Ms. Diana Segarceanu, you are the Executive Director of Avenor College, but are also very involved in the history of this educational project. How was the idea of setting up Avenor College born?
The project was born from the desire to firstly offer my children a modern school, oriented towards academic performance, personal development and encouraging them to discover their passions. In an attic room in Pipera, nine years ago we started with just five students in the First Grade and now we have a complete undergraduate preparation cycle: kindergarten, primary and secondary school with the opening of our international high school in September 2015. We are now able to provide for our students education for their academic life from kindergarten until they complete their A-Levels and go to their chosen university. I am very proud of the way our school has evolved and of the way our community of children, parents and teachers has grown.
What can you say about the vision behind this challenge, namely to set up a new private college in a very competitive market of private education?
In 2007, when we opened the school we chose to follow the national curriculum for primary and secondary school because we knew how important it was for our students to be able to express themselves in their mother tongue, learn the History and Geography of Romania and to grow up in the midst of the national culture and traditions. We completed the Romanian curriculum with educational resources, teaching methods and materials from the Cambridge International curriculum such as English, Science, PSHE (Personal Development) and Drama. The accreditation we’ve received from the Ministry of Education means that students of Avenor College are part of the Romanian education system and that they now have the skills to continue their studies at any accredited educational institution in the country. In Grade 8, our students are prepared either to continue with the Romanian high school or be admitted into an international high school.
Starting 2015, we opened Avenor International High School which is accredited by Cambridge International (CIE). The lessons are taught in English and the curriculum is international. Before we founded the high school, we did a survey amongst the parents of our students and asked them how they see the future of their children after they finish college. One hundred percent of them said that they see their children as future entrepreneurs. That is when we realised that the area of entrepreneurship can be our high school profile, especially since most of our parents are entrepreneurs or people who work in senior positions in multinational companies and have entrepreneurial pursuits. This is one of our differentiators in the private education market: in high school, we lay the foundations of entrepreneurship concepts that will greatly help students in the future.
Furthermore, we are the only Cambridge accredited high school in Bucharest that is selective. All of our students must pass the entrance examination. Whether they come from Romanian schools or from the international system, we test them in English and Maths. For the scholarships we offer, the standards are even higher: potential scholarship students must excel academically and demonstrate that they also have a wide range of extracurricular activities and interests.
Why should a parent choose Avenor College? What is Avenor College’s “mission statement” and what makes the difference between the educational offer of this college to that of other similar private schools in Bucharest?
At Avenor College, our goal is to raise children with integrated personalities, self-confidence, who are motivated to achieve excellence and are able to respond creatively, appropriately and independently to different life situations. In order to achieve that, we select teachers who are open and passionate about education and are able to guide each child safely along their own path. We build a partnership with our students’ parents, involving them in the school life. We identify and develop areas of excellence, achieving exceptional results for teachers and school children, in both curricular and extracurricular activities. We offer a complete and global education, from kindergarten to university, combining formal and non-formal education.
In planning and teaching, Avenor College teachers will follow the requirements of the National Curriculum in terms of standards, benchmarks and skills, learning content and assessment forms. Equally, teachers are encouraged and trained to use specific teaching methods and principles of a British-style education harmonised with the requirements of Romanian education.
With intensive English lessons, extracurricular clubs in English and a number of other subjects in the timetable being delivered in English, our students acquire the skills necessary to continue their studies in the medium of English in the future, should they wish to do so.
Our aspiration is to have all these aspects of our school – children’s education, teacher development, relationships between parents and schools and the campus facilities – create a positive and progressive educational landmark education in Romania.
What can you tell us about the selection process of your students? What about the selection criteria of the teachers?
Admission at Avenor College is based on the following principles:
- A normal psychological, intellectual and physical development of children, allowing them to attend school under normal conditions;
- The compatibility of values and vision between the school and the family;
- The quality of the school-family partnerships:
– respecting the deadlines for financial, legal and current issues;
– the parents’ involvement in school life;
– the quality of communication with teachers, administrative staff and management representatives;
– the rules and procedures of the school.
- The potential of the child to benefit from our educational offer;
- The ability to harmoniously integrate the child and the family into the Avenor College team.
All those who want to enrol in Avenor College are invited to spend one day in the classroom to see how they adapt to the class, how they interact with teachers and classmates, if there is any ‘chemistry’ between the child and our school. Beginning in the second grade, our prospective students also give an entrance exam. They are tested in Romanian, Maths and English.
