This is where learning happens

15th May 2009 at 01:00
Many German parents are sending their children to Scotland for a more rounded education

Scotland's independent schools are attracting significantly more German pupils than any other nationality, thanks to concerns about their country's education system.

A report from the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) showed that in September, 732 international boarding pupils came from 54 countries - with 208 from Germany, or 28 per cent, which is 28 children more than last year.

The next-highest contingents were from Hong Kong (105) and China (89).

Gordon Woods, warden (head) of Glenalmond College in Perthshire, said his school had been attracting high numbers of German pupils for years. This year, there are 14, or about a quarter of all non-UK pupils, from a roll of 408.

Most German pupils have tended to arrive at Glenalmond aged around 17, when they would be in their country's Year 11. German parents, Mr Woods said, had often felt this was a "fallow" year between two levels of examination. Some would stay for one year, but some stayed a second year to complete A-levels.

Germany, however, has decided to reduce a pupil's expected time at school by a year, which Mr Woods had thought might reduce interest in overseas schooling. In fact, although there have been fewer enquiries, the number of German pupils has remained consistent with previous years.

Among the factors, Mr Woods said, were the integration of sports and leisure into the curriculum, in marked contrast to the more academic approach in Germany, where parents have to "trail round the country looking for sports clubs".

Glenalmond registrar and German teacher Jeremy Poulter, who has worked in German schools, pinpointed a fundamental divide in teaching philosophy: "The British teacher has the responsibility to make sure that learning happens; the German teacher has a responsibility to provide the opportunity for children to learn."

German parents, he said, liked the fact that teachers in the UK would nag pupils about homework and chase up unfinished assignments.

The chance to soak up the English language also appealed, as well as traditional Scottish pastimes such as golf and country dancing.

SCIS deputy director Sarah Randell added, however, that a new factor had entered the equation: the strength of the euro against the pound was also boosting numbers.

Till Sereny, an 18-year-old pupil at Glenalmond who lives near Hanover, planned to come to Scotland for a year to escape Year 11, improve his English and satisfy his curiosity about bagpipes and kilts. He enjoys holding conversations with teachers; in Germany, he said, there was little interaction with them.

His time in Scotland has gone so well that he has stayed on to complete his A-levels, and achieved the impressive feat of being made head of his boarding house despite his short time at the school. He hopes to study mechanical engineering at Edinburgh University and, according to SCIS, it was now becoming common for German pupils to stay on in Scotland for higher education.

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