Living in an increasingly global and interconnected community, we may feel tempted to take diversity for granted. If all the ingredients are already there, the mix should come out just right on its own. Shouldn’t it?
After 2 hugely productive and inspiring days in Germany for the ETN Focus Workshop Berlin 2016, we sat down to discuss what it actually takes to nurture diversity. Our guest is Mercedes Maskalik, Marketing Director of TASIS The American School in England – a school that describes itself as no less than a microcosm of the diverse and multifaceted world we live in.
We were delighted to have Mercedes represent TASIS England at our workshop. Now, let’s see what she shared with us about the TASIS approach towards student body internationalization, diversification, retention and cross-cultural management.
Read our interview with TASIS England below:
ETN Focus: Tell us a bit more about TASIS – The American School in England?
TASIS: TASIS The American School in England is a leading co-educational, independent school. It educates 740 day (ages 3-18) and boarding pupils (ages 14-18). Students from more than 50 countries contribute to the unique and dynamic learning environment. They thrive in an atmosphere that doesn’t simply promote academic achievement. It encourages character development and celebrates the school’s internationalism.
The beautiful 46-acre TASIS campus is located 18 miles southwest of London. It combines historic buildings with modern facilities, including an art/music complex and a 350-seat theatre. The Centre for Innovation, Inspiration, and Exploration reflects the School’s commitment to forward thinking education. It features a 3D printer, a popular robotics program, and an interactive touch-screen learning wall – the first of its kind in a school in Europe.
We also have extensive sports facilities. These include two gymnasiums, a fitness center, tennis courts, and outdoor playing fields. We host local competitions and our teams travel throughout Europe to tournaments with other international schools.
E: What are the characteristics that distinguish TASIS from all other schools?
T: In addition to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, TASIS England offers a broad-based American curriculum with Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Many American and Canadian universities award advance credit for successful completion of AP courses.
With a student/teacher ratio of 7:1, we nurture each student’s potential. Our students enjoy individualized attention in small classes (average 15). Upper School students work on a one-to-one basis with university counselors. They help them research and apply to the universities that best fit their educational and career aspirations. TASIS graduates gain acceptance to excellent universities in the UK, the US, and worldwide.
Our Academic Travel Programs allow our students to spend time in another country. In this way, they can learn its history and gain an understanding of its political landscape, motivations, and social expectations. As the students find shared interests, habits, and values during these trips, it becomes impossible not to recognize how much other people matter in our increasingly interconnected world.
TASIS England also offers three- and six-week enrichment courses during the summer. Students (ages 10-17) come from around the world to pursue an area of special interest, improve their English, or simply participate in an exciting holiday experience. With sports and activities, sightseeing excursions, and theatre trips to London, the Summer Programs provide a perfect way to sample the boarding experience.
E: How important are international students for your school?
T: Living and thriving with diversity is a huge challenge in our world today. Our faculty and staff endeavor to impart the values of the TASIS England mission statement. These include a belief in the worth of each individual and the importance of enduring relationships. The School’s diversity provides a rich multi-layered experience for our students. They learn to recognize and value the importance of each person’s customs and traditions as they engage with one another.
Through a careful admissions process, we attempt to ensure that our student body represents many nationalities. The focus on the TASIS England Core Virtues, which include respect, open-mindedness, and compassion, is inherent in our curriculum, our activities, and our boarding life. As our students live, study, and grow with each other, they form lifelong friendships. More importantly, they learn the pivotal lessons of diversity – to truly respect and understand cultures other than their own.
Throughout the year, in assemblies and through clubs and activities, students share their own cultural backgrounds and values. They learn about the cultures of their fellow community members, and engage in wide-ranging dialogue. Perhaps the most popular celebration of internationalism takes place at our annual International Festival. Large numbers of students, parents, faculty, and staff attend this event. In addition, our community dinners assist in promoting not only community building but also the celebration of diversity.
E: How diverse is your current international student mix?
T: The student population currently consists of 59 nationalities. TASIS England makes every effort to ensure that dorm residents have a healthy balance of cultural backgrounds to live, learn, and interact with on a daily basis. Within the boarding community, TASIS England maintains diversity by ensuring that no nationality exceeds 20% of the total. To encourage the use and development of English, dormitory rooms are as a rule shared by two students with different mother tongues.
E: How do you define new target markets for student recruitment?
T: To give our students the best international experience possible, it is important that TASIS England remains diverse. We review the nationalities of our graduating students, and focus our recruitment efforts to ensure that a broad range of countries, cultures, and languages continue to be represented within our community.
E: What channels and strategies do you use to market your school to prospective students and their families?
T: TASIS England works with education consultants and agents to encourage interest in the School and to communicate information about the programs offered. Consultants and agents are always welcome to visit the TASIS campus. They can do so individually, with the families they are advising, or as a part of a familiarization trip.
TASIS representatives attend school shows and agent fairs in many countries. They also visiting senior schools to make direct presentations to students who are interested in a boarding experience in England. In addition, information about the School appears in selected international school guidebooks.
Digital marketing and advertising are critical marketing vehicles for TASIS England. Our newly designed website, social media presence, and online advertising allow us to promote the School often and well with prospective families and our targeted audiences.
E: What is the biggest challenge of working with international students?
T: As educators, our continuing challenge is to ensure that we anticipate and respond to the needs of our constantly changing population of international students and parents. Secondly, we must think broadly and deeply about how TASIS England promotes leadership. Our major goal is to create international-minded citizens. To achieve that, we encourage the tolerance and understanding that will enable our students to become effective leaders in our increasingly interconnected world.
E: What is the TASIS formula for successful student retention?
T: School life at TASIS England is busy and enjoyable. Students find that they can easily make new friends in the welcoming community. Diverse extracurricular activities and clubs, community service and leadership opportunities, and cultural excursions balance their academic work. Weekend trips around the UK and London theatre performances are particularly popular. In the family-style boarding community, the wellbeing of each student is paramount.
E: What is your vision for the future? How do you see TASIS in the next 20 years?
T: TASIS England will continue to uphold our mission statement and respect the core values originally set down by our founder. We inspire the pursuit of lifelong learning, an appreciation for beauty, and the development of character.
A TASIS education must be dynamic in order to provide our students with the foundations for success in the ever-changing landscape of the world. As we forge our plans for the future, the School will refine and reflect upon what we do to educate our students, and to enable them to become responsible global citizens. Political, social, and economic issues are no longer regional but are increasingly international. Therefore, our graduates must be equipped to find solutions that are also international in scope.
The School will continue its commitment to forward-thinking education. It will facilitate and support innovation and creativity in science and technology. We will also strongly support the performing and visual arts. Thus, we ensure that the School offers a multi-faceted experience with opportunities for our students to excel wherever their individual strengths may lie.
The enduring goal of TASIS England is to provide the scaffold upon which each student not only achieves academic success, but continues to develop a strong character that is also kind and empathetic, embracing cultural diversity.
All images courtesy to TASIS England.