Many people believe that the purpose of going to school is simply to pass exams in order to get the best possible score, without having to learn anything. Memorize, then let go.
Fortunately, this is not the case at Meridian International School, a place that offers the highest educational standards in Prague. Helping the student feel comfortable learning is the main priority of this school.
We spoke to Ms. Radka, Head of Early Years, and Mr. Michal, Deputy Principal of Meridian International School, to find out more about the school. It is a school that values above all its multicultural richness and its family atmosphere. For Ms. Radka and Mr. Michal, the key to academic success does not require high grades, obsessive studies or student skills. Success is always found in a welcoming environment because the life of a person, from his preschool education, revolves around one thing: relationships with others.
Humans are social beings. What would the world be like if, instead of learning from each other, we all focused on memorizing a book and forgetting it the next day? The Argentinian cartoonist Quino once said: “To educate is more difficult than to teach, because to teach you have to know, but to educate you have to be”.
We will now see why he is right. Meridian International School, as its name suggests, is a school made up of students of all nationalities. A total of 500 students from 63 different nationalities make up the school, which is recognized as one of the most qualitative schools in the Czech scene. About 30% of students come from the Czech Republic. Here they study mainly in English, with Czech and French being the two other languages that predominate at school.
Why is it important to have contact with other cultures and other ways of seeing life?
Mrs. Radka: It’s always a good idea to discover other cultures. I think it’s enriching not only for the children, but for us, for everyone. That’s why we learn a lot. We learn to respect, to celebrate differences and diversity and to become better human beings.
Mr Michal: We are in the 21st century. With each passing day, we become multicultural connected. At Meridian, we can say that we are one family. That’s why we think it’s very important to present the cultures of other people’s languages. The more we feel connected, the more we learn. The Czech Republic is a country open to the world. Respectful and therefore accessible to all families who wish to enroll their child in a school that celebrates diversity and advocates egalitarian education.
How do students adapt to a multicultural study environment?
Mrs. Radka: Only two words are needed: incredibly easily. In 16 years, we have never had any major problems related to student adaptation, and there are students from all over the world. It’s wonderful to see that there is absolutely no problem with that. My daughter studied here, and she was friends with people from Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Vietnam… It didn’t matter.
Mr Michal: We teach them to be friends, basically. To not see the differences. And they don’t see any. They work together and contribute to a great environment.
“We aim high so your kids can aim even higher.” Meridian International School’s motto is key to its success. It is said that for a child to learn, the teacher must impart confidence, make him (hereafter he) a participant and help him achieve whatever he sets out to do. At Meridian they teach in accordance with the National Curriculum of England. Cambridge’s educational vision has proven that every student can achieve what they want in life. When a student graduates, they may feel the need to stay in touch with the school and its faculty, regardless of how long they have been in school. This trend best demonstrates that Meridian International School knows what it’s all about.
Some students who reach the upper grades, but who have never been in an international environment, may find it difficult to adapt to an international environment. How do you include them?
Mrs. Radka: Children are very adaptable. At first, if they come from an extremely different background, such as Arab countries, they need to adapt, more than students who come from Spain. But they adapt. They find it incredibly easy. From the moment parents choose this school, they support us; therefore, in addition, they also support the child. It depends on the student. There are actually huge differences between regular schools and international schools.
Mr Michal: If the student has just got good grades and does not pass the entrance exams, we help with some ESL courses or different programs for a short time. Slowly but surely, they are entering the regular curriculum. In each of our three buildings, from early childhood to high school, we welcome new students. If the language level is low, we usually start with math. We try to make students feel like they can learn even if they need a little push. Once they have caught up with the language, it is possible. – The most and the best learning occurs when the student is open-minded. At Meridian, they not only teach, they educate. An academic resume is nothing without crediting the institution behind it.
How does it differentiate you from other schools in Prague? Other international schools?
Mr Michal: We work as a team, and as we often say, a good relationship always makes a big difference. We are close to each other and make students feel welcome every moment they are here. We also provide a comfortable multicultural environment that enriches student life at school.
Mrs. Radka: There is one unique thing we have: variety. – Meridian International School follows a Czech educational philosophy: Maturita. It is consistent, starting in kindergarten, where each student can decide to follow a program for native speakers or for non-native speakers. With this, students can complete not only Cambridge English exams, but also Czech exams. They can choose it as one of the languages, like French.
What makes Meridian’s curriculum position it as a quality school?
Mrs. Radka: Quality is a relative concept. You can have a nice building, a good front page, and nice lyrics, but the reality is inside the classroom. The teachers here are happy to teach. The international environment is different, with good coordination between colleagues, etc. The most important are the teachers and the management. If it works, then you are providing a quality education. We have some certificates, but certificates do not guarantee quality.
What activities does the center offer students with disabilities? And for students with learning disabilities such as ADHD, Autism, etc. ?
Mrs. Radka: The activities differ according to the sections: Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary and High School, but in general we have daytime activities during the courses. Sometimes related to professions. Instead of just studying, we offer students the opportunity to do some yoga, music lessons, outings, etc. We also have many activities at school during the weekly work themes, such as the Teddy Bear Hospital, in which young doctors from Carnoy University come to show children how to take care of a patient. Students bring their teddy bears and learn with them.
Mr Michal: Occupation-related activities are more frequent. We like to take trips inside and outside Prague to museums like the Robotics Museum, the National… Places that are always safe. Every season we have different activities: in summer we do rafting, swimming, we have a volleyball club, football…
What are the latest innovations you have made in digitization and technology in the age of COVID? Is it an effective way to teach and learn?
Mrs. Radka: We had to improvise, because even the early childhood program was online, and with three-year-olds, it was a challenge. It was very difficult for parents and teachers, but they liked it. Teaching wasn’t just about talking, but as we found out, they could dance, move…so the kids wouldn’t stay in one place. The teachers were exhausted, but we made it.
Mr Michal: We were the first school that managed to do this. We had COVID but with the online programs it was like the students were physically at school. The subjects and the courses were the same, but with a screen. Nobody could say that we had a gap because it was continuous training.
How to bring students from such diverse backgrounds to circulate in the same environment? How does this change their future?
Mr Michal: Parents tell us that we teach our students so well that they can communicate at a level that allows them to pursue great careers. We have implemented the United Nations teaching model which, together with the experience gained in multicultural environments, helps students adapt easily to the real world.
Mrs. Radka: We exchange children every few years, so they have more than one teacher throughout their studies. We mix them to get them used to change and work on adaptation from an early age. They are accustomed to change and this helps them to easily approach any professional field.
The future of Meridian International School is just beginning. “In five years we will expand and not only be in Prague. We want to be in all Czech cities”.