Singapore international schools: Interview with GESS headmaster Christoph Zänglein

Honeykids Asia GESS -Principal-CZ-770x570
GESS headmaster Christoph Zänglein shares what makes the school and its community tick…

Here at HoneyKids, we’re always happy to get to know the people behind Singapore’s best international schools. This time round, we got the chance to chat to Christoph Zänglein, Headmaster at GESS. The Bavarian born educator reveals his fascinating background (which includes the military and waitering!), the unique curriculum at GESS, and why parents love sending their kids to the school.  

Please tell us a little about yourself – where is your hometown and what would your students be surprised to know?
I was born in Wuerzburg, in the north-western part of Bavaria. Before I became a teacher, and before and during my studies, I was a soldier in the German army for three years.  I also played handball in the second German division, and worked as a barkeeper and a waiter.

What’s your philosophy towards education?
My philosophy has always been centred on “student-led learning” and empowering students to evolve into adults by their early twenties; adults who are mature and feel responsible for the world around them.

How is your school different to other international schools in Singapore?
Our school is the only international school in Singapore to offer students a choice between the English IB and the German curricula. We also have unique mother tongue programmes for Dutch, Danish, German and English as well as our distinctive Language Enrichment Programme (LEP). These allow our students to refine their family languages in an immersive environment. Eventually, we produce multilingual students who are strong candidates to study and work all over the world.

Can you tell us a little about the teaching approach at GESS?
Instead of just imparting knowledge, we encourage our students to inquire and discover. Classes are designed in a way that promotes learner agency. In tune with the times, we also enable our students to use digital media efficiently and responsibly to educate themselves.

Tell us about your school’s community: who are the people who love sending their kids to school there? What do parents tell you they value about the school?
Families from over 50 countries, especially European countries, send their children to our school. From what we hear, parents appreciate that we help their children stay in touch with their heritage through our emphasis on mother tongue. Many also welcome the strong sense of community – we are not selective and look out for each child’s development regardless of differing abilities.

What do you think are the greatest challenges young people face today? And the greatest opportunities you feel are open to them?
Globalisation enables our students to find attractive jobs in all parts of the world. Students are more open-minded, flexible and fit into various societies quickly. On the other hand, our world has become less predictable – changes take place faster than ever. Young people face the challenge of adjusting to new situations within very short timeframes,  and the trade-off is that they lack time for reflection.

Can you share any lessons you’ve learned about communicating and connecting with kids throughout your years in education?
I have learned that students want to be dealt with fairly. They dislike dishonesty and want to be told exactly what is going on. It is also not difficult to teach young people as long as you show them that the topics you are teaching are of relevance to their lives.

What do you love most about leading this school?
As principal of a school you have many opportunities. When you have a vision about teaching and learning – and as a teacher you should have it – you are in a very influential position to change schools for the better.

To learn more about life at GESS, go to

This post is sponsored by GESS.