TASIS The American School in Switzerland: “TASIS is a vibrant global community of students from more than 60 nations”
ETN Focus: TASIS The American School in Switzerland is the 1st American Boarding School established in Europe. How does this family of international schools manage to combine American independent school tradition into the culturally and historically rich garden of Europe?
TASIS: Founded by M. Crist Fleming in 1956, TASIS is a day and boarding school committed to creating global citizens through education, travel, and service. Any student graduating from TASIS has earned, at a minimum, a standard US-accredited High School Diploma and can expect to gain admission to quality universities the world over. Students who are driven to find a home at one of the world’s most selective universities can do so by also pursuing an International Baccalaureate Diploma (as 48 of 103 students in the Class of 2018 did) or by taking a number of Advanced Placement courses and scoring highly on the corresponding exams. TASIS pioneered the concept of Academic Travel in 1956, and our students have been exploring Europe ever since. Committed to academic excellence and experiential learning both inside and outside the classroom, we consider the culturally rich garden of Europe to be an extension of our classrooms. Twice a year, all Middle School and High School students take Academic Travel trips that are related to courses of study and particular student interests. A few examples include a trip to Florence for Honors World Literature students, a trip to Prague for music and theater students, a trip to Venice for visual artists, a trip to Geneva (CERN) for IB Physics II students, a trip to Normandy for US History students, and a trip to Athens for Ancient & Medieval History students.
TASIS: M. Crist Fleming’s strongest belief was that our best hope of defeating chaos is through education, and 60 years ago she dreamed of a place in which young people from all over the globe could gather, develop an appreciation for one another’s cultures, and work together to make the world a safer and better place. From this vision emerged TASIS, the School she described as “a microcosm of what the world should and could be.”
Global Service groups meet once a week to build their knowledge and skills as they prepare for life-changing service trips to destinations across the world, including Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Mongolia, Morocco, Moldova, Nepal, Romania, and Zambia. Education, poverty, gender equality, water/sanitation, the environment, and marginalized populations are among the global issues explored and addressed by Service Learning groups, which also do important work within the local community.
TASIS: The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) is a family of international schools that welcomes young people from all nationalities to an educational community that fosters a passion for excellence along with mutual respect and understanding. Consistent with the vision of its founder, M. Crist Fleming, TASIS is committed to transmitting the heritage of Western civilization and world cultures: the creations, achievements, traditions, and ideals from the past that offer purpose in the present and hope for the future. Seeking to balance the pursuit of knowledge with the love of wisdom, and promoting the skills of lifelong learning, an appreciation for beauty, and the development of character, each school combines a challenging academic program with opportunities for artistic endeavor, physical activity, and service to others. Believing in the worth of each individual and the importance of enduring relationships, TASIS seeks to embody and instill the values of personal responsibility, civility, compassion, justice, and truth.
TASIS: There is no better way to impart students with a spirit of internationalism than to surround them with peers from all over the world. We also make sure to assign roommates based on cultural and linguistic differences, ensuring that boarding students do not share a room with someone from the same geographical area who speaks the same mother tongue. One recent graduate summed up the impact of our international student body in the following way: “Coming here will change your perspective. After meeting so many international friends, you will feel a connection even with places you haven’t been to and an openness to others experiences that will give you a tiny spark of familiarity with the whole world. Even if you know nothing about a place, you will know there are good people there that you would like to meet. You will learn to have a fondness for all countries and feel like a true member of the interconnected human race.”
ETN Focus: How does having a stable network of agencies supports the complex student recruitment process?
TASIS: Having a stable network of agencies who know TASIS well is essential to our recruitment process. All of our agents have visited our campus and know what makes us stand apart from other schools. They also know their clients well and have a solid understanding of what kind of student will thrive at TASIS.
ETN Focus: Your Summer programs are quite attractive: they are focused on Intensive language courses, Performing and visual arts, Sport and outdoor activities, as well as preparation for International Baccalaureate Diploma. Please tell us why for TASIS this variety in the learning process is important and what skills would students need to apply for your International Baccalaureate diploma?
TASIS: We believe that the sum of our Summer Programs are greater than their parts. The combination of intensive academic courses, an unparalleled performing arts program, thrilling outdoor adventures, advanced sports training, and engaging cultural excursions enables our students to learn new skills and develop their minds, grow as artists, discover the magic of Switzerland and Italy, rise to the challenge of being outside their comfort zones, and, most importantly, build lasting friendships with students from all over the world.
Aside from travel, sports, and outdoor adventure, all students devote each morning to traditional classroom learning with a first-rate team of dedicated educators. Among other options, students can take a course designed to prepare them for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program; take intensive courses in Italian, French, or English as an Additional Language; build an academic writing portfolio; learn how to cook like an Italian; develop their own lean startup; and study robotics, science, graphic design, digital photography, architecture & design, fashion & textile design, or musical theater.
ETN Focus: Please, let our readers know whether you plan on discovering new international student markets? Which ones represent an interest to you?
TASIS: We are always exploring new markets and currently have students from more than 60 different countries. This year we will continue to visit and focus on our main markets but will also explore a few new markets in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and South America.
ETN Focus: Finally, how do you imagine TASIS evolving in the next 5 years?
TASIS: Christopher Nikoloff took over as Headmaster in the fall of 2017, and midway through his first year we asked him, “Can you describe some of the improvements you’ve seen at TASIS in your short time here, and now that you’ve had some time to gain a better understanding of how TASIS works, what are some of the changes you’d like to make in the coming years.” His answer revealed that he is a proponent of change that is steady, reflective, and incremental:
“I have found at TASIS a lot of past improvements and growth, whether they are on the operational side—finances, contracts, handbooks, security, etc.—or in academics: looking at the Elementary School program, the teacher professional growth systems, and the curriculum articulation, for example,” he said. “TASIS is a reflective community that is trying to get better, and I really want to emphasize and honor the good work that has been done in the past. What I have attempted to do in my short tenure here is build on that work, keep it moving, and help some of it come to fruition this year. On the academic side, for example, we have taken a look at the great curriculum work that has been done in the past and are now looking at ways to help families gain a better understanding of the scope and sequence of our K–12 curriculum. It’s simply a matter of taking all the good work TASIS has already been doing and figuring out the most effective ways to communicate it to students and parents in the coming years.”