Bandung Independent School: Empowering Inquiring, Reflective and Caring Lifelong Learners
Bandung Independent School
Bandung Independent School

With the rising access to quality education, it is now easier to find a school environment that offers a dynamic curriculum fulfilling modern educational needs. With a dynamic curriculum, these schools lay the foundation to nurture ideal professionals by instilling academic values.

But what makes few schools stand out in this competitive environment is their pursuit of providing international educational experiences woven into an impeccable curriculum. This amalgamation of educational values not only motivates students to excel in their professional fields like the normal school environments; It nurtures the ideal citizens of tomorrow, contributing to the welfare of society.

The names of these schools are countable but in the landscape of Indonesia, Bandung Independent School under the leadership of Marci Russell, Head of the School surely grabs the most headlines. BIS, originally founded in 1972 as Bandung International School, emerged from the vision of the International Study Group Bandung Foundation—a non-profit organization.

Conceived by expatriate parents seeking an international and secular educational experience, BIS started as a small study group and has since evolved into a non-profit institution providing international education to students aged 2 to 19.

A Thriving Community School

BIS currently boasts a diverse enrollment of 207 students representing 17 nationalities, supported by a dedicated staff of 73 individuals from 7 different countries. Accredited by the International Baccalaureate (IB) as the only Continuum school in Bandung, BIS has offered the Primary Years Programme since 2004, the Middle Years Programme since 2022, and the Diploma Programme since 2005. Additionally, the school holds accreditations from the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and locally by the Indonesian government.

BIS thrives as a community school, driven by collaboration between passionate educators, administrators, parents, students, and a Board of parent volunteers. Guided by the BIS Mission, Vision, and Values—designed collaboratively by all stakeholders—the school places a strong emphasis on defining and maintaining high-quality learning and teaching standards.

Empowering Lifelong Learners

The school’s vision is to champion individual potential and cultivate leaders, as the school of choice for the internationally minded community of West Java.

Through engaging IB programmes, the school aims to empower inquiring, reflective, and caring lifelong learners to continue striving towards a better world.

BIS stood strong while facing the challenges of the pandemic and navigated a declining enrolment and the implementation of online/hybrid learning with resilience. Adopting a one-year “transition plan” the school bridged the former strategic plan with the new 2022-2025 plan, enabling it to adapt to the uncertainties of the future swiftly.

Ensuring Seamless Learning Experiences

During the pandemic, BIS quickly developed an Online Learning Plan, emphasizing support for students, particularly the younger ones requiring parental assistance. A resource pickup system was implemented, ensuring tangible learning materials for students. Upon the safe reopening of the campus, the school introduced additional support systems, including a school counselor and learning support teacher, aiding students through the transitions.

BIS encourages the use of a variety of technology-based tools. This offers the community members a diverse range of possibilities to enhance and contribute to an effective and positive teaching and learning environment. The school wants all community members to have the freedom and knowledge to effectively use technology to explore ideas and concepts as it believes that the ability to inquire plays a key role in education at all levels.

To help facilitate this, BIS has instituted a 1-to-1 digital device program for Grades 1 to 12 and has digital tablets in its Early Childhood classrooms. The school offers a range of digital learning platforms, including Managebac (for Secondary) and Toddle (for Primary), which it uses to streamline content delivery, assessments, and communication between the school and community members. The school is a Common Sense recognized institution and all of its teaching and classroom support staff are Google Certified educators.

Ideal Incorporation of Technology

BIS offers innovative learning spaces, like Maker Space, Baker Space, and Computer Lab where students can explore and create using technology, like 3-D printers, robotics, cooking tools, and web-based resources and tools that help foster a hands-on and experiential learning approach. The school also utilizes interactive digital content, multimedia resources, and online simulations to help make learning engaging and dynamic for its students. For example, many teachers make use of E-Learning modules, like Kognity and In-Thinking, that go beyond traditional textbooks and can include multimedia elements, such as videos, animations, and simulations to make complex concepts more accessible. Many of its teachers also make use of podcasts and webinars to expose students to a variety of perspectives and enhance auditory learning experiences and also bring digital storytelling tools into their classes to help develop creative thinking and communication skills.

