Before we learn more about you, Kirsten, can you please tell us what the BeyondClassrooms Programme is about?
The BeyondClassrooms Programme is connecting our students with organisations and professionals so they will be able to learn beyond classical teaching in the classroom. Through internship opportunities, industry lectures, mentorship paths, site visits, career guidance as well as performance opportunities, the students will be able to master real-life experiences that will help them find their talents, interests and finally their future career path.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career.
Looking back, my educational and professional journey has been quite diverse and exciting but during my school life and even at university I had no idea what kind of job I wanted to do. Firstly, I did not know what to study and then developed the idea to study Geology at the RWTH University in Aachen. After graduating with a Master’s in Geology, I worked as a Geologist for 3 years before making my first major change: I joined a Global Insurance Company as IT Process Manager. This was during the time when the IT Industry was booming. The gentleman who hired me told me, that he wants me for the job because of my social and organizational skills and that he is confident that I can learn the rest I need on the job. This feedback made me realise that my talents cover a much wider field than science. Kind of an eye opener!
In 2009, my husband got the offer to move to Singapore and I was very excited to join this adventure. I started working as Business Development Manager at T-Systems Singapore and later took on the Marketing Manager role. Both roles were completely new to me, but my manager was confident that I have the right skills, another eye opener! 9 years ago, I finally joined GESS as Marketing Manager. Two years ago, I took on the role as Head of External Communications and Relations at GESS.
How did the BeyondClassrooms Programme develop?
At GESS I learned how holistic education can help students to learn from a variety of sources inside and outside the classroom, and that each of these various opportunities will help students discover their talents and their passions. When I was a child, the school focused on getting simply teaching subjects. Other assessment criteria were of minor relevance. This was something that always confused me and made it for me hard to find out my interests and talents.
In my new role at GESS I oversee Partnerships, and, in this responsibility, I was looking into ways how the school could engage with partners in a meaningful way that benefits our students. Facilitating opportunities for our students to discover their talents seemed to be a wonderful idea for collaboration and this was the birth of the BeyondClassrooms Programme. Through the experiences of my own career journey, it is very fulfilling to know that in my current job, I have the opportunity to create avenues for our students that will hopefully support them in their career choices. For me, it’s like things magically falling into place.
Since I started working with GESS, the school always had very passionate parents and teachers who organise activities outside the classrooms. However, these individual relationships usually ended when the teacher or parent left Singapore. That’s why I decided to convert individual initiatives into a systematic programme that GESS can use to build lasting relationships with a larger number of external partners. Today, we are signing letters of agreement with our partners that are outlining the duration and the expectations both partners can work towards hand in hand.
What were the first steps you took to set up the Programme?
After presenting my idea to the previous Principal, Mr. Martin, and the Board of Governors, in late 2020 I reached out to 3 corporates and introduced my ideas for a partnership to them. The German Embassy has been very helpful in making introductions to organisations and getting the momentum going. You won’t believe it, but we now reached a stage where organisations are approaching us. Conversations usually start with me presenting possible opportunities such as internships, industry talks, plant or laboratory visits or career counselling. Prospective partners then decide which approach is most suitable for them to work with GESS.
Why do you think corporates are interested to join the BeyondClassrooms Programme?
I have had very positive experiences approaching potential partners. We have partners who join out of a pure passion for the project and for GESS. However, most of the bigger corporates also have a strategy that includes collaboration with educational institutions, as it is a great way for them to attract future talents. Furthermore, they usually have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programme that allows them to work with us. Our University Partners want to attract future students to their university. BeyondClassrooms Partnerships are not related to any sponsoring or funding.
Who was your first BeyondClassrooms Partner?
The first partner that I approached back in December 2020 was the BMW Group Asia. Preeti Gupta, Corporate Affairs Director, was enthusiastic about the idea from the start and quickly we were able to sign our first agreement under the BeyondClassrooms Programme. Since then, BMW Group Asia has participated in a variety of activities, including career counselling and mock interviews with our Grade 12 students, career sharing with our Grade 11 students and a talk about the challenges and opportunities of globalisation to our Grade 11 and 12 students.
During this summer break, one of our students even did an internship with the finance department of BMW Group Asia. The company’s passion to help students find their path really shines through, and our Career Counsellors, Mariola Meyer and Thomas Walton have already developed a strong connection to the BMW Group Asia.
What are the other BeyondClassrooms Partners who joined the programme?
We have signed Letters of Agreement with Daimler Commercial Vehicles, Danfoss, Evonik, TUM Asia, BluCurrent, BMW Group Asia, Evonik, TÜV SÜD, Avodaq, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Volocopter, and we are currently talking to about 10 other companies. Furthermore, our students have been engaged in projects with local social communities in Singapore such as the Ocean Purpose Project, Engineering Good, Touch Community Services, Acres, Habitat for Humanities, Love Nils as well as the local neighbourhood community here in Bukit Panjang. We are working closely with our academic teams in charge of Service as Action, Community & Service, the CARE Committee and the CAS Coordinators on these social opportunities.
What are the next steps?
Since our Principal Mr. Pauli joined GESS in August 2021, the efforts in promoting and expanding the programme have increased manifold thanks to his passion and commitment to the programme. As Mr. Pauli has worked as a principal for vocational schools in Germany for decades, he knows how important real-life experiences for students are. Mr. Pauli is passionately involved in the programme and constantly promotes it among all stakeholders. In this new academic year, the programme will be one of the focus points of GESS’ Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) and we will work with the directors of the various school departments as well as with the curriculum coordinators to deeply integrate BeyondClassrooms opportunities into the curriculum. The aim is to offer as many students as possible to benefit from the increasing opportunities. We are also currently working on a concept for a BeyondClassrooms Week that will offer a series of activities for our students, and we are also aiming to add other European and international BeyondClassrooms partners to the programme.
Very exciting things will be happening at GESS. Stay tuned.
If you are interested to learn more about the programme or if the company you work with is interested to become a BeyondClassrooms Partner, please contact Kirsten Mönch at firstname.lastname@example.org.