Answer: We’re delighted that Hermann Wesselink College, with whom we established the International Crossover classes, has received its IGVO license. Consequently, HWC is set to launch an MYP 1 and 2 international program in 2024-2025. This development implies that AIS is primed for growth, and we’re already outgrowing our current location. We’re in discussions with the municipality for a new school building. Our ideal scenario would be to secure a plot of land where we can design a purpose-built facility that aligns perfectly with our teaching philosophy. We eagerly anticipate the municipality’s decision on the available options.
Thank you for dedicating time to provide these insights.
Also, Jacquelene has been selected to speak at the Edu-Tech conference in October on the topic of AI implementation in classrooms fostering creative thinking.
For further information about Amstelland International School, read more at their website.