Editorial Team

Oeiras International School (OIS) opened its doors in 2010 and has since made a distinct mark in the Lisbon education scene. Rather than solely focusing on academic achievement, the school prioritizes community empowerment and involvement in its growth and direction. This unique approach originates from the vision of its founders who were dissatisfied with the available educational options and sought to establish a school that excelled in academics while being community-owned and emphasizing personal and social development.

In 2009, these forward-thinking parents established the Oeiras International School Associação SFL, a charitable foundation to oversee the school. This structure ensures that any profits generated benefit the school, ensuring its continuous alignment with the community’s needs. Consequently, OIS stands out as a model that prioritizes family, inclusivity, and collective well-being.

At OIS, the primary focus is on nurturing students’ individual skills by acknowledging their unique abilities and learning styles. Class sizes, which average 16 students, enable teachers to provide more individualized attention, fostering personal growth. This supportive environment has made OIS a popular choice for families seeking a tech-savvy, creatively stimulating, and socially conscious educational institution.

What truly distinguishes OIS is its inclusive admission policy. The school believes in providing opportunities based on mutual potential for contribution and growth, beyond just academic performance. This ethos has cultivated a dynamic and diverse community where every student is valued and encouraged to excel, while also making meaningful contributions back to the community.

OIS has incredible teachers who consistently go above and beyond for their students. These educators are recruited from both Portugal and around the world, offering a wonderful blend of local and international perspectives. It truly does take a community to raise and educate our children, and OIS is fortunate to have a dedicated group of teachers at its disposal.

The Path to Excellence

One of the first big challenges for OIS was obtaining authorization from the International Baccalaureate (IB). The Founding Head, with her thorough knowledge of the IB’s requirements, fast-tracked the process, allowing OIS to offer IB programmes much sooner than usual.

Transforming a 17th-century palace into a modern learning environment was both a logistical and cultural challenge. Through the founders’ hard work and vision, the historic space became a vibrant, innovative educational setting. Since then, OIS has expanded its IB programme offerings and grown in size and reputation. Known for its rigorous academics and commitment to developing globally minded individuals, OIS has become a leading institution in international education.

Another hurdle was securing accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). This process required deep introspection and teamwork, and the school’s dedication paid off when they met NEASC’s high standards.

A Community-Driven Governance Model

OIS isn’t owned by anyone but is guided by the Associates and Board of Directors. This governance model keeps the school deeply connected to its community’s values and aspirations. Parent engagement shapes the school’s strategic direction, aligning it with family needs. This builds trust and ensures decisions benefit the whole community, creating a strong partnership with the Principal and Senior Leadership Team.

Active parent involvement fosters a vibrant, supportive atmosphere where students feel valued by both teachers and the wider community. This collaborative culture enhances the overall educational experience. A parent-led foundation drives innovation and responsiveness, allowing quick adaptation based on immediate feedback from parents. This keeps the learning environment dynamic and responsive to students’ needs.

The recently formed Parents Council further strengthens this partnership. It provides a platform for parents to support the school’s mission, share insights, and contribute their expertise to enrich learning. Furthermore, the active Parents Club at OIS arranges various activities and educational opportunities for parents, along with enjoyable events for the entire community throughout the year.

Robert Tomalin, Principal

Embracing the Dare to Learn Approach

At OIS, the ethos of “Sapere Aude”—dare to learn—permeates every aspect of education. This philosophy encourages students to embrace new ideas and innovative problem-solving methods, shaping the very structure of the curriculum and teaching approaches.

From a young age, OIS students follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, which guides them to take ownership of their learning. They develop crucial skills such as time management, project leadership, collaboration, and debate. This foundation pushes them beyond traditional learning, promoting innovation and creativity.

OIS fosters a culture where students are encouraged to take risks and see failure as a learning opportunity. They learn that setbacks are essential for building resilience and adaptability—key traits in navigating and leading through uncertainty in today’s complex world.

The curriculum integrates cutting-edge technologies and digital design, preparing students to be future leaders and innovators. OIS students are empowered to be creators and early adopters, designing novel solutions to real-world challenges.

A shining example of this philosophy is the PYP exhibitions by Year 6 students, the MYP Personal Project at the end of Year 11 and the Extended Essay in Year 13. These inquiry and research based projects allow students to synthesize their learning and present complex ideas confidently to a diverse audience. These experiences highlight how “Sapere Aude” frees students from conventional boundaries, enabling them to explore their full potential.

Shaping Global Citizens

OIS chose the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum to develop well-rounded, globally minded students. The IB Learner Profile aims to create inquirers, knowledgeable thinkers, communicators, principled individuals, open-minded learners, caring people, risk-takers, balanced individuals, and reflective students.

