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Last year around this time we had an exciting announcement for all of you: Split International School was opening its doors in September and the staff were ready to start enrolling students. Considering the Split Tech City monthly theme for January this year is ‘The Sea of Learning’, we decided to dive into the international seas of learning by visiting Split International School to find out how they are doing now that they are fully operational as an educational institution.
And what an exciting morning it was!
Honestly, we were tempted to quit the jobs we love so dearly and go back to school just to be able to study at Split International School. All jokes aside, the atmosphere we felt there and the feedback we got from the staff, parents, and students is just that good and if you are considering enrolling your child in this school we have only one thing to say: just do it!
Split International School is an international school with admission open for both local and foreign students living in Split, as well as an IB candidate school that is pursuing full authorization as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program World School. All courses are taught in English with the school’s curriculum focused on primary and secondary education.
Furthermore, the educational program taught at Split International School is a globally recognized and well-respected curricular framework that is taught using Harkness teaching methodology – a discussion-based and student-driven teaching method that improves overall learning outcomes.
In addition to the IB Program, the school also offers the FIRST Robotics program together with the Center for Excellence. FIRST Robotics is a global robotics community aimed at preparing young people for the future by developing both technical skills and well-rounded life capabilities.
Well, now that we have offered you this brief reminder of what Split International School is all about, it is time to allow the people that this school gathered together to tell their stories. First up – John Rogošić, the school’s principal.
How do you feel now that Split International School has finally opened its doors to students?
“I feel happy and fulfilled. It’s so rewarding to see all of the students, teachers, and families come together and form a really close-knit community. If you told me a year ago how I’d feel today, and how close our families and students have become, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Are there some struggles you are facing at this stage, and how are you resolving them?
“One of our main struggles has been campus size. We expected a much smaller enrollment during the first year of our program, but the demand has been higher than we anticipated.
We’ve already exceeded our 3-year growth plan!
Therefore, we are actively looking for a new campus location to be able to accommodate more families over the coming years. The real estate situation in Split is difficult. Rents are very expensive, mostly driven by tourism-related industries, and it’s hard for non-profit organizations to compete.
We’ve got several team members and families contributing to our campus development process and we’re optimistic that we’re coming close to a solution.”
In your opinion, what are the reasons parents should enroll their child in Split International School?
“Our school is a truly international community with over 50 students from 14 different countries. It is really unique in Split as it’s created a way for expat families, digital nomad families, and local families to connect around their children’s education.
Our internationally trained teachers are actively invested in the success and education of their students, and engage with them both inside and outside of the classroom. Our classroom experience and teacher pedagogy and approach are informed by the latest research-based instructional strategies.
Each student receives individualized attention to their needs, and families are actively included as partners in their children’s education.
I used to teach at one of the top 10 private schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I can honestly say that our educational and classroom experience is of an equivalent level.”
Now that the school is open and running, who do you collaborate with the most, and in what ways?
“We’ve been collaboratively working with MIOC (Gimnazija III) as they work to bring their public school IB DP program online for September 2022, and have formed a close relationship with them. I am currently an external advisor of the MIOC IB DP program and have been working closely with their program coordinator to support their efforts.
Our school has also been involved with the UK-based “Roots and Shoots” program, which is an environmental initiative by Jane Goodall. Our students have participated in park and beach cleanup activities to collect litter and keep our local neighborhoods clean while protecting the environment.”
What does an average day look like at Split International School?
“It’s busy! Students arrive in the morning and head directly to their classrooms which are in separate cohorts due to current protective measures. They have 3 classes in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, made up of mostly group work in small, fixed, epidemiologically-compliant groups, or collaborative classroom discussions.
Teachers rotate between the classrooms, and during their preparation time, they meet collaboratively with their colleagues in small groups or virtually.
Schooling across the globe looks different because of the pandemic, and we’re doing our best to provide as normal an educational experience as possible for our students while still protecting their health and safety.
Ultimately we think we’ve succeeded. Our students and families are happy with their experience, and we’ve found a good balance that works for our school community.”
And how is the FIRST Robotics Competition project doing?
“This exciting collaboration started last year with over 15 students from the Center for Excellence of Split-Dalmatia County and selected international students from our school. It is true we had to delay meetings in November and December due to protective measures, however, we have started meetings again this month and are looking to make substantial progress this spring!”
Are you doing any other projects with your students?
