Gemma Rose catches up with David-Ian Bogaerts, founder of Bogaerts International School.
In ‘Le Domaine de Latour de Freins’ stands a Flemish-styled, neo-renaissance château, built in 1890. It stands majestically in the centre of a well-manicured lawn, surrounded by over 62,000 square metres of woodland. The château has hosted different residents, such as the elderly or the Ambassador of the former Czechoslovakia. Today, it accommodates three Bogaerts’ schools: the Bogaerts International School, the Bogaerts Jury (which educates 15 to 18 year olds under the Belgian system in order to qualify for certain universities or higher level courses) and a business school for post graduates.
I meet David-Ian Bogaerts, the director and founder of the international school. As I walk along the driveway towards the entrance of the château, memories of school come flooding back: feeling terribly uncomfortable in my uniform (a bright red jumper, a dull skirt, a purse belt and a shirt with tie) on my first day; walking along sterile corridors into stale classrooms, or past the canteen that had a constant whiff of bleach; being afraid of my tall, thin and stern headmistress.
Peeking into a few classrooms and spending ample time at reception, Bogaerts’ students probably experience school differently to me. The reception is light and homely, with pictures of smiley kids pulling light-hearted poses on the walls. The school uniform is a simple dark blazer with a white shirt, pairing it with casual jeans or skirts. Students in class look comfortably studious whereas students going to class are in giggly moods. There is a delicious whiff from the dining hall.
Twenty minutes after our scheduled appointment, David-Ian Bogaerts greets me with a warm, if not apologetic smile. He was teaching his mathematics class and didn’t have his phone with him. I remarked that it shows his dedication to his students. He is young, affable and apparently not scary.
The international school covers kindergarten up to year 12, preparing students for university. Its programmes are either Cambridge or International Baccalaureate accredited. The school is based on the philosophy of David-Ian’s father, Rodolphe, who founded the jury school in the 1970s. The philosophy is to teach students to be internationally minded, independent and enthusiastic about life and learning. This is illustrated in a number of ways: from having ‘grand conversations’ with students on ethics and the role of technology in society, to having a ‘school of rock’, where students ranging from none to some musical capability can play in a rock band.
The core principle of this philosophy – to think independently and critically – lies in Bogaerts’ teaching method. Teachers will spend the first 20 minutes of an hour and 30 minute-classes instructing the students. After that, the teacher works alongside them so that no student falls behind and each student takes responsibility for their learning. “Our motto is: more at school, less at home,” says David-Ian. “In the Belgian system, the kids spend all day just listening, not participating, and then having to work a lot at home. We want our students to work in school, not after.”