When the school moved online, many of the tools that it used have become staples in the classroom such as online art galleries and exhibitions, interactive assessments and gamified learning tools, and simulations and virtual experimentation. BIS features Google Workplace for Education as its main communications platform, for collaborative learning, and enhancing the learning experience.

Moving forward, BIS embraces the opportunity to find new and innovative ways to bring even greater technology integration into the school environment as it continues to mold its students into respectful, responsible, and effective digital citizens.

Education Beyond Classrooms

BIS offers more than 50 extracurricular activities (ECAs) to fit the interests and passions of students of all ages. The activities include sports, service clubs, leadership opportunities, the arts, and technology. ECAs connect to the UN Sustainability Goals and cover 6 areas of holistic development: Leadership, Well-being, Community, Academic, Service Learning, and Creativity. BIS believes that learning extends beyond the classroom, and the school looks for ways to engage students and connect the curriculum to real-world experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. This includes our Outreach program where students travel to various locations around the world to learn new skills and about different cultures while making lifelong memories with other students from different grade levels.

The educational offering of BIS is widely recognized. The school has received numerous awards for its innovative approach. Some of the most notable awards received by BIS are:

  • Common Sense School
  • K-12 Digest identified BIS as one of the “10 Must Watch Schools in Asia” in 2023

BIS has always been a true international school with a diverse community. Its shared definition of global citizenship and intercultural learning describes the school’s commitment to fostering both. Within its curriculum and extracurricular activities, students are encouraged to share their varied perspectives and seek understanding of others’ perspectives. At BIS, the school goes beyond the surface of celebrating diversity and takes it to a new level of valuing each other’s cultural identities.

Fostering Global Citizenship

The Bandung Independent School community is committed to working towards fostering global citizenship and intercultural learning both inside and outside of the classroom.

BIS believes quality education is a human right, and thus, education should be inclusive and equitable to all learners in the community. As stated in its Vision and Mission, the school strives to nurture individual potential and to inspire every learner to become skillful and courageous, empowered to participate responsibly and successfully.

BIS believes in an inclusive educational environment, wherein:

  • All BIS community members are welcome, safe, and valued.
  • All BIS community members havethe right to exercise their voice, choice, and agency to create an affirmative, responsive learning environment.
  • All BIS students experience learning opportunities that are engaging, challenging, and relevant.
  • All BIS educators are educators of all students. BIS educators share a belief that all students can be successful, and the school nurtures the individual potential of every learner.
  • All language and cultural backgrounds are viewed as valuable resources and enrich our community.
  • All assessments are fair and equitable. They unlock individual potentials, build on previous knowledge, and celebrate the unique learning journeys of every student.
  • All BIS community members develop the IB Learner Profileattributes and develop intercultural understanding and respect.

A Rewarding Journey

Most recently, some of BIS Grade 11 students, Valerine Wijono and Declan Gunawan achieved runner-up in the National Schools Debating Championship in Indonesia. They continue to show their debating skills throughout the year at debate competitions and have inspired other students to follow in their footsteps and join the debating club.

Its alumni are still very well connected to BIS and often send stories and updates about their achievements.

Tommy Tjandra, class of 2015, left BIS with a full IB Diploma and went on to earn his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Michigan in 2019, and his Master of Science in Education, Learning Sciences, and Technology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2022.

He is currently working for Apple in Cupertino, California, and hopes to change the world by developing innovative new Edtech tools for teachers and students.

Cyrus Tanade, Class of 2016, is currently a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at Duke University. He is working at the intersection of high-performance computing, physics-based modeling, and machine learning to address grand challenges in cardiovascular medicine. Using some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers and cloud resources with collaborations from Amazon and Microsoft, he focuses on establishing digital twins for coronary arteries. These personalized models, constructed from medical images and 3D blood flow simulations, help diagnose and treat coronary disease, a leading global cause of death.

