Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

15 December 2017

Merry Christmas from the Zugerberg!

Angela | Yixuan Liu, Schweizer Gymnasium (G3-2)

Zugerberg, December 2017


Dear Montana Community  

For some weeks now the first snow covers the Zugerberg and, since mid-November, our boarding students have taken out their winter sports equipment for the initial snow sports excursions. In the classroom, students are now focusing on the final exams of the first semester of the school year 2017/18. It is incredible how fast the school weeks seem to be passing by. This feeling of a fast-paced school life is certainly due to the dense programme of activities throughout the school year.

The start of the Christmas season continues the intense programme before the certainly well-deserved holidays, for which I wish you all a wonderful and relaxing time with your families and friends. This time of year, with 2017 coming to an end and the New Year about to start, invites us to reflect but also to look ahead already to 2018. I will therefore take the opportunity of my annual Christmas letter to give you a brief overview of school development in the coming school year and beyond.

The challenges that our students will face in their futures will be fundamentally different to those of our world today. On the one hand, we will see increasing interconnectedness, as a consequence of continuous globalization, among economic, political and social dynamics. On the other hand, the transience of knowledge, through innovation and disruption, will further accelerate. Instead of traditional academic learning, the skill of continuous learning itself is emphasized. In addition, personal character and the ability to collaborate in culturally diverse, multi-disciplinary teams will become even more important than it already is today.

In the academic programmes we offer on the Zugerberg, we react to this constantly changing environment. Over the coming years, the faculty is preparing many developments and innovations in the curricula. Being a private school and especially through the boarding programme we have flexibility to go beyond the set curricula and emphasize additional aspects of learning, preparing our students for the challenges they will soon face. Following our claim Montana - My Place to Grow…® we take a holistic approach to the development of our students. And this is guided by the continuity of traditions and values from our more than 90-year history while at the same time being embedded in a forward-looking vision.

Allow me to outline some of the key initiatives for the school year 2018/19 on the following pages. These come under the umbrella of our Vision 2026, focusing on three main topics: learning and living environment, as well community. The envisaged developments cover a broad spectrum, including initiatives to develop our campus and infrastructure as well as the alumni community, where we will celebrate the first big “Homecoming” at the end of June/beginning of July 2018. In this letter I will focus on developments that are directly connected to the living and learning of our students on the Zugerberg:

  • Extension of our Bilingual Middle School to the Bilingual Secondary I Programme
  • Creation of the Position of “Dean of Students”
  • Modern Teaching and Virtual Learning Environments with Office 365
  • Development of our Language Offer
  • Advancing our Activities Programme - Learning Beyond the Classroom
  • Creation of a Learning Centre
  • Montana Summer Sessions 2018

I wish you all and especially our students a lot of success in the final spurt until Christmas. May this be followed by relaxing holidays filled with many joyful memories shared with family and friends. At last, I wish you a good start to a healthy, happy and successful year 2018!

Kind regards,
Institut Montana Zugerberg AG 

Dr Nils Remmel


Extension of our Bilingual Middle School to the Bilingual Secondary I Programme (Grades 7-9)

Our goal is to offer the best curricula in Swiss and international education and our students will continue to have the choice between the Swiss Matura and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma going forward. Two years ago, we introduced the Bilingual Middle School (BMS) Programme that allows a better and more flexible integration of students into one of these programmes throughout grades 7 and 8, dependent on their individual profile.

We are convinced that this bilingual offer is key to enabling and supporting individual students, as a step-wise integration process, to enter the Swiss Gymnasium or the International School. To this end, we will further extend the BMS programme in the coming school year, August 2018, to cover the full Secondary I stage (grades 7-9). With this development, we are extending the reach of Montana education to Swiss Secondary students and offering them a foretaste of our unique Swiss-international environment on the Zugerberg. At the same time, the new structure also allows students who would like to take a different educational path after grade 9 to leave Montana with an official certificate of secondary school education that is acknowledged in Switzerland. The bilingual aspect of the programme is further enriched by the opportunity to complement the diploma with language certificates, such as Goethe diplomas for German and Cambridge language certificates for English.

Creation of the Position of “Dean of Students”

We have the privilege to accompany our students throughout formative years on their individual paths to adolescence, and to prepare them for their future careers in the 21st century. Following our philosophy, a holistic perspective on this development is important to us, independent of the programme students attend and whether they live on the Zugerberg or not.

Pursuing this goal, we will create the position of “Dean of Students” as a member of the extended school leadership team in the coming school year. The Dean of Students and his team will work closely with students from grade 7 onwards. Close coordination with the school and boarding will ensure that we systematically support not only the academic but also the social and emotional learning of our students: with the individual student at the heart of what we do, holistically integrating their school and boarding experiences.

In the final years before graduation, timely preparation for university applications is essential to allow our students to take a successful step toward leading Swiss and international universities. The Dean of Students and his team will lead this process starting with the coming school year. This allows us to improve the guidance of international students seeking to apply to Swiss universities and vice versa. We will start this guidance already in the lower grades, enabling students to build their profile from early on and create the best possible conditions for their later applications.

Clearly, university applications are at the final step of this process. Before this, the focus is much more on inspiring our students to extend and deepen their interests and to create real-life experiences. Actively taking responsibility and working to realize one’s own ideas is paramount. Apart from enriched activities that were introduced this school year—Business & Entrepreneurship, Model United Nations, and Science & Technology—long-standing initiatives such as Student Council offer a broad scope of opportunities for our students to make an active contribution and take responsibility within our school’s community. Jointly with the students, we will further extend these opportunities and activities on offer throughout the coming school years.

