An International School in Brasov, Romania - A Case Study

An International School in Brasov
A case study

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International School in Brasov, Romania - Case Study

by Jane E. Hoonhout, RN, BSN, Greater Grace International Academy

Greater Grace International Academy (GGIA) is a K-12 American school located in Brasov (bra' shove), Romania. It began school year 2001 with a handful of students, most of which were not American. The founders are French Pastor Philip Ribe established in Romania 10 years, and Patrick Carter, an American missionary with the previous experience of starting and running a successful NGO in Romania. Patrick is presently the Director of GGIA. The past and present nations represented by GGIA's student body include France, Canada, Scotland, Holland, Germany, The United States, El Salvador, South Korea, Hungary, and Romania. The majority of families are missionary type, with some business types. We remain a small school with a present enrollment of 29 with high expectation of surge in enrollees following the approval from the Romania government to operate as a 'foreign school operating in Romania.' This process has just become attainable through some laws enacted in late 2004 and we wait even now for a positive response to our application.

We call ourselves an American school because our curriculum is currently based on the A Beka curriculum, out of Pensacola, FL, and, except for some matter adapted to suit our international needs, we function and have goals similar to a private, academia-focused, American Christian school. All of our present teachers are native English speakers hailing from North America, Great Britain, and Australia. One of our current great needs is new teachers for both elementary and high school levels for upcoming school year 2005-2006.

Recruiting native English-speaking teachers is a challenge for most international schools, especially those who don't offer much monetary compensation. Fortunately, Romania is one of the easier countries for native-English speakers, especially Americans, to live in as the citizens admire them. English is the language most desired to learn by the Romanians, as well. It is a wonderful thing to be valued by the people you meet everyday. Romanians in general are very warm and hospitable. We have found this to be one reason that those who do come to work with us here in Brasov for 'a year' tend to remain longer. In fact, most foreigners who come to this area for short-term commitments may stay three, five, even twelve years. This intransience might also be attributed to the fairytale setting of Brasov, nestled in the magnificent Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania (yes, the home of fictional Dracula). The seasons and temperatures reflect those found in the northern states of the U.S., and the hills, valleys, rivers, and forests are a nature-lover's and skier's paradise. Furthermore, the Old City district of Brasov with its medieval architecture is enchanting and peaceful; the rest of Brasov is busy growing to meet the needs of its most modern visitors. Another plus is it can be a relatively inexpensive area to live and raise a family. It's a very special place and there exist many advantages. But as with all good things, there are some challenges. Finding quality education for family members is one thing that may be difficult.

The longer we are in Romania and involved in education, the more we observe the desperate state in which parents living abroad find themselves in regards to their children's schooling. Brave souls enroll their children in the local Romanian school system. This typically does not last long due to the ineffectiveness of huge class sizes, theory-based teaching styles or total lack of instruction, overloads of self-taught homework, and reports of teacher-student abuse. Students become defeated and withdrawn-a wretched, heart-breaking consequence.

Or parents may choose home schooling, which, though in itself is a very useful tool, has potential drawbacks. We have watched issues such as seclusion, boredom, and familiarity create frustration in both the parent/teacher and the child/student. Apart from making daily life miserable, we have repeatedly witnessed this discontent lead to the eventual breakdown in structure and routine resulting in loss of grade levels.

Another solution is for the family to be split apart so the children may attend a suitable school while the parents fulfill their objectives. Sometimes, we realize, this is the only solution for parents forced into business priorities. Hopefully, if this is the situation, the children will be in a school where they find themselves accepted, cared for, and valued.

GGIA is proud to offer a high-quality education in an environment where mutual respect, morality, and discipline make it a safe place to both learn and be cared for. Special emphasis is placed on creating an environment that encourages thinking, self-discipline, responsibility, and respect for and the understanding of other peoples and cultures. GGIA offers a program designed to prepare students to be well-balanced world citizens while trying to help each meet their specific goals, including undergraduate education in America's finest universities. We believe ourselves to be the academic solution to the problem of every parent of a school-aged child who finds himself called to Romania.

Do you find life's path leading you toward Romania? If so, let us help you. Being or knowing someone who has been here long enough to have contacts and trustworthy cohorts is the way to overcome what sometimes seems like unsurpassable tasks. There can be many challenges to living in this beautiful, somewhat backward, country, and we want to assist you in meeting some of those challenges.

Jane E. Hoonhout, RN, BSN, Greater Grace International Academy


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