Editorial Team

The International School of Lausanne (ISL) is a prominent non-profit, independent institution dedicated to offering a world-class International Baccalaureate (IB) education. Established in 1962, ISL is renowned for its outstanding academic achievements, innovative learning environment, and diverse international community. The school is accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and is a member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), underscoring its commitment to providing a solid educational foundation.

Each year, ISL students excel in the IB Diploma, consistently surpassing global averages. Frazer Cairns, the School Director, proudly states, “Our students achieve exceptional results in the IB Diploma, reflecting our dedication to academic excellence.”  ISL’s vibrant community includes students from over 60 nationalities. The school prepares its students to navigate the complexities of our global society, empowering them to make meaningful contributions and thrive in a multicultural world. “We pride ourselves on our diverse student body,” says Cairns, “and we prepare them to become leaders and changemakers of tomorrow.”

An education at ISL provides students with a rigorous intellectual foundation that fosters critical thinking, opportunities for innovation and problem-solving, and the skills to collaborate effectively across cultural boundaries. Cairns emphasizes, “We equip our students with the confidence and courage to express their true selves.”

The modern, open campus at ISL is designed with student well-being in mind, encouraging interdisciplinary learning and creativity. The campus features four buildings, three sports halls, a 350-seat auditorium, labs, sound studios, a dance studio, music practice rooms, three beehives, and a community garden. “Our location, close to both the city and nature, provides an ideal setting for our students to learn and grow,” adds Cairns.

Cultivating Global Citizens

The curriculum at ISL is meticulously designed to prepare students for the complexities and uncertainties of our multicultural, interdependent world. ISL, an IB World School, offers the International Baccalaureate Programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), and the Diploma Programme (DP). Alongside these, the school delivers a well-being curriculum using the CASEL framework.

The Primary Years Programme (PYP) serves students aged 3 to 11. This transdisciplinary framework focuses on developing the whole child as an inquirer, both in and out of school. Cairns explains, “Through our rich programme of learning, students at ISL develop academic, social, and emotional well-being, emphasizing international-mindedness and strong personal values.”

For students aged 11 to 16, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) provides an international curriculum that fosters the knowledge, understanding, attitudes, and skills needed to actively and responsibly participate in a changing world. Cairns notes, “The MYP helps our students build on their personal strengths and embrace challenges in subjects where they may not initially excel.”

The Diploma Programme (DP), catering to students aged 16 to 18, offers a broad and varied range of subjects. This programme is designed to equip students with the depth of knowledge and skills required for higher education. Cairns adds, “The DP at ISL provides students with the opportunity to study a diverse array of subjects while preparing them for the next step in their educational journey.”

Offering Comprehensive Student Support

At ISL, students are seen holistically, and their varying needs are met through a variety of support services organized by the Student Support Services Coordinator. Recognizing that children are multifaceted, ISL provides tailored support to help each student thrive. Our aim is to challenge and support each student according to their individual needs,” says Cairns. “We strive to enable students to become independent learners who advocate for themselves, and develop their self-awareness and confidence.”

ISL offers a range of support services to match students’ needs and provides a structured approach for classroom teachers. Families are encouraged to collaborate with the school by sharing relevant information about their child’s learning, such as psychological-educational evaluations, speech-language assessments, occupational or physical therapy evaluations, school documentation, and any medical information that may impact learning.

“We believe in providing high-quality programs for all students,” Cairns emphasizes. “Balancing the number of students with diverse learning support needs with appropriate resources is key to meeting their individual needs.” Students with mild needs receive support based on data collected from classroom teachers and, when necessary, external evaluations. This support may include classroom and test-based accommodations.

For students with mild-to-moderate needs, support is provided based on data from classroom teachers and external evaluations. This may include a specialized class designed to support their specific needs, along with classroom and test-based accommodations. Students requiring one-on-one assistance receive support from an assistant based on their needs, assessed using data from classroom teachers and external evaluations. This individualized support incurs additional costs beyond standard ISL fees.

