FAQs

Must my child be able to speak German to attend EBGIS?

No. Children joining EBGIS in our preschool and kindergarten classes need not have any prior knowledge of German. Our immersive bilingual instruction in these classes is designed so that by the end of kindergarten students have achieved a level of German proficiency that enables them to succeed in the first grade and beyond.

Children joining EBGIS in grades one or higher should have some ability to understand German, but they need not be fluent. Our German immersion program, small class sizes, and highly trained faculty ensure that children’s German fluency increases rapidly upon joining our school. Our teachers will work with you to assess whether your child’s German language ability is sufficient for a particular grade level. Contact us to arrange an informal language assessment with one of our staff.

There are no German speakers in my family. Should I consider EBGIS for my child?

Of course! Science has shown that bilingual education starting in early childhood boosts children’s intellectual and social development. By choosing German as your child’s second language, you open the door to a world of unparalleled artistic and literary achievement, cutting edge technology and engineering, world-class universities, and opportunities in Europe’s largest economy.

What is the blend of German and English in the curriculum?

Our language program is designed to optimize language acquisition at various developmental stages. Our methods have proven extremely successful over the years, with our students excelling in the Deutsches Sprachdiplom, the official language fluency examination of the German government.

In our preschool and kindergarten programs, each class has at least one German-speaking and one English-speaking teacher. This arrangement nurtures the development of both languages and ensures that children entering with only German or English language ability feel comfortable and connected.

In our elementary school (grades 1 through 4) we emphasize German fluency and the acquisition of a wide-ranging vocabulary by providing about eighty percent of weekly instruction in German. At the same time, children benefit from an exceptional project-based and literature-rich English curriculum.

Because our middle school students (grades 5 through 8) are confident speakers of both English and German, we gradually shift the language balance in middle school toward 60/40 by eighth grade. Middle school students continue exploring world literature in both English and German, and expand their vocabularies in scientific, artistic, and other fields.

What are the typical class size and student-to-teacher ratio?

Our class sizes are small by design, allowing for plenty of individualized attention and differentiated learning. We currently have no class larger than fifteen students, with one to two teachers per class, depending on the subject area. We have also implemented combined-grade classrooms for certain subjects, allowing even more differentiation and fostering cooperative peer-to-peer learning.

What are the professional qualifications of the faculty at EBGIS?

The majority of our faculty are teachers from Germany and other German-speaking countries in Europe who have undergone extensive pedagogical training. Teachers in these countries must complete several years of intensive study during university, followed by up to two years of demanding practical training, and must pass selective state exams after each of these phases. We apply the same high standards to our English-speaking faculty. Most of our teachers have master’s degree level qualifications in education, some have Ph.D. degrees, and all are experts in bilingual instruction. In addition, because the Bay Area is such an attractive place to live, we have the luxury of handpicking the best and most highly motivated German-speaking teachers through our hiring process. Among our many strengths, our world-class faculty is perhaps our proudest asset.

What type of academic program do you offer?

Our early childhood programs employ a project-oriented and play-based approach widely used in Germany. In-class projects are developed by an interdisciplinary team based on observation of children’s interests and recurring events in the school calendar. Class projects cover content areas such as language, intercultural studies, science, mathematics, music, movement and art.

Our grades program implements proven German curricula noted for their success in developing students’ strengths across academic disciplines, as well as critical thinking skills, social-emotional competencies, artistic expression, and motor skills. This is combined with project-based, literature-rich English language instruction in every grade.

Our elementary school spans the first through fourth grades in accordance with the German educational system. Elementary school subjects are German, English, mathematics, nature and society, ethics, art, music, and physical education.

Our middle school students (grades 5 through 8) receive longer term assignments and become even more self-directed learners. Middle school subjects include German language and literature, English language and literature, mathematics, geography, biology, physics, chemistry, information technology, ethics, history, Spanish, music, art, and physical education.

How does your academic program differ from that of other East Bay schools?