“During the fall we had a very fun “Get to know Split” community-building initiative where our students spent 1 afternoon a week over the first 6 weeks of school exploring the city, going on scavenger hunts, visiting cultural and historical sites, and getting to know their new home. This was an internal project that was organized as a competition between different grade levels at our school.
It really helped bring together students from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures and enabled them to create a sense of grade identity. Students in each grade also collaboratively designed and created a ‘coat of arms’ to represent themselves.”
Any future plans you want to share with us?
“Our most exciting developments are around our new campus location, which we have been actively working on since last July. We hope to make a public announcement about it soon!”
We are thankful John found the time in his busy schedule to give us this principal’s point of view on the school he worked so hard to make into a reality with other co-founders. We soon let him continue with his day-to-day work and have turned to the staff of Split International School for some more feedback about this wonderful educational opportunity we have here in Split.
The ones we asked to teach us a thing or two about Split International School are Marko Akrap, upper-level English and History teacher; Stefan Birač, Science and Design teacher; Hrvoje Budimir, Mathematics teacher; and Jill Budimir, Elementary English and History teacher.
We didn’t want to deprive the students of learning opportunities by taking their teachers away from the classrooms for too long, so we came prepared, as any good student does, and had some questions ready for them. So, here’s what our teachers had to say about their work at Split International School.
What are the benefits of working at Split International School from the point of view of an educator?
Marko: “Besides the rigor framed through combining the International Baccalaureate and Croatian curriculums, our school offers us the freedom to challenge students and prepare them for the real world, focusing on problem-solving and critical thinking.
This is an educator’s dream!”
Stefan: “The teamwork attitude present in Split International School empowers me as a teacher to do my part the best that I can, while also helping others, and learning from them.”
Hrvoje: “Our class sizes are capped to provide individualized attention and to meet the needs of our diverse learners. We tailor our innovative and dynamic instructional delivery in the way that we nurture communication, collaboration, and application of our learning.
It brings me so much joy when I see our students thrive, both academically and socially, in a safe learning environment.”
Jill: “Working at Split International School has truly been a professionally rich experience for me as an educator. We have been able to teach with the best practices in education, and focus on what I believe are the most important aspects of student learning. I have also appreciated the creativity that is encouraged in our lesson planning and that we strive for high rigorous educational standards and skills.
This is something that the teachers are proud of in the education we facilitate with our students. Teaching with these methods allows us to develop significant connections with our students, and that is a great benefit in working at our school.”
What is it that you like best about working at Split International School?
Marko: “The faculty and staff are not only friendly but also fully committed to the successful education of the students. This creates a wonderful working environment infused with collaboration and creativity to create a unique learning experience.”
Stefan: “Quality professional development workshops provide great assets for continual learning. The teacher knows that, if a person changes their character, their destiny will change. The IB approach provides students and teachers an opportunity to learn from one another through international-mindedness.
Teachers become peers and students take charge of their education.”
Hrvoje: “Our school community brings multicultural experience and a global perspective that we are all benefiting from. I really enjoy working with a group of committed professionals and parents who deeply care about student success and about bringing opportunities to Split and the region.”
Jill: “Split International School has a wonderfully diverse student body. I appreciate the intercultural experience and broader world views of our students. Teaching smaller class sizes is also something that previous public school teachers don’t take for granted! As a teacher and one of the founders of the school, I have seen the lives of many families incredibly impacted by Split International School’s opening this year.
It has created a community and enabled many people from all over the world to move to Split.
We know that our work is impactful and our families express appreciation regularly to us for working with their children.”
We are grateful to Marko, Stefan, Hrvoje, and Jill for giving us an insightful look ‘behind the scenes’ of Split International School through the eyes of educators. As promised, we were short and sweet with our questions and let them go back to their respective classrooms as soon as possible.
However, we were still ‘fishing’ for opinions and feedback within the waves of our ‘international sea’, so we decided our next ‘catch’ will be the parents. And they had some interesting things to share, indeed!
The ones we managed to ‘catch for a quick chat’ are Louis’s father Francois; Hana, who is the mother of Lilly and Thomas; and Heather, Adriana and Mate’s mother. As with the teachers, we know how busy parents can get, so we immediately asked the questions we wanted them to answer.
Why did you enroll your child in Split International School?
Francois: “We have been living in Split for seven years but school in the Croatian language was still difficult for Louis and he struggled with making friends with locals.”
Hana: “I wanted my children to grow and learn in a multicultural environment with fewer students and for them to have teachers that show they care to improve my child’s quality of learning.”
