Meet Ulrich Weghoff, Principal of GSIS, Hong Kong
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
What is it like to be Principal of a school that is world renowned for its results making it one of the top 5 IB schools globally? We take time to chat with Ulrich Weghoff, Principal of the German Swiss International School to find out just this and gain an insight into the German school system.
How long have you lived in Hong Kong and what was the path that bought you to the German Swiss International School, Hong Kong?
I have lived in Hong Kong for almost three years and before that, I was Principal of the German International School, New York for five years and before that, a Principal in Berlin. The German school system abroad has over 140 schools worldwide and offers excellent professional opportunities to work abroad on the basis of standardised curricula, as well as an educational home abroad for all German speaking families.
Have you always wanted to work in education, why?
Even as a high school student, I always held my teachers in high esteem and the job profile of a teacher was a very attractive one. The role’s variety and the communicative interaction between teachers, parents and students, the high level of responsibility for the education of young people, and the need get to know each student as an individual in order to comprehend his or her unique pedagogical needs, learning style, social and cultural background, interests and abilities has always held great fascination for me. I believe that there is is no other profession that is as close to life and people as the teaching profession.
GSIS is a multi-language school, operating dual International streams. Can you tell us a bit more about the parallel streams and what each one encompasses?
GSIS has a German International Stream (GIS) and an English International Stream (EIS). The GIS studies towards the German International Abitur, while the students of the EIS leave the school with the International Baccalaureate (IB). GSIS is world-renowned for its outstanding IB results (average over 40 points), making it one of the top five IB schools in the world. GIS is a bilingual stream, where subjects are taught in both German and English, and all students in the EIS learn German as their first foreign language. In addition, students can learn French, Mandarin or Latin as a second foreign language in the GIS and Mandarin, in addition to German, in the EIS. We are immensely proud of all our students who are deeply articulate, creative, outward-looking young people with an impressively strong set of academic results. In both streams, we have a consistently high level of achievement with progression to top universities around the world. We value the diversity of our community and with over thirty countries being represented at our school, we embrace the myriad of perspectives this brings.
What has been your biggest challenge to date at the school?
Of course, the biggest challenge I faced last year was dealing with Covid-19 and the ramifications this had on all schools. GSIS is a school that has always believed in the importance of a creative approach and the ability to solve problems whilst seeing things from a different prospective, but school closure meant a new way of teaching and learning with our teachers using technology and utilising applications that enabled remote instruction, discussion and interaction to ensure teachers’ engagement with students. Many hours were spent working on how to deliver the best possible programme of study for our students and the staff worked hard to provide a strong academic plan for moving through this time of uncertainty with our students’ best interests at the forefront of their minds. In addition, the workload for both teachers and students had to be balanced, along with parents’ expectations managed. However, our priorities continue to be the delivery of a rigorous, high-quality education for our students and ensuring the wellbeing of the entire school community.
How has the education landscape changed since you started teaching and what positive impact has this had on students?
I have been teaching for over thirty years. During that time, teaching methods have changed, become much more diverse, and are more focused on the individual needs of students. At the same time, individual support services have improved and become more extensive. Today, students need more individual guidance and support and are thus accompanied in their development in a more targeted manner. Finally, teaching has become more digital, of course, especially in the past year, which has seen a significant shift forward due to school closures and increased online learning.
What was the best piece of advice you were given as a child and what advice would you pass on to your students?
As a child, I was always taught that you are responsible for your own actions. Marcus Aurelius once said, "A man's life is what his thoughts make of it," meaning that one's attitude and one's way of lookin at the world determines one's destiny. Over the years, I have passed this advice on to many students from different cultures and backgrounds, to teach them that school can open up many paths for them, but they have to walk the path themselves.
Who has been your mentor in life?
In my life, I have found inspiration in a variety of people and things, and we all meet people who impress us and are role models in different ways. I’m a strong believer in not imagining that you know everything and can do everything yourself, but to be open to learning from others and benefitting from their experiences to inherit their insight and knowledge.
And lastly, what book(s) are you reading at the moment?
Unfortunately, my job doesn't leave me much time to read. However, I just started the book "A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari.
The German Swiss International School is a multi-language school operating two parallel streams and teaching two curriculums, from Kindergarten to Secondary School and prepares for the German International Abitur (GIA) and the International Baccalaureate (IB), following IGCSE examinations in Year 11. GSIS provides rigorous academic study alongside a commitment to pastoral care to prepare our students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century with a realistic understanding of the world around them. To arrange a tour or to contact Admissions click here for further details.