Lisa Lyle - The ZIS Perspective
It’s good to talk: how your feedback is helping to shape our school’s direction and ensure future success.
Over the past few months, I’ve been delighted to see so many members of our community engaging in conversations and responding to surveys as part of the strategic planning initiative. It’s great that alumni, students, parents, trustees, faculty and staff have taken the time to share their thoughts with us as we strive to confirm our strengths and determine opportunities for continued growth as a global learning community.
While I myself have led numerous parent discussions, I am far from the only one who has done so. It has been wonderful to work in partnership with campus principals and Parents’ Association leaders, who have themselves organized further outreach and at least 26 different parent meetings. Alongside these conversations, a survey of our community, as part of the NEASC accreditation process, has given us additional insights. From these information sources, clear themes have emerged.
When parents were asked to describe the characteristics and skills they yearn for their children to demonstrate at the end of their time at ZIS, they highlighted critical “soft skills” such as adaptability, open-mindedness, global thinking, responsibility, confidence and resilience. These are the very skills and attributes highlighted by business leaders when they share what they seek in new hires. Parents have expressed confidence that ZIS is helping their children develop these important traits and alumni have confirmed that in their survey responses.
I have also heard parents talk about the importance of having excellent teachers who understand each student personally and challenge them to grow – and parents, students and alumni confirm that this is the case among ZIS faculty. Constituents also appreciate the wide range of course options and cocurricular activities, which, together with excellent field trips, help students develop in such important ways.
Across all constituent groups there were suggestions for changes. Opportunities for improvement cited across groups include: the hope that students develop stronger German fluency and integrate better into the local Swiss community; the desire for more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses and co-curricular experiences, including lots of coding and robotics at each campus; and a desire for more ‘academic rigor’ and clearer feedback about student performance – though alumni stated they felt exceptionally well-prepared academically for university, and the vast majority of students felt the level of challenge was just right.
Parents, a few alumni and some students mentioned concerns about student risk behaviors (vaping, substances and social media, for example) and encouraged ZIS to continue to focus on prevention and intervention. A summary of the data is published for current parents at zis.ch/community-portal/zis-partners-news, or you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
While there have been some areas of concern from each constituent group, the overriding message is that ZIS is a forward-thinking, caring institution preparing students for the challenges they will face in the future. We have already made a few tweaks to programming and have begun planning additional initiatives that could eventually become part of a robust strategic plan in response to feedback.
The new strategic plan will be shared with the community at the Board’s Annual General Meeting in May. A strong plan will ensure that ZIS continues to be the school of choice for the international community in the Greater Zurich Area, while addressing the issues highlighted in order to ensure we continue to prepare students to thrive in an increasingly complex, interrelated and fragile world.