Modern Teaching and Virtual Learning Environments with Office 365

Digitalisation has been a focal topic in education for many years now and in most of our classrooms today, teaching is supported by ICT infrastructure. At the same time we are of the opinion that the quality of teaching and learning is not primarily dependent on the provision of ICT but by putting the right means to their best use. Even the traditional chalkboard can be the right tool for good teaching at certain times.

With the school year 2018/19, we will introduce Office 365 to create the basis for virtual learning environments through which we can further advance the learning and application of ICT skills of our students across the curricula. From January 2018 onwards, students will receive access to the latest Office 365 licenses for installation on their private devices (including tablets and mobiles). With the start of the new school year, students will begin working with a school email system and the full Office 365 environment.

Such infrastructure-focused initiatives are accompanied by longer-term professional development measures with our faculty. These focus on teaching methods in line with the latest research on learning, and underscore the continuously increasing importance of competency-based education. To further advance this development area, such aspects are also accounted for in our revised faculty appraisal process.

Development of our Language Offer

Languages open doors and provide insights into other cultures. They are also crucial for good collaboration within international teams, a skill that will become ever more important in the future. Our school has always set itself apart through our diverse language offer. We want to further increase our standards in the coming school year. Initiatives will focus on creating a structure to allow students to learn a third language in addition to German and English, the two main languages of our school. This third language can be an additional first or second language that is offered systematically throughout all grade levels and across programmes.

Beyond the regular language offer, we established very successful “Fast-Track” course options for German and French, which cater to students with the ambition to learn these languages faster or achieve a higher level than what can be supported in the regular curriculum. In these courses, language levels are certified through external examinations and globally acknowledged diplomas, such as the Goethe diplomas. This development was in parallel to extended structures of English as an additional language (EAL) support in the International School programme, where our students will now start taking the official Cambridge language exams. We will review these structures within the programmes to provide our students a flexible but at the same time transparent language programme, combined with further support options within the curriculum.

In February 2018, we will provide more information on corresponding subject allocations and additional course options. It is very important to us to maintain transparency about the courses that are offered as part of the regular curriculum, and additional course options offered at an additional cost. To create incentives for students to graduate with a bilingual IB Diploma, we seek to reduce or eliminate additional costs of mother tongue programmes in Chinese and Russian.

Advancing the Activities Programme - Learning Beyond the Classroom

Already in the current school year, we advanced our activities programme on the Zugerberg. Our main focus was the extension of activities focusing on “Business & Entrepreneurship”, “Model United Nations”, and “Science & Technology”—three areas that create opportunities beyond the classroom for students to learn and experience according to their individual interests. While these activities follow a curriculum they also create manifold opportunities for student input. After the inaugural Montana Model United Nations (MMUN) Conference on the Zugerberg in November, and different MUN teams attended a range of international conferences, the programmes of all activity streams shall be enriched by further excursions and invitations of guest speakers.

In parallel to these learning-oriented activities, Montana has made several successful appearances in sports tournaments this year, namely in tennis, soccer and basketball, where our team showed its tremendous potential by reaching up to second place. In January, the winter sports programme continues to prepare our students for participation in a Swiss ski-race, competing against other Swiss boarding schools at the end of the season.

In addition, we seek to strengthen the cultural offering within our activities programme. Initiatives for the next school year will include the extension of our school choir. Furthermore, inspired by the great musical productions of our elementary school, we are planning to introduce performing arts to the upper grades following elementary school.

Creation of a Learning Centre

Our student community is characterised by diversity, which is not confined to different cultures but also to manifold educational backgrounds when joining Montana. To accomplish successful integration and to nurture the successful development of the individual student, support measures are often essential. There is a broad scope of measures, which we have greatly extended over recent years. We have also already developed our study hall structures to support the self-responsible learning of our students.

With the coming school year, we will take the next step in this process, transforming study hall into a learning centre. Our goal is to be even more proactive in offering our students support by trained teachers beyond the classroom. Furthermore, the learning centre will take the lead in organizing support measures, including subject tuition, learning support and language support (such as Goethe Fast Track and EAL) so that these measures are swiftly arranged, once aspirations or needs have been identified.

Montana Summer Sessions 2018

For several students that joined us on the Zugerberg throughout recent years, the Montana Summer Sessions programme was their first Montana experience. Since its inauguration two years ago, the programme has developed successfully and student numbers have grown significantly. For the next year, we seek to take a further step forward in the programme, and with that, we are revising its organization under a long-term perspective and establishing better integration with the regular school year. With this, we can ensure that the Montana Summer Sessions are not only a rich and exciting summer programme but also reflect the values of our school, giving a good first impression of what it means to live and learn on the Zugerberg.

The overall development also brings about smaller adjustments to the programme structure. From 2018, the Montana Summer Sessions are open to students of ages 10-15. Apart from boarding students, we also welcome day students from the region, whose families are interested in a 2-/4-week supervised holiday programme, Monday to Friday from 8:00-17:00 and with optional weekend excursions. Concerning available language courses, German and English are offered at different levels and, in 2018, Spanish will be added as a third language choice at “ab initio” level.