ISL also addresses the needs of students from non-English speaking backgrounds through its English as an Additional Language (EAL) program. The EAL department offers a range of direct and indirect support for students developing their English language skills. This support can include individual instruction, small-group instruction, in-class support, co-teaching with homeroom or subject-specific teachers, and modifications to help students succeed within the mainstream class. “The flexible nature of our EAL program allows students to receive various types of support according to their needs,” Cairns explains.

Elevating Education

Professional development (PD) has become a major strategic focus at ISL. Significant research demonstrates that effective PD substantially improves student learning, with an impact comparable to replacing a novice teacher with one who has a decade of experience. However, poorly designed PD can hinder teachers by consuming their time, attention, and resources without producing lasting effects.

To maximize the potential of their staff, ISL took a thoughtful approach. “Instead of chasing the latest trend, we established a group to review the complex evidence surrounding effective PD,” explains Cairns. “We found that successful PD is grounded in a valid understanding of how students learn, how teachers can influence that learning, and how and why teachers change.”

ISL determined that instructional coaching would be the most impactful approach to classroom development. This method helps teachers make small, incremental improvements to their practice, which accumulate over time and lead to noticeable gains in student learning. “While traditional PD might involve a general discussion of teaching theory, instructional coaching is more hands-on,” says Cairns. “A coach might build a PD session around analysing a video of the teacher’s classroom, reviewing expert teaching videos, presenting a theoretical framework for change, agreeing on an action step, planning its implementation, and then rehearsing the change.”

To implement this approach, ISL has developed a team of coaches from its highly experienced staff, who have undergone a specialized training program with external experts. All teaching staff at ISL benefit from the expertise of these instructional coaches through group sessions during staff meetings and more personalized one-on-one coaching.

“This has been an enormous investment in time and resources,” Cairns acknowledges. “But we believe it has given us the understanding, direction, and collective purpose needed to drive meaningful and impactful improvements in teacher expertise. In the long run, this will lead to enhanced learning for all our students at ISL.”

Fostering Inclusivity and Excellence

At ISL, there is no such thing as an average student. ISL is dedicated to creating an environment where every student has the support they need to succeed. The school aims to build an inclusive and diverse community where all forms of success are recognized and celebrated. This commitment requires resources to address the needs of a wide spectrum of learners, from those with specific talents to those who thrive in typical classroom settings, and those with unique learning needs.

“Our goal is to provide an environment where all students can succeed,” says Cairns. “We believe in recognizing and celebrating all types of success.” ISL understands that effective inclusionary practices depend significantly on teachers’ beliefs about their roles and responsibilities. Therefore, the school emphasizes ongoing teacher training and development. This training focuses on enhancing classroom management skills, scaffolding learning to adapt to students’ current understanding, engaging students in higher-order thinking, and encouraging and supporting success.

ISL offers extensive and highly targeted support for students with additional academic needs such as dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and dyspraxia. Support staff provide individualized interventions in one-on-one or small group settings, as well as general support through an in-class co-teaching model alongside the classroom teacher. “We provide targeted interventions to meet the diverse needs of our students,” explains Cairns. “This includes both individual support and co-teaching models to ensure every student receives the attention they need.”

For students with high potential, ISL employs strategies such as mentoring, counselling, differentiated pedagogies, the use of digital technologies, and student collaboration. These approaches have proven particularly effective in meeting the needs of high-potential students. Specific educational interventions are also used to appropriately challenge these students and maximize their potential. “Students join us from all corners of the globe,” Cairns notes. “Language support ensures that all students are equipped with the necessary language tools to make the most of both the academic program and the social aspects of school.”

Cultivating a Positive Learning Culture at ISL

At ISL, the culture and ethos are clearly defined, with a collective commitment to creating a supportive and dynamic learning environment. Rather than displaying long sets of rules in classrooms, ISL emphasizes fundamental understandings of who they want to be as a learning community. “We focus on the core principles that define us as a learning community,” explains Cairns. “These principles are based on research and experience, representing what we believe are the best possible conditions for learning.”

