The British International School of Tbilisi (BIST) is an international, multicultural school in Tbilisi, an accredited member of the Council for British International Schools, and in 2019 was awarded the prestigious COBIS Patron’s Accreditation. BIST is also a founder member of the Black Sea Schools group, an organization that collaborates on student interaction and educational matters. We spoke to Stephen Priest to find out more about it.
“BIST is a British international school and as such offers a British curriculum adapted for the international context,” Mr. Priest tells us. “The school is an accredited member of the Council of British International Schools and shares many similarities as well as links with other British schools globally. BIST developed from the International Department of the British Georgian Academy and became its own separate identity and school in 2015. The school was founded to allow children from Georgian families or from the expatriate community to access a British education. Unlike most other countries around the world, schools offering a British education system and curriculum are quite rare and a fairly new phenomenon in Georgia.”
What makes BIST stand out from other schools? What do you offer children who choose to study in your school?
There are many things that make BIST stand out from other schools. The people at BIST are the most important to me – our students, our staff and our parents are incredible, supportive and caring individuals: we are a community. There are also many other ways in which we are unique within Georgia. Our teachers are highly experienced and qualified professionals, mostly from the UK. Our facilities are the best of any school in the country. Our curriculum offers the Cambridge Pathway, International Primary Curriculum and English National Curriculum, meaning we offer the best and most modern of programmes. Children who study at BIST get to benefit from this combination of people, infrastructure and systems, and therefore receive the best education available.
What is the teaching style?
The short answer to this is that there is no single teaching style. Our teaching styles adapt to context and individual groups of students. We are naturally quite British, but very internationally-minded. However, modern British teaching, which is at the global forefront of new pedagogical approaches, is nothing like the stereotypical images we get from films and books. BIST offers experiential and holistic learning combined with academic rigour and a firm belief in growth mindsets. We want our students to experience a wide range of different activities within and outside of lessons with the aim of developing the whole person; one that strives for excellence in all that they do, and above believes that they can achieve anything they set their mind to.
What extra-curricular activities do you offer?
BIST offers a very wide range of extra-curricular activities. These include a wide range of sports such as football, basketball, tennis and volleyball. Swimming in our own pool is part of the weekly curriculum for primary school students, but additional swimming is also possible after school. BIST also has indoor and outdoor climbing walls, which again are part of the curriculum, but also used in the extra-curricular programme. In the early evening and at weekends, we jointly operate the British Lions Academy in football, basketball, tennis and table tennis with our partners at the British Georgian Academy. BIST both hosts and travels to international sporting events and, as a founder member of the Black Sea Schools and a member of the Silk Road Athletics Association, our students have participated in events here in Georgia and also in Azerbaijan, Romania and Ukraine in recent years.
Performing and Creative Arts are a major part of the extracurricular activities programme as well as part of our curriculum. We are a ‘singing school,’ and all students have one lesson dedicated to singing each week. Annually, there are drama and musical productions from the different age groups. We also have one-to-one music lessons available that can be examined and graded by the London College of Music.
A number of other activities are also available, including debate, Japanese, chess, dance and arts and craft. In a typical week, there will be 60 different activities on offer.
Community Service and Student Leadership are important aspects of our programme. We have very active student councils and eco-teams at primary and secondary school levels. All students are also involved in an interactive “get your hands dirty” way with our various community service partners – BIST students and staff all want to contribute to the society we live in.
BIST is Georgia’s only licensed operator of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, the Inspiring
Digital Enterprise Award and the International Computer Driving License. The International Award runs globally and encourages young people to take up new sports and hobbies, commit to community service projects and take part in an adventurous journey. IDEA is a unique way to develop digital literacy skills and the ICDL is a modular qualification in technology. These are all available to secondary students as extra-curricular activities.
Tell us about your teachers.
All of our teachers are highly qualified and experienced professionals. Most of them are British and have experience in British and international schools. But the most important things about our teachers are who they are and not just what qualifications they have. We purposely recruit teachers with different backgrounds, experiences and interests to ensure a diverse and rich learning environment. Above all, we recruit teachers who want to be innovative, who are student-focused and who are interested in their own learning and development.
What can a successful pupil of your school achieve after graduation? Does the school support their enrollment in foreign universities?
Students graduating from BIST leave with Cambridge A Levels, the international equivalent of the UK’s pre-university qualification accredited by the University of Cambridge. Cambridge A Levels are taught in over 10,000 schools in over 160 countries and are globally recognised as university entrance qualifications. Cambridge A Levels will get a student into university in Georgia, Australia, Canada, Germany, USA, and obviously the UK, among many other countries. The school has a well-developed programme of assisting students to enrol in universities around the world. We have a dedicated university guidance counsellor who leads students through the process of application to different universities and also assists with such other requirements as IELTS and SATs. This year, our counsellor has been working with students applying to universities in the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Greece and Spain.
What is a typical profile of a child studying at your school?
The students at BIST come from over 40 different countries. We don’t have a typical student, they are all individuals; what they share is a desire to learn and a desire to experience new ideas and activities – as well as have fun!
What is the tuition fee? Is it possible to get a scholarship? If so, what skills and knowledge are required for this?
Information on our tuition fees is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. We do offer a scholarship to Georgian citizen students aged 11 and older. This is a combined need and merit based scholarship. Any student offered a scholarship must have good academic English and be willing to challenge themselves academically and socially.