Strengthening individual talents
TEXT: CHARLOTTE VAN HEK | PHOTO © SINT-LODEWIJKSCOLLEGE
The right secondary education is one’s very first real stepping stone for the future. The Sint-Lodewijkscollege is for those students that are ready to take on the world, supported by their own critical thinking and reflection, safe surroundings, and an educational environment that lets individual ambitions and talents shine.
The Sint-Lodewijkscollege is based in the scenic city of Brugge, teaching 1,320 pupils who are all preparing for higher education. The students, aged between 12 and 18, are spread over 58 classes and are taught by 140 teachers.
A tradition of excellence
The Sint-Lodewijkscollege, founded in 1834, has a 182-year-long tradition of combining the best quality education with setting high standards in a dynamic environment – witnessed by the many academics the school has yielded.
Students choose from numerous study areas, with options that can be roughly divided between the Latin-Greek (or classic humanities) and modern humanities. “While the classic and the modern humanities share a lot of communal courses such as Dutch, theology, and mathematics, the modern humanities leave larger space for STEM courses,” explains Koen Seynaeve, director of the Sint- Lodewijkscollege. In the third grade (the fifth and sixth school year), students are provided with even more options to tailor their studies to their interests and qualities.
Forming independent thinkers
Whichever educational path a student follows, everyone is equally supported to discover his or her personal strengths.“We strongly believe that every student is unique; no one learns in the same way or follows the same path. We aim to guide our students alongside this path, supporting and guiding them along the way. The bond with the teacher is hereby of crucial importance. A student cannot spread his or her wings without the right feedback and assurance, but also needs to take matters in their own hands. That way of teaching results in students widening their minds and seeking knowledge themselves.”
The importance of autonomy is clearly reflected by the ‘problem-based learning’ project held at the end of each course, allowing pupils to conduct a research project about a self-chosen topic. After writing a paper, the project is presented to an independent jury. “In those projects the teacher is no more than a coach: he is there when necessary, but mainly allows students to shine in their own unique way.”
Although teaching from Christian values, the Sint-Lodewijkscollege is a secularised school that embraces diversity and teaches students from all paths of life. “We start every school day with time for reflection on the basis of a spiritual story, a quirky text, or something else that inspires,” says Seynaeve. “Reflection is an important part of one’s development. Who am I? What can I do? What can I contribute? Those are important questions.”
The Sint-Lodewijkscollege focusses a great deal on extracurricular activities, such as sports, cultural forming and music, raised from the belief that after-school activities are as important as one’s educational environment. “It is in those daily life activities that students learn to take responsibility, fight for good results and learn how to express themselves.” The school also recognises the importance of internationality, with exchanges abroad available for every student and the offering of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). “Since 2007 we have been working with CLIL, which means that nearly all classes are also offered in English,” Seynaeve enthuses. “A lot of scientific literature is written in English, so CLIL ensures that students are as prepared as possible for higher education.”
An inspiring environment
The stimulating educational spirit is thoroughly reflected in the school’s building, which is home to an extensive library with over 120,000 titles. The Open Learning Centre is the school’s centre of dynamic learning and allows teaching or research in all its forms, and a renewal of the science wing is under way. “We will bring all our science labs, which are currently separated, under one roof. Students can come in with a research question or problem, whether related to biology, geography, or any other subject, and use the right instruments to find an intelligible solution.”
Many details enhance the college’s unique character. Besides the colour red (Brugge’s colour) appearing in the interior decor and beautiful art adorning the walls, it is the letter L that seems to be a recurring theme. “Besides the fact that it is the first letter of the word ‘learning’, a study into the history of writing shows that the letter L refers to the stick of the cowherd, used to guide all in the right direction,” Seynaeve explains. “We see this as the perfect symbol for learning: using proper means to give the right guidance, so everyone can walk their path in a unique and meaningful way. In the end, that is what we do: providing incentives to encourage young people to learn.”