중앙데일리

Academic rigor, close relations

Up close int'l schools in korea: Deutsche Schule Seoul International
‘We are serving them on an individual basis and we want them to work as a team.’ - Monika Schmidt

Sept 17,2010
Students at Deutsche Schule Seoul International interact in class. By Oh Sang-min

This series provides an in-depth look at international schools in Korea, from administration to admission. Covering international and foreign schools in the country, including those already operating and those just breaking ground, the series will delve into what makes each school special. -Ed.


Set on a quiet street housing the offices of foreign diplomats from all over the world is the Deutsche Schule Seoul International, the only school in Korea that offers an authentic German education for students from ages two to 18.

Stepping into the four-story main building of the school, the walls are plastered with colorful diagrams and posters that the children have made. The majority of the projects are written in German, which is a bit different from other international schools in Korea that provide curricula focusing on American education.

The school, in Hannam, Seoul, was founded in 1976 and approved by the Federal Republic of Germany as a private foreign school. It has experienced steady growth since its inception, when there were just four elementary school students in a private apartment.

Now, it houses 149 students in its bigger location in Seoul, with 38 children in its kindergarten division and 24 teachers.

With a compact faculty and student body, it only makes sense that the headmistress of the school, Monika Schmidt, 59, would take on many roles at the school. She teaches as well as manages admissions apart from her duties as headmistress.

Monika Schmidt, headmistress
Schmidt, who hails from the coastal region of northern Germany, studied mathematics, theology and educational science at the Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat in Munster, Germany. She started her professional teaching career in 1973 as a teacher.

“I like not only to be with a lot of people but to be with young people to teach them,” said Schmidt.

The headmaster learned about the position in Seoul in the summer of 2007 and visited the school that December. After an evaluation process, she started her term at DSSI the following August.

“I was so surprised at finding the country developed, in the economy and modern technology,” said Schmidt, recalling her early impressions of South Korea. “Not everyone in Germany knows about Korea. I didn’t expect this state of development and the people were friendly and they try to help you.”

Schmidt brings the full effect of German education to bear on the school, and to understand the curriculum that DSSI provides, one must have a grasp of what German education is like.

From grades one to four, all children attend elementary school (Grundschule), after which they can select one of three schools: Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium depending on their academic capabilities and vocational preferences.

The Hauptschule (grades five through nine) provides the same courses as the other two schools, but teaches them at a slower pace. The courses are followed by a part-time enrollment in vocational schools combined with an apprenticeship until the students turn 18.

The Realschule (grades five through 10) enables students to move on to higher vocational schools. Students with good academic records at the Realschule can decide to switch to Gymnasium, which provides the toughest education to prepare students studying to attend university.

Students who attend Gymnasium can receive a certificate called the Abitur to attend university. Course tracks offered by Gymnasium schools usually follow classical language, modern language and mathematics-natural science.

DSSI provides all three schools and students are able to obtain the German International Arbitur (Deutsche Internationale Abiturprufung), which is internationally recognized and gives students access to universities worldwide.

Because of the rigorous education that the children are put through, the school has high expectations for its students.

“We are serving them on an individual basis and we want them to learn how to work in a team, in society and in democracy. We want students to learn on their own,” said Schmidt.

For students who struggle with their studies, the school provides extra classes after school and parents are free to come in for consultations regarding their children.

“I’ve been here for seven years and I’ve learned a lot more here than [at previous schools]. Sometimes it’s tiring,” said Frank Hemmert, 16. Hemmert is currently in the 12th grade and preparing for university.

For Julius Dreyer, who is in the 11th grade and in his fifth week at the school, his attendance at DSSI was accompanied by a life-altering change when his family recently moved to Korea.

“It’s been quite a big change. I come from an 800-student school, and here the school encourages you to become closer [to your classmates],” Dreyer said. The 17-year-old, who is interested in art and biology, said one thing that makes the school special is that all of the students can interact with each other regardless of age.

Lara Tiedemann, 16, compared classes at DSSI to “private lessons,” as she had attended a bigger German school in Shanghai three years ago.

“It’s difficult at first, but you can develop a family-like relationship with the teachers,” she said.

Students hoping to enroll at DSSI must have a good grasp of the German language to attend, as the lessons are conducted in German. However, language classes are also provided.

“This is not the same as sending your child to any international school,” said Schmidt.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]



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