This is not a snobby school

For many it is an unattainable goal to study at a good high school. Many children live in difficult social environments, incomplete families or children’s homes; they do not have sufficient funds and they even lack support from those surrounding them. They nevertheless long for a good education and for making their dreams a reality. The Kellner Family Foundation – a foundation of Mrs. Renáta Kellnerová and Mr. Petr Kellner – has helped hundreds of such children. Thanks to the foundation’s grants, they can study at the prestigious Open Gate eight-year grammar school.

Tomáš Titěra is one of them. He began studying at the boarding school in Babice, Central Bohemia, seven years ago, and currently he is preparing for the international baccalaureate. 

What was the main reason why you wanted to study at Open Gate?
Until my fifth grade, I went to a Prague 2 elementary school with more emphasis on language teaching. Although it was a selective school, I was bored there. My parents as well as teachers thought I should seek opportunities to develop my potential better and to make more of it. I visited Open Gate on the Open Day. I thought I would see students there immersed in textbooks but I met a lot of friendly and helpful people and it was clear that they really enjoyed studying there. A passion for self-education was what I lacked at the elementary school. After several hours on the campus I realized clearly that this was exactly what Open Gate could offer me.

How would you characterize your classmates?
It is a very varied group of people coming from all over the country and from abroad. For example, one of the girls in my class is from Moldova and there is a boy from Somalia living on the same floor as I am. We have different views, customs, upbringing and character but we are able to get along well with one another because we spend so much time together.

What is Open Gate’s greatest competitive advantage?
What I appreciate the most in Open Gate is the individualized approach to students. There are four of us attending history classes, and only two who take German. Under such conditions, the teaching process is much more intensive and the quality is much better, as it can be tailored to each student’s pace. I don’t think there are many schools that can offer such luxury to their students. And it is not a problem to arrange individual consultation with the teacher at any time during the week.  The teachers are committed to their work for us and are ready to help us if we have a problem with a subject they are teaching. On the other hand, of course, they expect us to be active and committed to learning.

How did you cope with the switch to the new teaching language? Was the knowledge of English you had gained at the school with the extended language program of any help to you? Or did you have to study hard to keep up?
Before I came to Open Gate I was able to say just a few sentences in English and name a few professions and some animals. At the elementary school I only learned German. Here all the teaching is in English at the higher grade section of the school, so I had four years to prepare myself. Almost all our English teachers are native speakers and therefore I have been in close contact with the language. We use English virtually all the time – in e-¬mails about organizational matters, at school-wide meetings, or perhaps when communicating with the Principal. It was therefore not difficult to manage the language switchover, except for the biology and mathematics terminology.

Is Open Gate a place where the muses flourish, or is its primary focus on producing future business leaders?
The school allows us to choose our own path. The selection of subjects for the last two years is almost totally at our discretion. The only limitation is that the subjects are categorized as required for the IB certificate program and we have to pick at least one subject from each category. Thus we can specialize with respect to our dream careers. Statistics say that more students want to go into business than want to go into art, but the starting positions are more or less the same for all. The school certainly did not exert any pressure on me, in terms of making me prefer one subject to another.

You are involved in many volunteer activities. Do you do this because the school expects you to? Or do you have another motivation?
Being expected to do something is not my motivation. Rather, I make use of the opportunities offered by the school in this respect. I do volunteer work because I enjoy being helpful. All the activities I am involved in are an opportunity for me to do good things and gain experience that might be useful in practical life. Seeing tangible results of my efforts is more rewarding than studying for tests and getting marks.

Do you have any goals in your life?
I have a deep respect for big goals and I don’t think I am mature enough to define the objectives for my life. My goal for the near future is to gain the international baccalaureate diploma and then I would like to choose a good university. Then I will see which way to go – where, how and with whom I will spend my life. It is still a distant future for me.

If you were to say a sentence of ten words to encourage talented students to consider trying to enroll at Open Gate, what would it be?
Go ahead and try it, Open Gate is not snobby.

(Author: Markéta Vojtíšková)

Source: Deník, Supplement: Behaving responsibly

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