This approach encourages curiosity, critical thinking, and ethical decision-making. Students learn to express themselves confidently in multiple languages, respect diverse cultures, and make a positive impact on their communities. They also learn to balance intellectual, physical, and emotional aspects of life, fostering overall well-being.

The IB curriculum equips OIS students with skills highly valued by universities and employers, giving them a significant edge in their future endeavours. Many OIS staff members, including the Principal, studied the IB Diploma Programme when they were students, bringing a deep understanding of its benefits to their roles.

Fostering Inclusivity

OIS prioritizes inclusivity as foundational to its educational philosophy. The school ensures that every student, regardless of background or learning abilities, has the opportunity to thrive and achieve their full potential. To accommodate the diverse needs of its student body, OIS evaluates prospective students based on a comprehensive assessment of their capabilities, interests, and character, aiming to foster a diverse and dynamic student community.

OIS prides itself on being an inclusive school. The school integrates students with a variety of learning abilities, admitting up to 15% of students with specific needs in each year group. This balanced approach allows OIS to provide tailored support and resources to meet the needs of all students effectively.

During the application process, OIS values transparency and honesty from families. This collaborative approach enables the school to prepare and implement necessary support structures, including differentiated teaching methods and curriculum adaptations, to cater to individual learning styles and needs, when needed.

An Inspiring Physical Environment

At OIS, the physical environment enhances the educational experience for students and staff alike. Nestled amidst Portugal’s natural beauty, the campus seamlessly integrates modern amenities with tranquil surroundings, fostering an inspiring atmosphere conducive to learning.

Surrounded by lush woods and a picturesque river, OIS encourages daily engagement with nature, offering students and staff moments of respite and reflection. This interaction not only enhances well-being but also underscores the school’s commitment to holistic education.

The presence of animals like Dumbledore the donkey adds a unique charm and educational opportunity to the campus. These interactions cultivate empathy, responsibility, and a profound appreciation for wildlife, enriching students’ educational journeys.

Located centrally in Portugal, OIS combines local charm with a global outlook, creating an inclusive environment where students from diverse backgrounds converge to learn and thrive. This blend of local authenticity and international connectivity defines OIS as a nurturing and diverse educational institution.

Nurturing Skills: Technology, Creativity, and Social Awareness

OIS places a strong emphasis on developing students’ skills in technology, creativity, and social awareness throughout their educational journey. Guided by the IB Learner Profile and Approaches to Learning, these skills are integrated across all grade levels to prepare students comprehensively for the challenges of a globalized world.

In the realm of technology, OIS incorporates practical applications into its curriculum from the Primary Years Programme (PYP) through to the Diploma Programme (DP). For instance, students participate in the Bridge competition in Year 5, where they design and build bridges using engineering principles. This hands-on project not only enhances their technological proficiency but also fosters problem-solving skills.

Creativity is a central component of the IB curriculum at OIS, evident in initiatives like the PYP Exhibition. Here, students delve into real-world issues and express their findings creatively through mediums such as art, drama, and digital presentations. In the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and DP, students engage in Design projects and Arts programs, encouraging innovative thinking and creative problem-solving.

Each year, OIS organizes a musical production that is open to anyone who wants to participate. Students have the opportunity to work on scenery, props, costumes, backstage, and as musicians and actors. This event is a unifying force for the OIS community, bringing everyone together each year!

Social awareness is cultivated through programs like Service as Action (MYP) and CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) in the DP. These initiatives prompt students to actively address community needs, fostering empathy, ethical awareness, and social responsibility. Participation in activities such as the Model United Nations (MUN) further enhances their understanding of global issues and nurtures diplomacy and communication skills.

Overall, OIS’s commitment to the IB philosophy ensures that students not only excel academically but also develop essential life skills. By integrating technology, creativity, and social awareness into its curriculum and extracurricular activities, OIS prepares students to become well-rounded, responsible global citizens equipped to thrive in a diverse and interconnected world.

Embracing Technology

OIS embraces technology in education with a forward-thinking philosophy aimed at cultivating students’ skills as creators, critical thinkers, and responsible digital citizens. This approach is integrated across all educational levels to ensure students are prepared for the complexities of the modern world.

Beginning in the Primary Years Programme (PYP), students engage with technology as an essential tool in their learning journey. Alongside digital skills, OIS emphasizes proficiency in analogue tools, providing a balanced educational foundation. Early exposure to foundational coding in primary years fosters interest and competence in computer science, laying a strong groundwork for future academic pursuits.

As students progress, technology continues to play a pivotal role in transforming learning experiences. By Year 7, every student is equipped with a device, facilitating interactive classrooms where technology is utilized for research, collaboration, and project-based learning. This initiative not only enhances engagement but also develops crucial 21st-century skills necessary for success in today’s interconnected world.

