International Schools in Slovenia
Perhaps you’re wondering if Slovenian preschools and public schools are the best environment for your children’s growth and development, and so you’re looking for information on international schools in Slovenia. You will find lots of answers to your questions on these webpages.
My dad is writing and maintaining this part of the site, so I’ll give him the floor. I think that it will be a pretty thorough overview of international schools in Slovenia.
Two important decisions
This page, and especially the pages on the British International School of Ljubljana, lets you read about the differences between the programs at these schools, about progressive and traditional schools, about the pros and cons of individual schools in Slovenia, about the legal and financial issues of international schooling, and about the concept of “school” in general.
There are many different school options in Slovenia and only you know what is best for you and your child.
If thinking about the alternatives leads you to the conclusion that your child will do best at an international school, you now face the second decision—which of the four international schools in Slovenia is the right one for your child, for your values and beliefs, and for your plans and financial capabilities.
Here is a short description of international primary and secondary schools in Slovenia. More detailed thoughts on individual schools are (or will soon be) available on individual pages.
Let’s take a look.
British International School of Ljubljana
An experienced team of teachers from Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Slovenia; learning for understanding, not just memorization; innovative web tools to support learning; a different system of homework and assessment; protection of the whole child and zero tolerance of violence. All this and more spoke to how this school concept was diametrically opposed to conventional schooling.
Add to this the motivation and heartfelt engagement of school staff and their pioneering enthusiasm for building something important, and you can understand the positive energy surrounding BISL and, consequently, a positive response from foreign and Slovenian families. From 22 students in its first year the British International School of Ljubljana had ten times that number within five years.
To the joy and relief of all BISL supporters, the school’s great potential was recognized by the international organization Orbital Education, which picked up the story where Jeremy had left off—with the same philosophy, the same outstanding teaching team, and the same vision of being the best international school in Slovenia for children from 3 to 18 years old.
The British International School of Ljubljana has many advantages and merits but also its share of weaknesses. More about the pros of the British School and about issues the school should still address can be found on these pages.
The French International School of Ljubljana (École Française, EFL)
Even children who do not speak French at home generally complete this primary school with French skills equal to those of native speakers, thanks to the outstanding French teaching staff. The EFL is a friendly and safe environment for children’s development.
The French School accepts children from 2 to 15 years of age. Of the roughly 40 students, about one-third are Slovenes, one-third French, and one-third from other countries.
Not all French families enroll their children at the French School of Ljubljana, but rather at one of the English-language schools, mostly the British School of Ljubljana or the Danila Kumar International School.
Why would some French people prefer English-speaking schools? There are many reasons. You can (soon) read about these reasons and other characteristics of EFL on the French International School of Ljubljana webpage.
QSI, an American international school in Ljubljana
Quality has always been more important than quantity at QSI Ljubljana.
The school accepts students from 3 to 18 years old and in 2015 it had around 140 students, most of them in the preschool and early primary grades. It has been led by director Patrick Buckley since the summer of 2015.
QSI Ljubljana was founded in 1995, and during its time in operation it has experienced ups and downs. In recent years the school has grown again, though largely due to external factors.
Among all the international schools in Slovenia, QSI is the most sensitive to fluctuations on the “market” for foreign-language schools. When things are going worse for other international schools, they go better for QSI, and vice-versa.
But this doesn’t mean that QSI is not a good school. On the contrary, aside from the British School of Ljubljana it is definitely the best choice for Slovenian and foreign families in Slovenia in my opinion. It is based on healthy principles and proven teaching methods.
It’s surprising that QSI Ljubljana falls down in precisely the areas where Americans tend to be the best, which may hinder the school from reaching its full potential. More about QSI Ljubljana soon.
Danila Kumar International School
Instead of legalizing international schools in Slovenia and promoting their development, the Ministry of Education did exactly the opposite. They established an international section at a public primary school (Danila Kumar) by government decree without a legal basis and then treated other international schools as competition to their project. (A situation that continues to this day.)
Of course Danila Kumar International School has nothing to do with this. Many people invest a lot of effort in the school and are doing many good things for its students. Despite this, there are significant differences between Danila Kumar and the other international schools in Slovenia.
The school regulations do not permit hiring foreign teachers, and so all the teachers at Danila Kumar are Slovenian. Many Slovenian teachers are good, but it does raise the question of whether a school without international teachers is actually an international school.
Slovenian families can only enroll their children at Danila Kumar under special terms (although some of them know creative ways to circumvent this rule). In principle it is only possible to enroll if the family has returned from abroad or if they demonstrate an intention to move abroad at some time in the future.
No other Slovenian families have the right to enroll their children in the foreign-language program at Danila Kumar. This means they are placed in an unequal position and their constitutional right to freely choose education for their children is compromised.
This selective treatment of Slovenian children is even more questionable when one considers that the government is co-financing the school. The school states this on their website: “The Ministry of Education subsidizes our school, covering more than half of the operational costs. This explains why the tuition fees at Danila Kumar are substantially lower than at other international schools.”
So, the government refuses to grant legal status to private international schools in Slovenia (such as BISL, EFL, and QSI) and furthermore contributes at least half of Danila Kumar’s tuition from the state budget for privileged Slovenian families and foreign customers. These include ambassadors and employees of multinational companies. who would have a much easier time affording international school tuition than the majority of private payers from Slovenian and foreign families.
