International schools: welcoming foreign families since 2012

29 September 2017
​VIB and its spin-off biotech companies are attracting talent from all over the world. To fuel this internationalization in the long run, creating an attractive environment for young foreign families is essential. That’s why we decided to become a founding father for offering affordable international education close to the VIB centers in Ghent and Leuven, adding to the existing schools in Brussels and Antwerp.

Discovering the international school Ghent was the last push we needed to move to Belgium
Three years ago, Oren Tzfadia, data integration staff scientist at the VIB Bioinformatics Core, took the plunge:he and his family moved to Belgium.

Oren: “I am originally from Tel Aviv, but I got my PhD in New York. When Yves Van de Peer (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology) offered me a postdoc position, I was eager to take it. However, leaving the US for Belgium is easier said than done: we had two children in school at the time, and my wife would also have to find a job.

Luckily, we stumbled upon the International School Ghent. My wife now teaches primary grades there, and she absolutely loves it. Because the school is small, everything is really intimate. At the same time, there’s a global atmosphere: parents and children from all over the world mingle, and through activities like ‘international day’, they learn about various cultures. The teachers – mostly internationals, too – really put their heart and soul into educating the children.

Our eight-year-old son already knew English from growing up in New York, which made enrolling a smooth process. By the time he started to speak Dutch, we suggested transferring to a regular school. But that was not an option: he likes his teachers and has made many friends in his class. Our other son, who is five, doesn’t speak English – only Hebrew – so he goes to a local school.

The International School was crucial in our decision to move to Ghent. Having an international school so close by is a big plus for VIB. You could say it was the final push we needed to go for it, and we’re glad that we did. Our youngest son was born just 6 weeks ago here in Belgium, so I guess we’re staying.”

First battle of the scientists in English together with the international school

Children’s perspectives bring a fresh new take on our research
In the Battle of the Scientists – created by The Floor is Yours – several scientists from diverse fields are invited to elementary schools to present their work. What’s unique is that the children are in charge: they organize the event, decide who gets to come and vote for the best presentation. The events consist of five pitches of 15 minutes each, followed by feedback and questions from a jury of kids. On March 9 2018, the first Battle of the Scientists in English will take place, featuring international researchers in both international schools.

Bart Ghesquiere, group leader at the VIB Metabolomics Core, participated in the 2017 edition (in Dutch): “To my surprise, these kids were thrilled to learn what life sciences are all about. The children I met wanted to know why finding and developing a cure for specific diseases is so difficult, and even helped by brainstorming solutions. Taking back a step every once in a while, and looking at your research at a very basic level helps you communicate in a clear, convincing way – one that even children can understand. And believe me: their enthusiasm is highly energizing. The feedback you get from them is beyond anything you could imagine.”


Go back to the overview 'Stronger through diversity'



International school Ghent
Since 2012
Founding fathers: VIB, UGent, Barco, Volvo
90 pupils in primary and pre-primary education
16 nationalities

International school Leuven
Since 2013
Founding fathers: VUB, KU Leuven, city of Leuven, imec
60 pupils in primary and pre-primary education
15 nationalities