Heather: “Because Split International School has created an environment where my kids are learning to love to learn!”
In your opinion, how does studying at Split International School benefit your child?
Francois: “The education system is much more modern than any public school. Besides improving his English, Louis can explore more of his potential in Split International School.”
Hana: “My child’s learning is more effective and they get to fully understand what is being taught.
Split International School has a more hands-on approach to learning which encourages children to think outside of the box.
You will not find this kind of education and care in the regular public school system.”
Heather: “For the first time, my children are feeling confident in themselves both scholastically and socially!”
From your point of view, what is the best thing about Split International School?
Francois: “The best thing about the school is the teachers! Most of them come from top schools abroad and their teaching skills are perfectly suitable for kids in the 21st century.”
Hana: “The teachers are open, creative, compassionate, and very invested in making sure that each child becomes the best version of themselves. Most of the teachers have experience teaching abroad and they are willing to accept and value differences.”
Heather: “I no longer have to struggle with my children to get to school or to do their homework.
They look forward to going to school every day!
My gratitude for Split International School is endless!”
With that kind of feedback, we really have nothing more to add. Therefore, we thanked the parents for their time and went searching for the ones we personally thought are the most important ‘fish’ in this particular ‘sea of learning’ – the students!
After all, a school without students is not a school at all, and Split International School is no exception to this fact. It was founded with students in mind to enable them to have the best possible international education right here in Split no matter where they might come from.
We soon found ourselves in a very well-spoken and thoughtful company of three Split International School students: Farah, Sara, and Thea. Split Tech City is always keen to find out what’s brewing inside young minds, and this time was no different. We knew what we wanted to ask them and they knew exactly what to answer.
We only wish we could spend more time with them to get more insight into everything that interests them, but we guess we might have an opportunity for that in the future at one of Split Tech City’s events that will be designed for our younger audience.
So, without further ado, here is the most important feedback about the work of Split International School – the one given by those for whom it was founded.
What is your favorite school subject and why?
Farah: “Honestly all the subjects! Particularly Math, English, Film, and Design. I really like stringing things together. Or to figure out something in a completely logical way.”
Sara: “My favorite subject in school is English because it explores so many different topics and it’s so flexible! For example, our assignment is to write an essay but we can choose the topic which leaves a lot of freedom to us as students. We also have very interesting novels we read as part of the class and I enjoy reading anyway, so it’s a great opportunity to get graded on something I really like doing.”
Thea: “My favorite subjects are English and History because I love the atmosphere during the class and the fact that I can openly express myself!”
How do you like studying at Split International School?
Farah: “It is honestly amazing! I love the size right now because there is plenty of social interaction and we are all friendly. The teachers are so cool!
They really help me understand things and this makes me want to learn.
It is also very nice that the school is international. I have people to relate with when it comes to the whole ‘I am a world traveling teen‘ thing.”
Sara: “I think it’s great because of the individualized approach the school has to all of us. All the teachers make sure to ask us for feedback on their classes and they’re very understanding even in terms of deadlines and due dates, which leads to much less stress overall.
I feel like the content we learn is easily applicable to real life, and understanding the correlation of what we learn in class and how we can actually use it is important to me because it makes me feel like what I’m learning will really benefit me in the future.”
Thea: “I like studying at Split International School because we always have time for open discussions with the teachers and it allows me to develop critical thinking.”
What is the best thing about your school?
Farah: “Now, I believe the reason I’ve mentioned social interaction before was because I have been homeschooled almost my entire life. And traveling always left me somewhat lonely. So, being surrounded by my peers is something that I like! I also really enjoy the education here. Especially the fact that it is a self-teaching program.”
Sara: “I think there are many great things about our school, so I cannot really name one best thing.
I really like that our lessons from different subjects are so interconnected.
We had to make a movie for a History class that connected our Art and Film class and English class with the content we were studying in History. In Biology, we learned how to convert units which we then used in Math class. I feel like instead of separating different subjects, our school connects them into one learning process which helps me memorize and get through all the content a lot quicker and more easily.”
Thea: “Since there aren’t too many of us in the class, the teachers have time to take their time with all of us and can interact with every student in-depth.”
We are grateful for this most important insight into Split International School that was shared by Farah, Sara, and Thea. We wish our three young ‘mermaids’, as well as the other students, to continue successfully swimming through the ‘sea of learning’ at their school. We also hope that Split International School will continue to be as successful as it was in its first year of work!
Photos by: Bruno Dubravec