Catering Diverse Learning Needs

BIS encourages students to hone leadership skills, work together as a= team, and be good global citizens. The school offers them many opportunities to do so. Not only are these skills taught within the classroom during group work projects and by making connections with real-world issues, but students are also able to run extracurricular activities in areas they are passionate about. The BIS House system gives students the chance to collaborate in teams including students from Nursery up to Grade 12 showing teamwork and camaraderie. Each House has House Captains, who learn leadership skills while organizing events and being mentors and role models for younger students. Its Student Council (STUCO) includes an executive council, an internal council, and class representatives. STUCO works with the administration to share the students’ perspectives. BIS values students as stakeholders and includes them in many things the school does. Its STUCO has even helped to develop documents for accreditation about student agencies.

At BIS, we pride ourselves on championing individual potential. Our dedicated Student Support Team, comprised of the Principals, School Counselor, Well-being Coordinator, Child Protection Officers, English Support Coordinator, and Learning Support Teacher, provides personalized attention for each student. We create tailored action plans for those facing academic or social challenges, and everyone who works at BIS has been trained in child protection to ensure a safe learning environment for our students.

Our teachers actively engage with students daily in the classrooms and during our advisory periods, “Dragon Time,” fostering a supportive learning environment. Also, starting in Grade 9, our University Counselor provides group and one-on-one support for students and parents to guide them through the university application process. This approach to individualized support for each student’s academic and personal success is not something you will find at all schools.

Finally, BIS places a focus on holistic development, offering a range of extracurricular activities and resources that complement the academic curriculum. Our extracurricular activities program covers 6 areas of holistic development: Leadership, Well-Being, Community, Academic, Service Learning, and Creativity. This focus on a well-rounded education ensures that students not only excel academically but also develop essential life skills.

An Inclusive Learning Hub

BIS has a well-developed definition of Global Citizenship and Intercultural Learning, which is alive in everything the school does. Its diverse community is not only welcoming to students from all over the world, but it also seeks to understand and respect the multiple perspectives that they bring to the classroom as well as those not represented within the classroom.

In all BIS classes, students examine local and global issues critically and thoughtfully to prepare for action, service, and responsible decision-making. While students develop analytical skills to examine global challenges, they often connect these challenges with UN Sustainable Development Goals to encourage them to think critically, evaluate their research, and find innovative solutions to real-world problems. In addition to academic knowledge, teacher emphasize the IB Approaches to Learning skills and IB Learner Profile attributes to help students develop the skills needed to communicate effectively with open minds and hearts.

The school often brings in experts from the community to discuss different aspects of intercultural learning and propose service-learning opportunities. A strong suit at BIS is how passionate students are for learning more about global initiatives and giving back through community service connecting what they learn in the classroom to a sense of responsibility and global citizenship. The school has dedicated teacher coordinators who work to support students through this important learning journey.

Everyone who has been at BIS finds the community special. The school is lucky to have such an involved parent community which is known as Friends of BIS (FoBIS). FoBIS parent class representative’s liaison between the school and the parent community to keep them abreast of all of the wonderful activities and events that are regularly occurring. From orientation sessions to parent workshops and seminars about education, teacher conferences, easy-to-use platforms such as Toddle and ManageBac, and weekly newsletters, BIS keeps parents informed. The school believes that home-school communication is key to supporting each student as the individual they are.

Valuing the School Community

BIS cares about parents and seeks their perspectives through regular surveys about policies, programs, and overall satisfaction. However, as a close-knit community, the school mostly relies on face-to-face conversations with parents. When parents join BIS, they join a family that is welcoming, caring, and supportive.

BIS is thankful to parents who volunteer their time as guest speakers, to organize events, raise money for and donate educational resources, and participate in school committees. The BIS Board of Directors is a group of dedicated BIS parent volunteers who serve the school and its community and work with the Head of School to set the strategic plan for continual improvement moving forward.

As the Head of School, Marci’s goals and visions for the future of education at BIS come from conversations with students, parents, Board members, faculty, and staff. The school developed its Mission and Vision with the collaborative efforts of the community; thus, the goals are aligned. As a school, BIS values its community, the quality of teaching and learning, and the future of the school. As a school that has over 50 years of history, BIS has many deep-rooted traditions. However, staying true to its values while keeping teaching and learning relevant, exciting, and challenging with the most modern educational programs is always a goal. The school, under the leadership of Marci, aims to continue to develop its MYP which it just adopted in 2022. BIS hopes to bring in more community members and will continue to develop and update its campus to to always improve it’s already stellar facilities.

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