Many people believe that the purpose of going to school is simply to pass the exams in order to graduate with the highest score possible, without any need to learn anything. Memorize, then drop.
Fortunately, that is not the case at Meridian International School, a place that offers the highest pedagogical standards in Prague. Helping the student to feel comfortable learning is the main priority at this school.
We spoke to Ms. Radka, Head of Early Years, and Mr. Michal, Deputy Director of Meridian International School, to find out more about the school. It is a school that values, above all, its multicultural richness and family atmosphere. For Ms. Radka and Mr. Michal, the key to academic success does not require high scores, obsessive study or student skills. Success is always found in a welcoming environment because a person’s life, from the time he or she attends school as a preschooler, revolves around one thing: relationships with other people.
Humans are social beings. What would the world be like if we all, instead of learning from each other, focused on memorizing a book only to forget it the next day? Argentine cartoonist Quino once said: “Educating is more difficult than teaching because to teach you need to know, but to educate you need to be”.
Now we will see why he is right. Meridian International School, as its name suggests, is a school composed of students of all nationalities. A total of 500 students of 63 different nationalities make up the school, which is acclaimed as one of the highest quality schools in the Czech scene. About 30% of the students are from the Czech Republic. Here they study primarily in English, with Czech and French being the other two languages that predominate at the school.
Why is it important to have contact with other cultures and other ways of looking at life?
Ms. Radka: It’s always a good idea to experience other cultures. I think that’s enriching not only for children, but for us, for everyone. It’s why we learn a lot. We learn to respect, to celebrate differences and diversity and to become better human beings.
Mr. Michal: We are in the 21st century. Each day that passes, we are becoming multiculturally connected. At Meridian, we can say that we are one family. That’s why we think it’s very important to introduce the cultures of each other’s languages. The more we feel connected, the more we learn. The Czech Republic is a country that is open to the world. Respectful and therefore accessible to all families who want to enroll their child in a school that celebrates diversity and advocates egalitarian education.
How do students adapt to a multicultural study environment?
Ms. Radka: Only two words are needed: incredibly easily. In 16 years, we have never had any big issues related to student adaptation, and there are students from all over the world. It is wonderful to see that there is absolutely no problem with that. My daughter studied here, and she was friends with people from Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Vietnam… It didn’t matter.
Mr. Michal: We teach them to be friends, basically. To not see the differences. And they don’t see any. They work together and contribute to a great environment.
“We are aiming high so that your children can aim even higher”. The motto of Meridian International School is the key to its success. They say that for a child to learn, the teacher must transmit confidence, make him/her (hereafter he/him) a participant and help him achieve everything he sets out to do. At Meridian, they teach in accordance with the National Curriculum of England. The pedagogical view of Cambridge has proven that every student can achieve whatever he wants in life. When a student completes his studies, he may feel the need to keep in touch with the school and its faculty, regardless of the amount of time he has spent at the school. This trend best demonstrates that Meridian International School knows what it is all about.
Some students who reach the senior classes, but have never been in an international environment, may find it difficult to adapt to an international environment. How do you manage to include them?
Ms. Radka: Children are very adaptable. At first, if they came from an extremely different environment, like Arab countries, they need to adapt, more than students that come from Spain. But they adapt. They find it incredibly easy. From the moment the parents choose this school, they support us; so, in addition they also support the child. It depends on the student. There are actually huge differences between regular and international schools.
Mr. Michal: If the student comes from having good grades and doesn’t pass the entrance exams, we assist with some ESL classes or different programs for a short period of time. Slowly but surely, they reach the regular curriculum program. In each of our three buildings, from Early Years to High School, we have new students coming in. If the language level is low, we usually begin with math. We try to make the students feel that they can learn even if they need a little push. Once they catch up with the language, it is possible. – The most and the best learning occurs when the student is open-minded. At Meridian they not only teach, they educate. An academic resume is nothing without crediting the institution behind it.
How do you differ from other schools in Prague? From other international schools?
Mr. Michal: We work together as a team, and as is often said, a good relationship always makes a strong difference. We are close to each other and make the students feel welcome every moment they are here. We also offer a comfortable multicultural environment that enriches student’s lives in the school.
Ms. Radka: There’s a unique thing that we have: variety. – Meridian International School follows a Czech educational philosophy: Maturita. It is consistent, starting in kindergarten, where each student can decide whether to take a program for native speakers or for non-native speakers. With that, students can finish not only Cambridge English exams but also Czech exams. They can choose it as one of the languages, such as French.
What makes Meridian’s curriculum position it as a quality school?
Ms. Radka: Quality is a relative concept. You can have a beautiful building, a good front page and nice words, but the reality is inside the classroom. Teachers here are happy to teach. The international environment is different, with good coordination between colleagues, etc. The most important thing is teachers and management. If that works, then you are offering quality education. We have some certificates, but certificates don’t ensure quality.
What activities does the center offer for students with disabilities? And for students with learning disabilities such as ADHD, autism, etc.?
Ms. Radka: The activities differ between sections: Early Years, Primary, Secondary and High School, but in general we have day activities during the curriculums. Sometimes related to occupations. Instead of just studying, we offer the students the opportunity to have a bit of yoga, music classes, outside trips, etc. We also have plenty of activities at school during the weekly work-themes, like the Teddy Bear Hospital, in which young doctors from Carnoy University come to show children how to take care of a patient. Students bring their teddy bears and learn with them.
Mr. Michal: The profession-related activities are more common. We like to take trips in and out of Prague to museums like the robotic museum, the National… Always secure places. Each season we have different activities: in summer we go rafting, swimming, we have a volleyball club, football…
What are the latest innovations you have made in digitization and technology in the COVID era? Is it an effective way to teach and learn?
Ms. Radka: We have had to improvise, because even the Early Years curriculum was online, and with three-year-olds, that was a challenge. It was very tough for both parents and teachers, but they liked it. Teaching was not only talk, but as we discovered, they could dance, move… so the kids don’t stay put in one place. The teachers were exhausted, but we managed it.
Mr. Michal: We were the first school that managed to do it. We had COVID but with online programs it was as if students were physically at school. The subjects and classes were the same, but with a screen. No one could say that we had a gap because it was a continuous education.
How do you get students of such diverse backgrounds to flow in the same environment? How does it change their future?
Mr. Michal: Parents tell us that we teach our students so well that they can communicate on a level that allows them to pursue magnificent careers. We implemented the UN teaching model that, along experience with multicultural backgrounds, helps students adapt to the real world easily.
Ms. Radka: We interchange the children every few years, so they have more than one teacher throughout their studies. We mix them to get them used to change and to work on adaptation from an early age. They are used to change, and it helps them approach any professional field easily.
The future of Meridian International School has only just begun. “Five years from now, we will extend out and not be only in Prague. We want to be in every Czech city”.
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