Children need a school to go to and a school needs the children just as much. Ideally a school would like exactly the same number of pupils each year and for them all to have the potential to be top class learners. Anyone who works in education knows that the reality is often somewhat different, constantly fluctuating pupil numbers and a huge range of academic abilities.
The school where I work is in direct competition with a neighbouring school and is also effected by the catchment areas of a number of other schools just a little bit further away. There is of course a limited number of potential clients though, we are all fishing from the same pond of children, it is just a question of how they are going to be divided up. As a result of this situation there is quite an intense rivalry and a determination to show just how exceptional your own educational institution is. It’s educational market economics at its best, or at its worst, depending on your point of view. For me there is a lingering thought that education money is being wasted in educationland during this internal competition, but with the income of a school being largely dependent on the number of pupils it attracts is there any other alternative?
It is of course also a little bit of a double edged sword though, because no school would literally want all the children, that would present a whole range of potential problems, even if they could find the space to put them! But that said, the PR circus is in full swing and we have to but our best foot forward and create a good impression to potential new pupils and their parents.
It helps of course if you have something distinctive to offer and offering bilingual education is in our case just that. We are one of about 150 Dutch Secondary schools that offer around seventy percent of the timetabled lessons in English. My role for the evening is to give a number of demonstration lessons to interested twelve year olds and their parents, giving insight into how teaching in a second language (for the pupils that is) actually works. I, like other colleagues will be giving the lessons, but if we’re honest, we’re not the stars, we’re not even the most persuasive element. The real winning element are the children who just one year earlier sat in the room being persuaded themselves. By letting them participate in the demonstration lessons and allowing parents and children hear just how much language acquisition can be achieved in just six months and you have an extremely persuasive formula.