Inside the classroom, ISL has established a clear set of learning principles. These include the importance of setting meaningful goals, valuing students as individuals, and acknowledging their specific contributions. The school also emphasizes building positive relationships, promoting a culture where making mistakes is seen as an integral part of learning, and using language that emphasizes the process of learning rather than its product. “We believe in the importance of meaningful goals and recognizing each student’s unique contributions,” says Cairns. “Building positive relationships and viewing mistakes as learning opportunities are crucial aspects of our approach.”

Outside the classroom, ISL has a set of expectations shared by all members of the community, including parents, students, and staff. These expectations are not a list of prohibitions but rather a guide to fostering a respectful and ethical community. They emphasize gaining trust by being true to one’s word, acting ethically, treating people with respect, and being aware of one’s actions to create positive outcomes for oneself and others. Additionally, every member of the community is encouraged to treat people equally, regardless of differences. “Our expectations focus on ethical behaviour, respect, and positive interactions,” Cairns notes. “Every community member plays a key role in fostering an inclusive and respectful environment.”

Enriching Lives Beyond the Classroom

The After-School Activities (ASA) program at ISL creates opportunities for students and the community to connect, share, and grow beyond the classroom. With over 120 different activities to choose from, the ASA program encourages students to explore their talents and develop new skills, laying the foundation for lifelong engagement and involvement. Notably, most activities are included in the school fees, and more than 90% of students participate in at least one activity per week. “The ASA program is an integral part of our holistic approach at ISL,” says Cairns. “It provides every student with the opportunity to explore their talents, develop new skills, and find success beyond the classroom.”

Through the ASA program, students are motivated to try new things, discover their strengths, and pursue their passions. “By trying out new activities, young people discover what they are good at and are motivated to succeed,” Cairns explains. The structure of the ASA program is based on the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Framework developed by the Canadian Sport for Life Society. This research-driven framework shows that children and adults are more likely to get active, achieve high levels of sports performance, and—most importantly—stay active if they engage in the right activities at the right times.

“Our ASA program is designed with the LTAD framework in mind,” Cairns notes. “This ensures that our students not only develop their skills and talents but also build a foundation for lifelong physical activity and well-being.” By providing a wide range of activities and fostering an environment of exploration and growth, the ASA program at ISL helps students develop into well-rounded individuals. Through these experiences, students learn valuable life skills, build confidence, and form lasting connections with their peers and community.

Building Community

The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is a vibrant and dynamic part of school life at ISL. The PTA has two main goals: welcoming new families and enhancing communication within the school community through its executive committee. “The PTA is essential in bringing our community together,” says Cairns. “Their ongoing social and cultural events foster a strong sense of belonging and engagement among families.”

The PTA organizes a variety of events such as coffee mornings, Lausanne city events, and the annual Spring Fair. These events provide opportunities for parents, students, and staff to connect and build relationships. Additionally, parent clubs offer activities like hiking, netball, photography, and unihockey, further strengthening the community bonds.

One notable initiative is the “Parent Hub Programme,” which aims to build a partnership between home and school. “The Parent Hub Programme is designed to provide insights into our educational program and support parenting while fostering community,” Cairns explains. “It also offers activities to help parents continue learning and act as good role models.”

The alumni program ensures that former students and their families remain connected to ISL. This program allows the community to share their favourite ISL memories, network, and stay involved. It includes bi-monthly newsletters, events (both in-person and virtual), reunion celebrations, and networking opportunities. “Our alumni program is crucial in maintaining a lifelong connection with ISL,” says Cairns. “It ensures that even after graduation, everyone remains a part of the ISL family.”

Promoting Well-Being

At ISL, counselling aims to promote the holistic development and well-being of each student. The student counsellors offer education, prevention, and crisis interventions through one-on-one sessions as needed, as well as regular classes cantered on psychosocial development and awareness. “Our well-being program is based on CASEL’s five competencies: self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, and social awareness,” says Cairns. “These competencies are crucial for developing healthy, well-rounded students.”

Counsellors at ISL collaborate with classroom teachers, leadership, and the Student Support Services department to address the individual needs of students. They play a vital role in ensuring that each student receives the support necessary to thrive both academically and personally.

