Unleashing the potential of global thinking in your children at SEK Santa Isabel, in the heart of Madrid

17.07.23

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Last week I visited IB Primary Day school in the heart of Madrid and I liked it so much that if I were in the situation of looking for a primary school for my child myself, I would seriously consider moving the family to Madrid so that the child would study in this school! This is not my situation, but in this article, I want to share with my readers what exactly struck me at SEK Santa Isabel School.

First, let's delve a little into history. The SEK Santa Isabel school is located in the historic center of Madrid, where the SEK educational institution was founded in 1892, giving rise to the modern group of 13 international IB SEK schools located in 8 countries, one of the last being the online school. Over the many years of the school's existence, entire generations of Madrid families have studied within the walls of SEK Santa Isabel. The current SEK Santa Isabel building was built in 1973.

Today, SEK Santa Isabel is the only international school in the center of Madrid offering an International Baccalaureate program for children aged 3 to 12. All 350 students of SEK Santa Isabel study in the bilingual IB Primary Years program: some subjects are taught in English, some in Spanish, which contributes to the development of the skill of perfect command of these two languages ​​of both, Spanish children, studying at this school, and foreign children of expat families, who moved to Madrid. SEK Santa Isabel's student population is 65% Spanish and 35% international students from 3 to 12 years old representing 30 nationalities, which means that children are exposed to a multicultural education from a very young age.

As the only authorized school in the center of Madrid offering the prestigious IB® Primary Years program, it produces well-rounded people who excel academically, emotionally, and culturally, because they do not feel the burden of the educational process, they are happy to be involved in school life. Having got to know the school better, I realized that the desire of children to study at this school is supported by two components:

  • the concept of the IB Primary Years program is to develop children's innate qualities through a creative curriculum that combines active play and interaction with other people, emotional support for children, knowledge and learning through exploration, creative expression, and art.
  • the individual approach of the school itself, to take the learning process beyond the walls of the school: The location of SEK Santa Isabel in the heart of historical Madrid, made it possible to transfer the school's classes to the most important museums of the city, cultural centers and parks surrounding the school. The school calls this approach to children's education an extended campus that allows children to receive information for different blocks of learning from different primary sources of the unique environment of the center of Madrid: museums, theaters, galleries, neighboring gardens, traditional markets, and the iconic Retiro Park become unusual everyday learning spaces.

It is the use of such methods that meet the interests and needs of the child that allowed the school to achieve outstanding results in the upbringing and education of children recognized by generations of Madrid and international families, as well as all kinds of international rankings, where all SEK schools occupy high positions, the best universities of the world, where graduates of these schools enter easily.

Since children enter school at a very early age, they are accepted here even without any initial knowledge of English and Spanish. SEK Santa Isabel has developed a unique, personalized Spanish (SAL) or English (EAL) program tailored to the specific needs of each student. Children start attending the program from the first day of enrollment, with each child being provided with as much support with a foreign language as needed before becoming fluent in these languages. Friends are assigned to all newly arrived children, which also supports new students, ensuring rapid integration into the hospitable community of the school.

I met international children at the school who came here without a single knowledge of both English and Spanish, like the kids of 3 and 5 years of a Korean family who entered the school in April. If in the first days, it was difficult for children without the understanding of teachers, while in June, although they could not speak these languages, they understood what was required of them in all lessons and joined the learning process.

The school pays great attention to the physical development of children, offering many studios and activities, both in the gym or sports terrace of the school, located on the roof, and in the neighboring iconic Retiro Park. In addition, much attention is paid to arts and music programs, including individual music lessons from the earliest school years and participation in the school orchestra. For the full development of toddlers and young students, a comprehensive program of extra-curricular activities and other additional services are offered, such as bus routes that take children to school from various areas of Madrid, including Barrio Salamanca, Chamberi, Centro, Retiro, Arganzuela and the Madrid River, as well as extended working hours, up to until 19:30.

The school staff understands the problems that international families face and strives to provide them with any support. For parents, there are language exchange clubs, sporting events, joint food fairs, weekly coffee meetings in the morning in neighboring cafes, as well as the “Buddy Family” system, where a new family is introduced to expats or a Spanish family already accustomed to Madrid, which contributes developing a sense of belonging and integrating new families into the school and city.

Well, in conclusion, I want to say that parents do not need to worry about finding a secondary school when their children reach 12 years old. All children go to one of two other SEK schools located on the northern outskirts of Madrid and offer a full cycle IB program. At the same time, children and their families decide which of the two schools to choose, based mainly on where the child's friends will study, since the level of schools is approximately the same, and the bus routes of both schools collect children throughout the city. At the same time, families living in the center of Madrid are happy that they are given such a wonderful opportunity for an excellent education of children at an early age close to home, followed by comprehensive education in the large suburban campuses of SEK Ciudalcampo or SEK El Castillo

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