Our entire educational institution has very high standards when it comes to education. Teachers go through a rigorously recruitment programme. Those that teach at our school are people who share our values and principles and we are satisfied with the results of their work. We are very diligent, we have a continuous recruitment process and select only people who are extremely dedicated and talk passionately about teaching, they should already demonstrate that they have results and want to evolve as our school does. They also have very clear objectives, they know the pedagogical and psychological concepts and pass the mandatory classroom test: a class demonstration of one or two hours, depending on the situation.
Regarding the school curriculum, what type of learning does Avenor College promote?
British style educational principles govern the entire teaching activity at Avenor College. Our school promotes the “spiral learning model” from the international curriculum. I attended a Grade 9 class lesson on photosynthesis. You would think that photosynthesis is something simple, learned in Grade 5, so why start again in Grade 9? The spiral approach means that subjects are repeated year after year, with increasing degrees of difficulty. Our students resume photosynthesis, for example and as they evolve, more and more details are added, Chemistry is also involved. They don’t just learn it once, the information remains somewhere in a “box” and they move on. They repeat again and again until each student understands and we are confident that at the end of high school everyone will know how photosynthesis works.
For us it is very important that in addition to educate students to “teach them to learn”. In order to achieve this, we need a close and open cooperation between teachers, students and parents so that the child is encouraged, but also allowed to make mistakes, learn from them and assimilate new concepts.
Therefore, personal development is a constant preoccupation for us, be it for teachers, students or parents. We have a department consisting of psychologists and counsellors integrated in school activities. There is one hour a week in which children talk about emotions, about relationships, about future projects or sex education. In addition, if there is any atypical situation which requires a specialist approach, we also offer individual counselling for parents, teachers and children. Two years ago we started “the parent’s school”, a series of free parenting sessions with guest psychologists or psychiatrists moderated by our school psychologists.
In order to be competitive and bring added value to the children who have enrolled, the private education system puts an emphasis on continual investment in the quality of the educational process but also in the environment that our students study in. What could you tell us about the investment policy at Avenor College?
Avenor College is a non-profit organisation. Thus, all income from tuition fees received from parents or sponsors is allocated 100% to the educational process directly (wages, resources, textbooks, etc.) and related activities that support the educational process (food, transportation, rents, maintenance of buildings, development of new spaces, etc.). We constantly invest in educational resources for students and teachers. Every year, our teachers and psychologists participate in training courses and conferences to keep up with new practices.
How does Avenor College encourage the performance of students? What can you tell us about the awards won by our students at prestigious international competitions and school contests?
Discovering and encouraging our student’s passions is one of our priorities. Each year our educational offer includes a number of clubs with extra-curricular activities in which children can learn chess, ballet, piano, swimming, martial arts, theatre, dance, football and many more. We are very proud of the awards our students have won at national and international competitions in mathematics, the Romanian language, public speaking, ballet, art and sport.
We have students who play professional sports and we support them and help them to always be up to date with what happens at school when they are away at training camps or tournaments, encouraging them to learn at their own pace so they can obtain good results when they return to school.
A visit to the new campus located in a green area in the north of Bucharest is really impressive. One can easily feel, on stepping inside the campus, the special focus put into the smallest details in providing students the best and safest environment related to the academic process, but also to additional activities. How could you define this new campus in three words, for the parents who read Nine O’Clock and might be interested in enrolling their children at Avenor College?
Responsibility, respect and teamwork. These are some of the principles we had in mind when we started to build this new campus in the Greenfield Residence, near Baneasa forest. Our campus has 4.300 square meters, a Junior building for our Grade I and „pregătitoare” students, a multifunctional activities building for all the extra-curricular clubs, two sport fields, playgrounds and the Senior building for Grades 2 to High School, where we also have Science and Computer labs, a library and a cafeteria.
We take responsibility for our actions and decisions and wanted to build an environment that would feel safe, friendly, modern and useful for children, teachers and parents because we treat all of them with the same amount of respect.
Teamwork and solidarity are also among our values and we wanted to have enough space inside the campus for the community to gather at our annual events and also for the students to have the opportunity to spend time together, not only to work on their projects but also for lunch and breaks.
To let the figures speak, how has the percentage of enrolled students increased from the very first days of this educational project, until today?
As I said, we started in 2007 with just 5 children and we now have about 300 students. In 9 years, the number of enrolled students has increased 60 times. We grow organically from one generation to another. Our campus has a capacity of 550 students. We estimate that we will reach the maximum number of students in 2018 when we will have 3 classes per level in primary and secondary school and 2 classes per level in the high school.
What are your plans for the next school year and the future?
This school is a project of great responsibility for us as we took on the mission to guide each child on their own individual path, helping them to grow, learn well and be proud of their results. Currently, Avenor College is a positive and progressive milestone in private and state education. In the future we want Avenor College to become the best school in Romania.