21 Feb Benjamin Franklin International School in Barcelona
An American School in Barcelona, Benjamin Franklin International School provides education from Nursery to Grade 12 to approximately 689 students from over 52 different nationalities. Charo Rodriguez, Director of Communications, talked to MumAbroad Life about the school.
What is the philosophy of the school?
The philosophy of the school is condensed in the mission of the school: Our purpose is to engage or diverse school community in the pursuit of educational excellence and success for all students.
Purpose: At the core of a successful and meaningful endeavor is a clear sense of purpose, an understanding that what we do today matters. Purpose implies focus, commitment, passion and fulfillment. Purpose is what wakes us up in the morning, motivates us to dream big, and drives us to persevere when obstacles stand in our way.
Engage: The hallmark of any excellent school is a sense of engagement that permeates all aspects of school life. Create an engaging environment and learning will follow.
Diverse school community: At BFIS there is a clear sense of community that defines the school. We have students and families from more than 50 different nationalities and teachers from around the globe who come together to create an environment that is truly unique in Barcelona.
Educational Excellence: While academic excellence will always be an essential part of our program, our purpose is larger than that. At BFIS, we believe in the development and education of the whole child. Intellectual growth is complemented by opportunities for students to develop socially, emotionally, physically, and creatively as well.
Success for all students: It goes without saying that every student is different. Some excel in science, some in languages, some in math, some in the art studio, some on the playing field, and some on the stage. At BFIS, we believe it is our obligation to create an environment in which every student has the opportunity and support to discover their interests, pursue their passions, and develop the skills and knowledge they need to thrive.
What curriculum does the school follow?
The school follows the American curriculum and the IB program for the last 2 years of High School. Spanish students can also obtain the Spanish Bachillerato Diploma.
What foreign languages do the students learn?
English is the primary language of instruction. At BFIS, Spanish is “mandatory” as a native language or as an additional language for international students. In addition, Catalan is offered for local students and starting in Grade 6 French is offered as an elective subject.
What do children learn in the Early Childhood Program?
BFIS’ educational program is designed to foster the development of the whole child by providing a rich balance of experiences. We value holistic development across a variety of areas: Social Emotional, Language, Physical, Cognitive, Literacy and Mathematics. BFIS Early Childhood program is inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education. BFIS does not intend to duplicate this philosophy because the children, families, and teachers of BFIS offer a different culture, location, and perspective. This approach is based on a number of distinctive characteristics: the participation of families, the collegial work of all the personnel, the importance of the educational environment, the presence of the teaching team and most importantly about learning and advocacy for children. In its most basic form, it is a way of observing what children know, their innate curiosity, what drives them as learners, and what challenges them. Teachers record these observations to reflect on developmentally appropriate ways to help children expand their academic and social potential.
What are the main differences between Elementary School and Middle School?
The Elementary School at BFIS is committed to creating a learning experience for children that provides unlimited opportunities for exploration and meaningful learning. BFIS places place value on the importance of a strong academic foundation, particularly with respect to literacy, mathematics, and multilingual growth. At the same time, the school believes that an educational experience is incomplete without an emphasis on social-emotional learning, physical education, and the arts. The curriculum in Elementary School provides a framework that guides the learning experience of students with a strong foundation of conceptual understanding. Students have one lead teacher and one associate teacher for core subjects such as Math, Literacy, Social Studies and Science, and different specialist teachers for subjects such as Music, Spanish, Catalan, Spanish as an Additional Language, Art, Physical Education and Library.
During Middle School, BFIS encourages students to maintain their curiosity and creativity while stretching their self confidence and self-advocacy. Students begin to think critically and reason abstractly about themselves as individuals, their community and their planet. The Middle School experience is one in which, at a time of rapid intellectual and personal change, students strengthen their independence and begin to pursue specific interests. They have one teacher per subject, an advisory period every day, and electives subjects to pursue specific interests. There are also leadership opportunities, sports, and community service initiatives to choose from each semester.
We all know that adolescence is a time of a tremendous development and transition. Middle schoolers are not only experiencing physical changes associated with puberty, but they are also experiencing social and emotional changes tied to adolescent brain development. At BFIS, we honor the developmental uniqueness of these young adolescents and provide a safe and supportive school environment. BFIS teachers and the student support team, including our counselors, learning support and language specialists as well as our Wellbeing teachers play an important role in helping students develop into kind, responsible, respectful and honest young adults. We work together with parents to support and encourage all students in reaching their full academic and personal potential.
You offer the IB Diploma Program in grades 11 and 12. Do all students follow this program?
We encourage all of our students to follow the full IB Diploma Program but they can obtain the American High School Diploma without meeting all the IBDP requirements. To receive the American US High School Diploma they need to take the sufficient number of IB classes, either at standard level or high level, to meet the US credits.
