The International School of Bergen (Photo courtesy of ISB)

The International School of Bergen: Teaching Diversity and Inclusion

As Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen is a vibrant multicultural metropolitan. While Norway’s school system is excellent, it can naturally prove challenging for students who are new to the country. Helping students with these challenges has thus been one of the driving forces behind the International School of Bergen (ISB).

Founded in 1975, the International School of Bergen is a non-profit, co-educational institution providing tuition from pre-school to grade 10. It seeks to provide a holistic, well-rounded, and internationally accredited education for its students, while also promoting intercultural understanding and respect for human rights. With English as its language of instruction, the ISB boasts of over 45 years of experience acquired from teaching students from virtually all four corners of the world. More importantly, it prides itself on undertaking to meet and challenge students “at their level”.

“At ISB, you will find a warm and inclusive learning environment,” said Viki Stiebert, ISB Director.

Viki Stiebert, ISB Director (Photo courtesy of ISB)

Embracing diversity

As a school, the ISB is diverse and multifaceted, especially when it comes to its student body and teaching staff. Referring to her experiences as an educator, Director Stiebert believes that the ISB is “probably one of the most diverse student bodies” she has been involved with. “We have students from 35 different nations and teachers from 15, including Norway. When you consider that we are a school of 200 students and 40 teachers, that’s a very high ratio,”

A unique element of the school has been its “Foyer of Nations”. It is a section of the school where all the students and teachers have their national flags displayed. Director Stiebert empathises that this is one way to reflect and celebrate the individual identities of students and teachers alike, giving all a sense of belonging. “It serves as a visual representation of who we are. We truly value, celebrate and embrace the diversity of people in our school. It’s moving to see individuals recognize that they have a place here at ISB when they enter the foyer of nations,” she added.

According to Director Stiebert, fostering these values within the student body contributes to both the student’s growth and their sense of community. “We value integrity and respect for one another. We are a close community, where we know everybody’s name, and we truly see and value our students. We also emphasise respect, where we make sure that every student feels heard,” she added.

Helping with transition

In addition to teaching, the ISB staff are also trained in helping students and parents adjust to their new lives in Bergen. This is especially needed when considering that many of the students are new to Norway.

“I think that transitioning from one place to another is one of the hardest times, for both students, and adults, to have to contend with. So, we dedicate much time to transition, and our teachers have training and much experience in recognising and helping to manage this challenging time,” said Director Stiebert. She added, “We also make sure to offer support to parents who might not be working in Norway through our very active Parent-Teacher Organisation.”

International curriculum, Norwegian setting

As an international school, the ISB follows a curriculum that combines both the global standard utilised in similar schools and Norwegian language and culture, which is an integral part of each student’s week.

“We follow the International Baccalaureate in the primary and middle years program, which is important because we realise that our students need to come in and transition out afterwards with as few gaps as possible. That’s why it’s our choice of curriculum,” said Director Stiebert. While the class-loads are designed to be as holistic as possible, what makes them effective is the context-based learning approach that is utilised. “We make sure that our students experience a wide range of subjects so that whatever they face in the future, they’ll be able to transition smoothly to another school anywhere in the world,” she added.

Director Stiebert believes that the results speak for themselves. In the ISB’s annual report and on their website, ISB student performances are posted. In Norwegian and Mathematics, these results were exemplary and compared very favourably to both local and international benchmarks.

A safe and caring place

Another aspect of ISB’s learning experience is the cultivation of a “psychosocial learning environment”.

This entails a collective effort, from the school and student body, to make the ISB a safe and caring place. In addition, this approach seeks to impart the ISB’s integral values of respect and integrity for its students.

Parting ways

As the school year draws to a close, Director Stiebert reflects on how effective the teaching methodology has been for her students and the impact it has had, believing that the ISB has played a positive role for them.

“I had several students come to my office on their last day before leaving ISB, who told me that it made such a difference being in a school where their voices were heard”. Upon reflection, she cites that the school’s ultimate goal is to “create positive, resourceful global citizens”.