As Integrated International School (IIS) celebrates five years, principal Dr. Vanessa Von Auer reflects on the unique achievements of the school, which started with just five students.
What was your aim in setting up IIS?
My personal goal was to provide a safe sanctuary to students in order to encourage a love for learning. Beyond this, my aim was and always will be for children to love themselves in their entirety. Nowadays, it seems like students are often pressured to solely focus on academic studies, neglecting their own personality development and discovery of life.
Can you give a specific example of an IIS “success story”?
One of our very first students had been severely bullied in the international school she had been enrolled in. It was so bad that she hid in the toilet during recess to avoid the verbal ridicule and physical harassment. She began to refuse to go to school, and developed generalised anxiety disorder, distrusting both children and adults. After six months of home-schooling, she attended an admissions interview at IIS. The one and only question she asked during this meeting was “Will the students be mean to me here?” This question broke my heart, and I promised that they would not.
It was clear that we needed to restore this child’s faith in humanity. After two weeks of attending IIS, she burst into my office one day and asked for a hug. When I asked what this was for, she said she wanted to thank me because she loved coming to school. One year on, she acts as a school buddy for new students, has made good friendships, is confident of her decisions and is an A-grade student.
What’s the secret of this success?
We believe that our students need to feel great about coming to school and about themselves first; and that when this has been achieved, their academic capabilities flourish naturally. So far, this unique psychological emphasis has yielded highly successful results.
The student-to-teacher ratio never exceeds four to one in the junior school, or six to one in the senior school. We purposely keep our total enrolment low so we have the freedom to offer individualised learning techniques with a warm, family quality. Our small class sizes and special resources also make it possible for us to accept students with different learning styles or even learning difficulties.
We employ one-of-a kind, multicultural and passionate teachers, who make our school a place of friendship, safety and fun. Our students grow up in a caring and stimulating setting, where their relationships with other students, teachers and parents are positive, caring and honest.
You won an SME 500 award this year. What does that mean for IIS?
It’s bestowed on exceptional small and medium enterprises for their achievements in contributing to their community as well as to the economy. We’re very proud of this award – it symbolises what we’ve been striving for from the start: a high-quality educational institution that has each student’s needs in mind, so they love attending school each day. Additionally, we hope this award inspires our students to become entrepreneurs and professionals and to pursue their own dreams.
Integrated International School
41 Sunset Way, #02-03/04 Clementi Arcade