Why an International Bilingual School?
The International Bilingual Montessori School (ibms) opened its doors in the autumn of 1996 as the first truly bilingual elementary school in Frankfurt. As an expansion of the International Montessori Pre-School, which began operating in 1992, ibms was created in response to intense parental demand. With an unusually large international community, Frankfurt is home to many families with professional and personal ties to other cultures. Their children must be prepared at any time to shift from one school system to another elsewhere in the world. For German children, Frankfurt's strong international character offers a unique opportunity for exposure to other cultures. In recent years, the demands of both sets of parents have converged into a growing interest in early bilingual education, and ibms was conceived to meet that interest.
What is a bilingual education?
Bilingual education means much more than learning a foreign language. The children at ibms learn in their second language, using it as part of their normal lessons. Our pupils become bilingual in the same way they learned their mother tongues, by talking to those around them. Our experience confirms the findings of linguists: there is no more natural way to learn a language.
In the ibms Pre-school, our younger children (three to five years of age) begin exploring a new language through play and song, through rhythmic language, games and practical examples. By the age of five or six, when they start primary school, they are capable of using their second language to describe images, understand stories and organize games and projects.
Primary school pupils spend their morning in parallel English and German classes. They learn reading, writing and mathematics in their respective mother tongues. The late morning is devoted to common projects that unite similar age groups in the two parallel classes. First graders from the English class, for example, may join with their German peers to explore an interesting topic, using German as a common language one week and English the next. All primary school pupils spend about a third of the day learning and playing in their second tongues.
Qualified German teachers instruct the German class according to the approved German curriculum. English-speaking pupils learn a curriculum that follows the British national standard from trained teachers in English.
What is the Montessori method?
The Montessori philosophy is based on the recognition that children learn best when they are active rather than passive, permitted to discover their world for themselves rather than simply being taught about it. Ibms offers its pupils a creative environment in which "hands-on" experience awakens interest not only in the traditional academic fields, but also in specialised areas.
Our teachers work with the children individually, respecting each pupil's personal approach and encouraging him or her to learn by a variety of means, both cognitive and emotional. Children have fun discovering their talents and interests, while each new step enhances their confidence and a realistic sense of self-esteem.
Montessori teaching relies on learning materials that are self-explanatory, allowing children of varying levels of development to work independently. Each child learns by proceeding step by step from concrete experience to abstract knowledge, using objects that stimulate all of his or her senses. Children also work on group tasks or projects, learning to help one another and respect the needs of others. Mixed-age classes are a further means of promoting cooperative rather than competitive interaction among the children.