Of course, German language immersion is a key feature of our program. Instead of providing foreign language instruction as a separate topic a few times each week as in monolingual schools, we provide our students an immersive and systematic language experience integrated with our academic curriculum. Because our students achieve a high degree of German fluency and literacy, it is no wonder that our students excel at the Deutsches Sprachdiplom, the German government’s official language fluency examination.

Another feature of our program is the early introduction of advanced topics such as chemistry, biology, physics and ethics, which our students begin taking on as early as the fourth grade. In addition, our curriculum employs a unique spiral sequence in which recurring topics are presented in ever increasing detail and complexity. This powerful approach allows students to grasp connections between topics as they deepen their understanding with each iteration.

At the same time, we emphasize critical thinking and competencies over rigid content requirements or teaching to any tests. Our project-based curriculum encourages students at every age to use their minds, hearts, and hands to think for themselves while learning in cooperation with others. By supporting each student’s uniqueness and autonomy as a learner, we prepare our students to meet the challenges of high school, university, and their broader pursuits in the world.

By undertaking a large part of their studies in the German language, our students gain access to exceptional German textbooks, workbooks, and other learning tools. These expertly developed materials present complex subjects in an inviting, intuitive, and developmentally appropriate way, supporting efficient learning with minimal frustration. Using German materials also means that a high degree of differentiation is “built in” to our curriculum because the texts themselves support multiple levels of complexity. This helps teachers meet the needs of each student, whether advanced or needing more support, and reflects the state of the art in educational practice.

In accordance with the latest research into how children learn, our students do more of their learning in class and receive less homework than in other schools. This allows children the afterschool downtime their brains need to assimilate all they have learned throughout the day and frees them to pursue their individual interests, whether through our afterschool activities or in the community. Less homework also eliminates what is often a major source of family stress and allows families simply to enjoy their evenings together.

How does EBGIS approach the use of technology in the classroom?

At EBGIS, our students use technology in a purposeful and age-appropriate manner. At the elementary level, technology is used sparingly and always in a supervised group setting. In middle school, students receive instruction in safe and sane technology practices and use tablets or computers as needed for class work. By the sixth grade, students are expected to use laptop computers as a standard part of their learning. Middle school students are also issued a school email address and access through a personalized web portal for communication regarding school work and related school matters.

What about social and emotional learning?

Empathy, trust, respect, and cooperative problem-solving are fundamental to EBGIS. Our teachers implement an excellent German social and emotional curriculum, Faustlos, which builds self-confidence and interpersonal skills such as active listening and cooperative problem-solving. The curriculum is comprehensive yet flexible enough so that individual modules can be introduced based on the teacher’s observation of classroom dynamics. In this way, students’ day-to-day interactions become a laboratory where they practice and internalize social and emotional skills.

How do EBGIS graduates do in high school?

Because our graduates are academically advanced, well-rounded, and independent and critical learners, they are welcomed and excel at competitive public and private high schools in the Bay Area and beyond. Bentley School, Maybeck High School, Proof School, St. Mary's College High School, St. Joseph Notre Dame High School, and Berkeley High School are some examples of local high schools that our former students attend.

Does EBGIS offer financial aid?

Absolutely. EBGIS offers need-based tuition assistance for eligible families with children in grades one through eight. We encourage interested families to apply as early as possible so that tuition assistance awards can be offered at the time of acceptance.

At what age can children be enrolled in preschool at EBGIS?

Children aged 30 months and older can enroll in our preschool program.

What about German families moving to the Bay Area temporarily or permanently? Should these families consider EBGIS?

Yes! We offer the best of both worlds to German families who relocate to the United States: A comfortable transition for German students still building confidence in English, and plenty of exposure to the English language and American culture through both formal instruction and interactions within our vibrant community. For those families intending to return to Germany in a few years’ time, our curriculum enables children to reintegrate successfully into the German educational system because they have maintained the same high academic standards throughout their stay in the U.S.