In Year 10, students participate in specialized technology education through subjects like Design, engaging in practical challenges such as the DXC Code Challenge. These experiences allow students to apply coding skills in real-world contexts, promoting problem-solving abilities and creativity. Notably, achievements like the ‘Space Jam’ team reaching competition finals underscore OIS’s commitment to fostering innovation and excellence.

By Year 11, students are proficient in handling digital assessments, preparing them for future academic and professional environments where digital literacy is essential. OIS also emphasizes responsible technology use, implementing policies that promote focused learning environments while educating students on digital citizenship through dedicated programs.

Guiding Futures Through Personalised Support

At OIS, supporting students through their journey beyond graduation is a top priority. The dedicated Student Futures Counsellor plays a crucial role in guiding each student towards their unique goals, whether it’s higher education, a gap year, or other opportunities.

OIS offers tailored support that respects each student’s aspirations. For those pursuing university, the Counsellor provides comprehensive assistance—from choosing suitable universities to navigating admissions and scholarships. Workshops and one-on-one sessions ensure students are well-prepared for personal statements and interviews.

With this inclusive approach, OIS graduates consistently secure places in prestigious universities globally, a testament to the school’s commitment and community support. By nurturing individual potential and ambitions, OIS ensures students are not only admitted to their preferred universities but also equipped to excel in their future endeavours.

Community Engagement and Scholarship Initiatives

In 2021, OIS launched the “Social Grocery” project aimed at supporting families in Barcarena by providing essential basics, particularly crucial during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative extended special care to isolated elderly individuals within the community, highlighting OIS’s commitment to local welfare.

OIS has a longstanding tradition of community involvement, and the “Social Grocery” project signifies a deeper partnership with the OIS Community and Parish Council. The Gardening Club, a cornerstone of these efforts, continues to expand each year with dedicated participation from students across all educational levels—PYP, MYP, and DP—contributing daily to provide food for families in need.

Moving forward, OIS aims to strengthen its collaboration with the Parish Council, receiving monthly updates on community needs to ensure ongoing support. Regular communication ensures the entire OIS community can contribute effectively, fostering a collective effort towards community welfare.

Additionally, OIS demonstrates its commitment to inclusivity through its Scholarship Programme, offering ten scholarships annually to students in the Oeiras municipality facing economic barriers. This initiative not only enhances diversity within the school but also enriches the learning environment with diverse perspectives and experiences. The success of these scholars underscores the programme’s impact, prompting future plans to expand scholarship opportunities and further empower deserving students.

Leading Educational Innovation

At OIS, a commitment to leading educational innovation drives our approach. Through proactive professional development, strategic partnerships, and adherence to global educational standards, OIS ensures that its curriculum and practices reflect the latest advancements in education.

Teachers at OIS actively participate in the International Baccalaureate Educators Network (IBEN), where they lead workshops, contribute to examinations, and conduct school visits. This involvement keeps them informed about the newest IB curriculum updates and teaching methodologies. Attendance at the IB Global Conference further enriches their understanding of future educational trends and global educational needs.

Currently pursuing accreditation by the Council of International Schools (CIS), OIS leverages this membership to access comprehensive resources spanning child protection, student well-being, and initiatives in diversity and equity. These resources are grounded in current research, ensuring that OIS implements evidence-based practices aligned with global educational best practices.

Under the leadership of Mr. Tomalin, who serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of CIS, OIS plays a pivotal role in shaping global educational standards and policies. This leadership position not only enhances OIS’s influence but also provides advanced insights into upcoming educational developments, guiding strategic planning and curriculum enhancements.

OIS’s Vision for the Future

In the next five to ten years, OIS will embark on its strategic vision titled “Deepening our Maturity.” This initiative focuses on strengthening foundational elements while promoting progressive growth across key areas: teaching and learning, financial sustainability, community engagement, and sustainability with social responsibility.

OIS is committed to enhancing educational offerings by continuously updating its curriculum to meet International Baccalaureate standards and adapting to evolving educational trends. Utilising its historic campus and natural surroundings, OIS aims to create dynamic learning environments that foster creativity and critical thinking, integrating advanced technology to prepare students for future challenges.

Financial sustainability is a priority, with OIS developing robust planning processes to ensure long-term viability. This includes exploring diverse funding sources, optimising operations, and allocating resources effectively to support educational excellence while preserving the school’s architectural heritage.

Community engagement will be expanded through partnerships with local organisations, alumni networks, and global educational bodies. These collaborations will enrich educational programs and provide students with practical experiences while fostering a community-centred approach that addresses diverse needs.

In line with its commitment to sustainability, OIS plans to lead in environmental stewardship by adopting sustainable technologies and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. Emphasising social responsibility across school activities will prepare students to become ethical global citizens.

Through these strategic priorities, OIS aims to build on its successes and meet future challenges with innovative solutions, ensuring it continues to offer a top-tier international education that prepares students for success in a rapidly changing world.

For More Info: https://ois.pt/

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