AISB invests EUR 6.5 M in a new early age educational center in its Bucharest campus

The environment is critical in education and this seems to be on the focus of the American International School of Bucharest (AISB) expansion plans in Romania.

The oldest and widest international school in Bucharest revealed its short term plans in a press conference on Tuesday, announcing it will invest EUR 6.5 M to build from scratch an early age educational center to accommodate kindergarten children aged from 2 to 5.

The investment, a totally different kind of space inside the AISB campus, is to be concluded in spring next year, with the opening scheduled for August.

It’s not so much about the size of the school in terms of expansion, we are 825 pupils now, we probably get to 1,000, but rather about the quality of the facility,” says AISB director Robert Brindley, who confessed he has been here in Bucharest for three years and his target is to change things. “I am here to change everything, for that’s what I do for living. Because education must change as fast as you can and because the world outside is changing at fast speed. When I first arrived I told the board and the teachers ‘put on your safety belt because I am changing everything, we are about to move,” the director explained.

However, besides changing things and recruiting staff, Robert Brindley’s other job is “to improve buildings,” so he and the school board embarked on this new project for pre-school kids.

The construction of a center intended exclusively for the little ones was necessary to adjust the learning environment for their needs. So, the new pre-school center will be a location of 3,800 square meters, especially designed for the youngest kids, with 20 classrooms and areas divided for each age group, with natural raw materials in the pipeline: wood, green and light.

Each part has its own large space and in between these space we put the so-called atelier, an indoor educational space, we want to replicate the outside inside. There is a lot of wood, for kids have to experiment the outside, and that’s why we bring the outside inside,” he argues.

At the same time, the new location will focus on green space and light. “It will be a green space, we actually call it the winter garden, there will be also a fishpond, trees, because that’s the way kids learn. They learn by seeing, doing and touching, smelling. They have their own gym, cafeteria, music, and playground. We have windows of different shapes, we use colors for young kids. The idea is to maximize light, light is very important in a school. We try making it less institutional, not like a usual school, or like home, it’s something in-between,” director Brindley also revealed.

Some EUR 500,000 will go on furniture, imported from Italy, as they have the expertize to provide a space adapted to each age.

The center capacity is 190 children, with AISB estimating about 100 children aged from 2 to 5 of 40 nationalities being admitted in the school year 2017-2018. At present, 100 children from 2 to 5 from 39 countries are studying at AISB.

Tuition fee this school year ranged from EUR 6,000 to EUR 18,000 per year and this will be preserved for the next school year, as well.

We are trying to provide all necessary conditions for learning, education, socio-emotional and cognitive development of every child, starting from the age of 2, based on our programme, especially designed for the pre-school needs. Our school is promoting a healthy, balanced perspective on life, with a diversity of curriculum activities and programmes which can be enforced in community as well, beyond the classroom borders,” said Catalina Gardescu, AISB Manager of Admissions&External Relations.

The American International School of Bucharest currently has 825 pupils from 56 countries, with 242 of them in the secondary school. Most of them are Romanians (32%), for a quota of 30% of locals must be observed according to the school’s rules, with the top 5 being filled in by Americans (13%), Israelis (5%), Germans (4%) and Turkish children (4%).

According to the school representatives, 124 teachers are currently working at AISB, with 24 of them Romanians.

As director Brindley put it, they are very successful in attracting the best teachers around the world, with 1, 956 international teachers applying for 30 teacher positions last year. What is an international brand school, spending around EUR 200,000 on training staff per year, looking when recruiting teachers? “They have to be highly qualified anyway, we bring special trainers from Italy to train them. What they need more? To adapt, to like kids, to be human, to be naturally happy, hardworking. I look for happy good people as teachers,” the director says, while praising the profile of the Romanian teachers, yet disclosing they lack awareness due to the outdated curriculum.

In Brindley’s view, international schools are expanding in Romania and also worldwide, it’s a huge outgrowing industry, and Romania is a friendly location from this point of view. “Bucharest is attractive , not polluted, politically stable, cost of living is low, the quality of life is very high,” he opines. What more does a brand like AISB need? “The trick is to keep your brand and to improve it,” Brindley confesses.

AISB has a budget of EUR 16 M for the school year 2016-2017, same as last year, with investments of minimum EUR 500,000 being drafted for the summer. The AISB was first set up in 1962 by the US Embassy to Romania, currently based in a 10-ha campus, built in 2001.

25AISBAmerican International School of Bucharestbuildingcampuscatalina gradescuchildrendirectorealry age educational centereducationenvironmentgreeninvestmentlearningpre-schoolRobert Brindley
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