In addition to the counselling services, ISL has two dedicated nurses who provide medical care to students when needed and maintain clear guidelines to ensure a healthy school environment. The nurses tend to sick and injured students and staff, offering first-aid, care, and advice. They also provide preventive health care lessons in collaboration with teachers, counsellors, and other staff members. “Our nurses are integral to providing full holistic care at ISL,” Cairns emphasizes. “They ensure that our students and staff have access to medical support and health education, contributing to the overall well-being of our community.”

Nurturing Future Pathways

Preparing students for life beyond ISL is a collaborative effort that begins in high school and encompasses various aspects of student well-being and academic development. Relevant topics are addressed during well-being classes, through homeroom sessions, and individual counselling sessions. “Our approach to preparing students for their future is comprehensive and student-cantered,” explains Cairns. “We focus on helping students understand their identity, values, passions, and purpose, supporting them in their transition to university and the workforce.”

ISL supports students in making their International Baccalaureate (IB) subject choices in Year 11 and encourages self-knowledge and awareness of their options from Year 12. The school’s counselling program is enriched through regular visits from universities, information sessions for parents, and university fairs for all students. “Our Academic Counselling Office is dedicated to guiding students through their academic and career journey,” Cairns emphasizes. “We provide individualized support to help students navigate their IB course selection, university research, application process, and career exploration.”

To facilitate this process, ISL utilizes a future planning information management system, providing a platform for university and career research. An online platform offers virtual internships, skill development opportunities, career exploration tools, and mentoring possibilities. Additionally, the school organizes alumni career and university talks to provide insights into different career pathways. “We believe in the importance of ensuring that every student has options aligned with their aspirations and achievements,” Cairns notes. “Our goal is to empower students to make informed decisions about their future.”

Empowering Change

ISL has a longstanding reputation for academic excellence. However, recognizing the importance of critical thinking and adaptability in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, ISL has embarked on a new initiative to foster entrepreneurial thinking and social change – The Centre for Entrepreneurship, also known as the Centre for Change. “Our core mission is to prepare students to make a positive impact on society,” says Cairns. “We believe that entrepreneurial thinking can be a powerful force for social change, driving both big and small improvements in the world.”

The Centre for Entrepreneurship aims to cultivate creativity and innovation among students, empowering them to transform ideas into value for others. At its core, the Centre prepares young people to drive change and contribute to social and environmental activism.

Practically, the Centre comprises three key elements. Firstly, it offers a physical space designed to encourage learning in flexible ways. This includes a large seminar room equipped with interactive technology, ‘green screen’ film studios, and small group pods for collaborative work on presentations or business plans. “The physical space of the Centre encourages creativity and collaboration,” Cairns explains. “It provides students with the resources and tools they need to bring their ideas to life.”

Secondly, the Centre offers a taught program with a project-based approach, focusing on core entrepreneurship skills such as statistics, data analysis, creative thinking, marketing, networking, budgeting, and leadership. Guest speakers from various industries lead workshops on topics ranging from mental health and time management to advanced technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. “Our program equips students with practical skills and knowledge essential for entrepreneurship,” Cairns emphasizes. “It provides them with opportunities to explore emerging technologies and develop innovative solutions to real-world challenges.”

Finally, the Centre provides students with the opportunity to work alongside industry experts on meaningful projects. Mentors offer personalized guidance, helping students set objectives and stay accountable while fostering the discovery of their passions and talents. “By engaging with real-world problems, students gain valuable experience and insights,” says Cairns. “They come to realize their capacity to effect meaningful change, both now and in the future.”

Through the Centre for Entrepreneurship, ISL empowers students to become agents of change, equipped with the skills, knowledge, and mindset to address the complex challenges of our world and make a positive difference in society.


For More Info: https://www.isl.ch/


Frazer Cairns, School Director

Frazer Cairns joined ISL as its Director in 2017. With a background in management consultancy and journalism, he has worked as a science teacher and as a school leader in the UK, Indonesia, Switzerland, and Singapore. Frazer holds Masters and Doctorate degrees in education, his research focusing on the place of bilingualism in international education and an MBA from Warwick Business School. Frazer is a member of the Board of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS).

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