However, the great majority of BFIS students follow the full IBDP, which means that when they graduate they will obtain the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and the American High School Diploma. Spanish students can also receive the Spanish Bachillerato Diploma if taking the appropriate Spanish and Catalan courses.
How can parents gauge the academic success of the school?
Many parents look at the IB scores to measure the academic success of the school and BFIS is very proud of their students’ successes in this area. However, for BFIS teachers and administrators there are more substantial factors than just test scores
BFIS mission states: “Our purpose is to engage our diverse school community in the pursuit of educational excellence and success for all students.”
BFIS mission doesn’t say “academic excellence” but rather “educational excellence”. As stated before, while academic excellence will always be an essential goal of our program, our purpose is larger than that. In other words, academic excellence is necessary but not sufficient. At BFIS we believe in the development and education of the whole child. Intellectual growth is complemented by opportunities for students to develop socially, emotionally, physically, and creatively as well.
At BFIS more important than the average IB score is our students near 100% pass rate on the IB exams. Also it is significant that 75% of our graduates were admitted to their first choice of college or that the vast majority of our alumni responding to our survey during their first year of college think the school prepared them well or extremely well for university.
What percentage of families comes from the international community and what percentage are Spanish?
BFIS community breakdown by nationality is:
- 30% Spanish
- 25% American
- 45% International
What would you say sets the school apart from other international schools in Barcelona?
- American Curriculum
- Full IBDP in English
- 100% Pass Rate on the IB Exams
- A truly International school with more than 50 different nationalities
- An engaged, welcoming and caring school community
- Small class size: 18 -20 max. students per classroom
- Students/teacher ratio: 6.5
- Differentiated instruction and Learning Support
- Educating the whole child. Emphasis on social emotional learning and well-being
- Focus on technology and innovation: Makerspace, flexible seating, 1:1 laptop program,
- Excellent professional development program for BFIS teachers. Many leadership opportunities or students: Student council, National Honors Society, Model United Nations, many student clubs (film club, feminist club, running club).
For those wishing to apply to the school can you explain your application process?
BFIS wants to make sure that the family experience at the school is a positive one and it will strive to make a perfect fit for the child and the family as well.
Our suggestion is that parents visit the school and meet with the Admissions Team to discuss their children’s schooling needs prior to application. This can be done by phone, email or through our website. Our Admissions Office will arrange a convenient date and time for the family to visit the school. Most students join BFIS in September, but we are happy to admit students throughout the year provided we have places available and they meet requirements.
After this first visit, families can start the admissions process:
Step 1- Online Application. Applications to BFIS need to be submitted through our online system. All online applications require supporting documentation that varies depending on the grade the student is applying to.
Step 2- Placement Evaluation/Assessments. Depending on the submitted documents in Step 1, BFIS may require Grades 3-11 students to complete additional language, reading, and math assessments, either in-house or online, and interview with the Principal and/or Counselor either onsite or by Skype. Assessments do not guarantee a place at the school nor that a seat will be held for any student.
Step 3- Review of Application. Once the application has been reviewed, the decision is communicated within two weeks.
Step 4- Formal Acceptance and enrollment. Parents will be notified and receive a formal acceptance from the Admissions Office with the some documentation to be submitted.
Do students have to speak English to apply to the school?
Incoming students up to Grade 2 (7 years old) may enter BFIS with no English language skills. In some cases, the school may carry out a formal assessment to determine grade placement and/or to decide the appropriate learning support.
For upper grades and in cases where applicants demonstrate a lower level of English proficiency, the student will be invited for further assessment with our English as an Additional Language (EAL) Department. Students with stronger English language skills have preference in the admissions process.
How do you make new students and their families feel part of the school community?
One of the distinctive traits of BFIS is the importance we give to our community and how deeply we care about it. We believe community engagement is key to student success. As our mission states, our purpose is to engage our diverse school community in the pursuit of educational excellence and success for all students. We can only achieve that if our entire school community (parents, students, teachers and staff) is working together towards the same goals.
At BFIS this engagement is palpable. Parents come to school not only to drop off or pick up their kids but also to connect with teachers, staff and other parents. We offer numerous opportunities for parents to get involved with and enhance their children’s learning experience.
It is important to BFIS that new families feel a part of our community as soon as possible, providing a quick and easy transition for students and parents. To meet this goal, BFIS provides a Welcome Program designed to help new students and their families make early connections within our friendly and inclusive community. Once families arrive, they will become part of it. BFIS Welcome Program includes a Buddy Program where current students pair up with new students during the summer, Buddy Trips a few days before the start of the school year, Families and Buddies Barbeque at the school, Orientation Morning, a PTA Welcome Coffee, Making Barcelona and BFIS Home Seminar and many opportunities and cultural events to meet new and current families in and off campus.
Describe BFIS in 3 words.
Character, Community, Curriculum