This is an unfair, discriminatory practice, which the Slovenian government should immediately eliminate by either financially supporting all international schools in Slovenia or none.
Despite the lower tuition, Danila Kumar is not the obvious choice. In direct comparisons with other international schools in Slovenia it lags behind in several key factors. More details on the pros and cons of their IBO program, teaching methods, child protection, and other characteristics of Danila Kumar will be available soon on a separate webpage.
Which international school is the best
The international schools in Slovenia are so different that it is impossible to conclusively compare and rank them. But this is not necessary, because the real question is which school is best for a particular child and family.
If it is important to you that French is your child’s strongest language upon finishing school (even stronger than Slovene, if that is their native language), then the French School of Ljubljana is the logical choice.
If you prefer public education and it does not bother you that the teachers are not native speakers, then the right choice is Danila Kumar International School, where the teaching takes place in English.
That leaves only the British School and QSI Ljubljana, which are the only schools in Slovenia that are real international British and American schools. At the same time they are also very different from each other.
If you prefer a less demanding curriculum, a more traditional approach to teaching, and a friendly and safe school environment, you and your child will definitely be happy with QSI Ljubljana.
On the other hand, if you expect an academically rigorous program at a technologically advanced school, with strong music/arts and business components, then you need to take a good look at the British International School of Ljubljana.
Development of international schools in Slovenia
On the other hand, large schools have even more problems than small, financially undernourished schools, because they lose their grip on organizational and academic issues, in addition to relationships at school and protecting the weaker students.
In terms of school size, it is best to be in the “sweet spot” in the middle, somewhere between 300 to 500 students (from preschool through secondary school). Right now Slovenia has no international schools in this range.
Slovenian international schools have played a mostly marginal role for decades. Now that they have collectively surpassed the number of 500 students they are becoming a more influential part of the education scene in Slovenia. The lion’s share of credit for this, in my opinion, goes to one man.
The table below shows the growth in numbers of students at the four international schools in Slovenia from 2007 (data are only partially verified). It took 23 years for foreign-language schools to break through the barrier of 500 students.
For all interested families—Slovenian and foreign—it would be best for Slovenia to have two medium-large or one very strong international school, instead of four or more smaller schools. I estimate that it would take about 1000 students to attain this goal.
Enrollment in international schools in Slovenia from 2007 to the present.
BISL (3 – 18 years), EFL (2 – 15 years), QSI (3 – 18 years), DK (3 – 15 years)
These data are compiled from public and private sources, and some (EFL, the first years of DK) are estimates. If you have more precise figures, please send them to info (at) inljubljana.com
The legacy of Jeremy Hibbins
Jeremy’s “total approach” to the project of a private international school in Ljubljana yielded immediate results. In only its third year after opening the British School of Ljubljana shot to first place among international schools in Slovenia, and by a big margin. In its fourth year BISL already had almost as many students as the other three schools together, all of which had a fifteen-year head start.
Despite the unfavorable economic conditions for that type of endeavors, Jeremy Hibbins sparked a mini-revolution in education in Slovenia. It did not take long before the other international schools also started enjoying the positive effects of his efforts.
Jeremy’s knowledge of internet marketing and promotion, skillful handling of the media, active cooperation with school and city authorities, warm, sincere contact with students and parents, and his sunny, charismatic personality were some of the reasons his message about the advantages of international schools spread through the Slovenian public and international community in Slovenia so quickly.
After the enrollment numbers in Ljubljana international schools had stagnated around 100 for over a decade, only two years after the British School of Ljubljana was founded this number had doubled, only to double yet again within five years.
The table above shows that this growth slowed after Jeremy’s untimely death, not only at BISL, but also collectively. Despite this, Jeremy’s vision for the British International School of Ljubljana—to have 500 students between 3 and 18 years of age within ten years—is still alive and well.
Jeremy Hibbins will continue to shape the international school community in Slovenia in the future with the legacy he left us, which is now safely in the hands of BISL’s new owner, Orbital Education.
Choose an international school in Slovenia
Read the information on these pages, meet with the school leaders, talk with other parents. Even if you end up deciding against an international school, you will at least know that your decision was based on facts, not by heart.
Here’s some friendly advice. When you talk with parents, look for well-informed and positive people. Every school has some real ambassadors on its side. Find them, invite them to tea or coffee, and don’t forget to bring a list of questions.
Oh, and here’s another tip. Plan well in advance and everything will be easier. (My spouse and I had made up our minds before we even became parents!)
If you start early you will have enough time to determine if an international program is right for you, which school is the top choice considering your criteria, and—if your decision is positive—you will be able to gradually save up the tuition.
Oh, and finally, you’ll have enough time to get your extended family on board, too. That can be the hardest part of all. 😉
Support your school
Good teachers are the backbone of every school, but they aren’t so easy to find and recruit. The more children a school has, the more successful they will be. The more successful the school is, the more easily they will be able to attract the best teachers, offer the best programs and provide optimal facilities and equipment.
When Slovenian international schools grow and gain a more solid financial footing, they will also be able to offer better terms and scholarships for gifted or less wealthy students. Then they will become more accessible to more families, who want to offer their children the advantages of an international school program.
More about international schools in Slovenia:
French International School of Ljubljana (École Française Ljubljana, EFL)
QSI International School of Ljubljana
Danila Kumar International School