Amstelland International School in Amstelveen is a wonderful new international centre of learning. It is a most welcomed addition to the International school options in the Amsterdam area. The number of international families coming to the area has continued to grow, especially in the past year. Many families choose to reside in Amstelveen and then search for fitting quality education near their homes. For parents, choosing the right school for their children is a huge decision. It is full of ‘what if’s?’. There are many variables and you know it is important to make the right choice, the first time. The best way to make better choices is to be better informed. The team at Amstelland International School knows that parents want reassurance in their choices and love to meet the parents and give them all the information they need. New! The latest school brochure is available.
Opening a brand new school in Amstelveen is quite a feat in itself: finding the right location, assembling the right team, putting all the processes and systems in place. Earlier this year, I was invited to visit Amstelland International school by its director, Jacquelene Da Silva. I was given a tour of the school and it is impressive what they have achieved in such a short time.
There are lovely classrooms and communal areas, in other words, the perfect setting for learning. I met all the members of staff and I could see the children clearly enjoyed being at school. The school has a real feeling of community due to the intention to create one. As with all projects of this scale, there has to be a driving force to start it and keep it moving. Jacquelene is that force. Originally from South Africa, she has been in The Netherlands for many years now and has held many important roles in education.
However, as the coronavirus started spreading in The Netherlands, the government decided to close all the schools. These long weeks and months have been hard for everyone, but especially the children. Fast forward to mid-May and the school has once again been able to welcome the children back on campus whilst their digital learning platforms have been used by Amstelland partners schools and throughout Europe. We wrote this article in order to share more about the latest news, the project and her vision for personalised education. Jacquelene kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions about Amstelland.
Hermann Wesselink College has created an International Crossover Class (ICC) in collaboration with Amstelland International Primary School. This adds a dual language stream to the school that is the equivalent of a year 8 class. This means that the pupils leaving Amstelland can join this class and benefit from lots of Dutch lessons. For instance, this will help them assimilate even more into the Dutch school system. The ICC starts in August 2021 and registrations are already taking place. It is also for children aged 11 or 12 who have just arrived in The Netherlands. It is the perfect solution to allow them a logical entry point to the school system. Above all, this will help to smooth their passage through school.
Coming very soon is an article about this fabulous new class.
The School Director
1. Hi Jacquelene. When we met, you told me all about your experiences in the field of education. Could you please share those with our readers here?
Hi David. Yes, my journey in the world of education really started at the American School of The Hague in Wassenaar. It was here I discovered the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy where ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. We were a great team of three people setting up the preschool program at ASH and my love of international education really grew, as I began to understand what these young minds could do.
I wanted to not only experience an international educational setting but also what it means to teach at an international school abroad. I had a choice between a post at the International school in Singapore or Bologna, Italy and I chose to go to Italy. The region is the source of the Reggio Emilia method. I trained at the actual Reggio institute and worked in an IB/PYP school where we worked with the children in an inquiry project-based environment. I was then able to bring all that experience to my next role at the AICS in Amsterdam.
The Early Childhood classes at the AICS grew organically. It was also a great time to employ all the techniques I had gained. For example, we would use a lot less T.T.T. – Teacher Talk Time, we would listen intently to children’s thinking and ask deeper questions or understanding rather than imparting knowledge or waiting upon a predetermined outcome. I was the Inquiry-based teaching and learning coordinator and then I became head of Primary, the Early Childhood department, my portfolio was creativity.
All the time, I was growing my knowledge, I was doing more research on the creative brain, how young children learn and concept-based curriculums. I have two degrees relating to education and followed those with a Masters in International School Management. I always wanted to innovate, push boundaries, break tradition and improve the teaching techniques. Steden University, iTeps in Mepple (International Pabo) involved me in evaluating their first and year curriculum, this is where I became excited about making a true impact on how we currently educate future teachers.
All of this is fascinating and seeing it implemented is pure pleasure. At the time, AICS was growing and expanding with its second campus, now the third campus, I was asked to set up the second campus and with much pleasure, lead the team as Head of school. In my seventh year at AICS Onderwijsgroep Amstelland received the license to open a Dutch International School in Amstelveen and were searching for a director to lead this project. That is when the Amstelland International School project was born.
2. Amstelland International School in Amstelveen is a young project. Please tell us more about it in its current form and what is your vision for the future?
I have always dreamt about running my own school. So when the project arrived to create one, I saw it as a chance to really build a school in the image of my dreams. Creating a compassionate community that fosters curiosity and celebrates creativity. In June 2019, I met the head of the Board, Marlies Verkuijlen. I heard her vision on education and her dream to provide personalised quality international education for the children in Amstelveen. It really complimented my educational beliefs. In September 2019, we started with 17 children and we have grown, despite the Corona Virus, to our current over 141 pupils. We are a fabulous team of teaching professionals all aligned in the same mission. It is a phenomenal team, even our teaching assistants are trained, qualified teachers. The school is thriving due to the quality of educational professionals at AIS.
3. Taalschool Amstelland. That sounds quite unique. Please tell us more about it.
Yes, it is unique and driven by a need. The international community in Amstelveen/Amsterdam is huge and growing every day. There are many cases where expat families will come to Amsterdam with their family for a mission of a year. These children normally join the international school in the area. Once their contracts become permanent, they cannot remain at a Dutch International school and are required to integrate into the Dutch educational system.
These children then attend a six-month to a year intense Dutch language program at our Taalschool. With success and confidence, we work closely with our Onderwijsgroep Amstelland partners schools (13 in total) to integrate the children into regular Dutch education. A large number of students s attend the Taalsschool are also war immigrants and economic migrants with the vision to relocate and settle in the Netherlands. This forms a vibrant and diverse international community at the Taalschool. We motivate these children to learn the Dutch language and Dutch culture whilst celebrating their individuality.
4. The school is just reopening after being closed due to the Covid virus. Please tell us about the changes you have made in this respect.
Well, these are trying and uncertain times for all, we are taking all the recommended steps for health and safety. We have seen at our schools, that in the face of adversity, an even greater sense of community has emerged. Through the use of online teaching, we have created even closer bonds with the families of our pupils. As a community, we are more mindful and caring about others. We continue to use an emotional grounding technique, which is to ‘Check our amygdala’. This is the part of the brain related to emotions and reactions. This grounding keeps us level and allows us to reflect and check, ‘How am I feeling right now?’. This is a very useful check during stressful times. It simply allows us to care more for ourselves and one another.
5. What is your vision for the school in the coming years?
We are ambitious, but that does not necessarily translate in terms of student numbers. We know we will organically grow because the demand is there. Our goals are to facilitate the best quality education for the children of internationals and expats. We measure that in our standard of excellence, the feeling that everyone is intrinsically motivated to engage in their learning process and collectively in creating a ‘home away from home’. It also expands outwards into the wider community here. We have after-school programs. We hope to expand these programs so that they will involve helping disadvantaged children in the area. Also, we will grow our charity programs and connections with institutions around the world. These are striving for children’s rights and engaging the less advantaged children with educational and cultural opportunities.
Jacquelene, thank you so much for all these interesting insights!
Amstelland International School website
Phone : 020 820 90 91
Also, Amstelland International School in Amstelveen sponsors our Education in The Netherlands information page.