Consider Ivy Leagues the IB

Elite forging

Hardly any other term is discussed as controversially in Germany as that of the elite. On the other hand, we speak of elite boarding schools as a matter of course without reflecting on what that might actually mean. Boarding schools themselves rarely see themselves as elite boarding schools; this attribution usually comes from outside.

What do we expect from an institution that we naturally refer to as an elite boarding school? Why do we find it so difficult on the one hand to use the term and at the same time apply it uncritically?

In the Anglo-Saxon world of education, one does not speak explicitly of elite institutions, but there they are a reality and no one in the English-speaking world would question their elite existence.

For example, the Ivy League universities (the name “Ivy” League comes from the ivy vines behind which the buildings, mostly in the neo-Gothic style are hidden) in the USA or the two legendary English universities of Oxford and Cambridge (among connoisseurs gladly combined to Oxbridge).

In the Anglo-Saxon world, the idea of ​​elite feeds itself on the results of the respective exams in a rather reduced manner. This is expressed every year in September in the so-called league tables: how many students have achieved how many A * in the A levels or how many points in the IB (International Baccalaureate).

The currency of the American elite schools is different. It is defined by the number of admissions to elite universities. The highest reputation then has the school, whose students were able to conquer the most places at the Ivy League universities - perhaps extended to include Berkeley in California.

Educators, including many English, are not particularly happy about such a narrow definition and review of their pedagogical work. And so more and more refuse - certainly also academically renowned schools that would be among the top ranks - to publish their exam results.

Their pedagogical pride is based more on the development of student potential - this is called “value added” in England. Simple and understandable: It is hardly surprising that an elite boarding school that takes its students very selectively also produces excellent academic results. It is pedagogically more valuable and more demanding to lift a 3-person pupil to a 2+ than from 1 to 1+.

But even that falls short of most German educators - including those at the supposedly elite boarding schools. The German boarding schools come from the tradition of reform pedagogy, and this is based on a holistic conception of man. She not only wants to promote and challenge academic skills, i.e. address the left hemisphere, but also the right hemisphere, which is responsible for creativity and emotions, and she takes into account that this also requires a body, according to Juvenal's motto " mens sana in corpore sano ”.

And the fourth component - perhaps even the most important - takes into account that every student is a social being, part of a community in which he / she has to learn to assert himself on the one hand, but also to experience that his / her own wishes are not the measure of all things are.

Such a holistic concept is difficult to grasp in rankings. That's why we don't know them here in Germany, and neither do we know any lists of university acceptance.

Nevertheless, we have elite boarding schools. The best known: Schule Schloss Salem; But the traditional Jesuit boarding schools such as the Aloisius College in Bad Godesberg enjoy the reputation of an elite boarding school.

Without being able to fall back on a long-standing pedagogical tradition, one boarding school in Germany has blossomed into an elite boarding school: Torgelow Castle. In its educational concept, Torgelow is more similar to the British elite boarding schools. The “elitist” claim is based on academic excellence. Through a selective pre-selection and high academic requirements, Torgelow worked his way up to the academic top in a very short time; with a “1” in front of the decimal point in the section; on average, mind you.

For those who define the elite as the responsible elite, the boarding schools, which are based on reform pedagogy, come into question.

Its first representative or founder was Hermann Lietz. And even today four boarding schools in Germany are adorned with his name: Hohenwehrda Castle, Bieberstein Castle, Hermann Lietz Haubinda's founding school and finally Spiekeroog, located on an island in the North Sea.

After more than 100 years of excellent educational work, they can confidently be called elite boarding schools.

If we go beyond the borders of the German school landscape, there is a country whose boarding schools are undisputedly dubbed elite boarding schools: Switzerland's international boarding schools.

On the one hand this is of course due to the price. In many cases, the Swiss elite boarding schools have already clearly exceeded the 100,000 mark.

The idea of ​​elite arises because of the small number of people who can afford something like this (if you take an 8-year high school as a basis, the school education costs alone quickly add up to over a million euros).

The Swiss elite boarding schools are not only expensive, they also have something to offer:

In addition to an internationally recognized degree - in most cases the IB, but also the British A-Levels or the American high school diploma - they accommodate an international student group that is unique in the world. When there is a lot of talk about the “Global Village”, it is lived every day in the Swiss elite boarding schools. With up to 120 nationalities at each individual school. A student body is trained and educated who have every reason to see themselves as cosmopolitans. Whether that is enough for the term "elitist" remains to be seen.

Where you can see the right place for your own child, whether at all and if so, what kind of elite you are striving for, that is a decision that responsible parents have to make. In many cases they seek advice on their choice. A few reputable agencies specialize in helping parents make the right choice early on. They are called ssb, SIB or daughters and sons.

Parents should just ask themselves in advance whether they want their child to receive an elite education at all, or whether they would rather go to their normal school at the local high school.

Dr. Detlef Kulessa