Tackling the challenges of mega trends in society out of a boarding school perspective

Only a couple of years ago, the prime minister of the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany sent her child to a private school close to their home. The German public heavily criticized her for this decision. They considered her encouraging private education as proof for the decay of the public educational sector in Germany.

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Three years later, the pandemic blatantly revealed the many issues German public schools stand for. Along with the lack of teaching staff go overcrowded classes. More than 30 children in one class group do not form a teaching and learning atmosphere anyone would wish to experience. What comes on top is a list of challenges like the ongoing immigration of refugee families as well as inclusion debates, just to name a few. When it comes to digitization, the German government does provide the means and gadgets. While in some schools, there was simply no staff well prepared enough to actually include the new technology in their lessons, some other schools did not come as far as to implement the corresponding software due to infrastructural problems. Consequently, home schooling in Covid-19 times very often turned out to be a “mission impossible”.
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Salem spring 2023.2Upswing of private boarding school education in GermanyFor decades, Germany used to be at the bottom of the European table regarding private and boarding school education. While the UK and many other countries follow a boarding school tradition, considering this way the number one educational career for children, boarding schools in Germany would rather suffer from a negative connotation. Sending a child away from home used to draw level with “failing” as a family, as parents, maybe revealing problems at school or similar trouble. Not so much anymore since the pandemic uncovered the many benefits private boarding schools hold for their pupils: A determined daily structure, everyday life with same age pupils, a broad list of activities to pursue on campus, small group sizes in lessons and tutoring, and the chance of growing one’s personality through challenging boarding school experience. In fact, private boarding school education seems to become socially acceptable after the crisis, with pupil numbers rising ever since.
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Salem spring 2023.4Mega trends of our times affecting educationHowever, there is more to it than “just” the pandemic when it comes to turmoil in the German educational sector. The German Zukunftsinstitut (Institute of the Future) in Frankfurt am Main scientifically analyzes 12 megatrends affecting society in different dimensions. Megatrends stand for long lasting, irreversible change processes to which we must adapt, whether we like it or not. Breaking things down to education, there are six irrevocable megatrends deserving a closer look, while being intertwined:Of course, (1) Globalization rings a bell and is nothing new. However, it goes along with (2) Connectivity at a progressive rate, with (3) New Work and with the establishment of a (4) Knowledge Society. There are increasing debates on (5) Health, and we can see a (6) Gender Shift happening in every aspect of our lives. How could we possibly follow these trends without including them in our teaching, our education and pedagogy? Again, the public school sector seems to miss the train that is already leaving the station, while private education in Germany is far better prepared to tackle the challenge. In what way can boarding school life contribute to see young people ready for this ever-changing world?
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Salem spring 2023.6Salem’s answer to the megatrends of our timesAs a boarding school, Salem certainly stands out for the international approach in its education. There are 45 different nations represented on campus, making up 40 per cent of our pupils and covering the whole globe. This makes globalization very visible and directly perceptible. Anyone starting in Salem as a pupil will encounter “strangers” and their backgrounds, their traditions, their attitudes, their ways of thinking in lessons and in our dorm communities. Aspects of diversity clearly matter every single day, challenging one’s own point of view continuously. However, as strangers become friends, they will stay connected during holiday periods and beyond graduation, forming global networks of friends and professionals. While the so-called GenerationZ stands for growing up in globalized and digitalized contexts, the Salem pupil community builds global citizens on our very campus, preparing them for their future lives wherever this may take place.On the other hand, the Salem community also mirrors what is happening in the world. Besides broadening horizons, you also need to cope with this aspect every day of your Salem life. It is not easy now to unite Ukrainian and Russian students under one rooftop. Still, this experience made builds your personality and character for life. Our Alumni networks reach around the globe, offering opportunities and open doors to any member of the Salem community in need. Global awareness is not only a word for Salem. Our pupils do engage at an early age, be it in Salem services to our community, be it in action brigades, or in networks following the idea of improving life for everyone, organizing global conferences on the social, environmental and political issues of our times.
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Just a few examplesSalem’s pedagogical staff enhances our academic education by providing several essential add-ons to mere school lessons. On the one hand, there is the Salem Health & Wellness Curriculum shaping and supporting healthy lifestyles and behaviors for lifelong learning. The special issues and needs of every age group (ranging between 10 and 19 at Salem International Boarding School) see themselves addressed and covered. The older pupils get, the better prepared they are for a demanding life after school.On the other hand and always intertwined, there is the Media Education Curriculum providing sophisticated and up-to-date material for Salem’s lessons. The critical use of the internet is just one aspect, while data protection, data security, and questions on an ethical use of internet contents are further examples. We consider the emergence of AI based software and ChatGPT in education a huge chance for the continuous development of our education. These selected examples demonstrate that pupils in Salem are slowly and healthy brought in contact with irrevocable change processes in modern society, while as children they deserve to live in a safe space as long as they can.So why would anyone join Salem?Because Salem International Boarding School offers the munition for tackling ever-changing contexts in our work fields and our society, stemming on awareness and challenging pupils in everyday boarding school life. We help to build personalities turning pupils into active global citizens led by the values of our founding fathers. It is the managers and engineers with emotional intelligence that we raise, not the egotistical high-performer. It is the team player, not the lonesome superior. We offer support and trust in our pupils’ ability to cope with any situation. We foster their resilience and we believe that there is more in them than they would know, until they try and find out.Salem spring 2023.8
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