In the summer of 2015 I asked my friends on Facebook: who wants to join a new kind of kindergarten, which could develop into a school later on? Today my question is: who wants to join a 21st-century school, which after being in operation for five years is now recognized by both the Hungarian state and by a major international educational institution, the Council of International Schools? Five years ago we started with two small groups. As of this September, 400 students at 14 locations, from kindergarten to high school, can learn under the unique educational program of BPS.
As of today, Budapest School is a state-recognized school. Its program, the BPS Model, is accredited and can be used in elementary schools, high schools, and even vocational schools focused on software development.
One era has ended in our school’s short lifespan, and another is starting. From now on we’re a school not only in our hearts and minds but as defined by law as well. Deep within, we will remain a network of homeschooling communities. And at the same time the state licenses and permits bring safety to families, help us to focus more on the development of each student, and support the creativity of our teachers. We are now entitled to certificate grade-level promotion, and graduation based on children’s portfolios.
Vannak megismételhetetlen pillanatok az életben. Ilyen volt az, amikor a BPS közel 100 tanárával és segítőjével együtt, egy helyen tudtuk meg a hírt, hogy 5 év után megkaptuk a működési engedélyt.
Why did we even start this project? Because we wanted our kids to learn in a different way than we did 30 years ago, and to study and develop at a school where the latest scientific findings and the most recent educational trends are taken into account.
Thirty years ago we hadn’t heard of neuroplasticity, or a growth mindset or that deliberate practice could help children to develop their skills. Positive psychology wasn’t part of our everyday knowledge, and neither was it highlighted that our happiness is more dependent on kindness, gratitude and love than intelligence.
Back then, my grandma and I turned to the encyclopedia when we wanted to find out something. Today we get millions of possible answers to any question just by Googling it while sitting on the sofa, creating an illusion that we can solve anything in an instant. Therefore, we must emphasize critical thinking, and how it’s much more important to let our kids work confidently on the world’s big questions, with no off-the-shelf answers.
We soon realized that we didn’t need to fix the curriculum or the knowledge base. Our BPS model does not focus on ‘what’ children learn. The learning outcomes defined by the Hungarian National Curriculum are a good start.
We needed to build a new structure for a school, redefining the paradigm of education, so our main uniqueness is in the ‘how’ – how the children study in our schools. Our students learn how to learn, how to set goals for themselves, create strategies, ask for help, and develop. This all happens while they create, do, change, and build. At the same time, they also connect, love, discuss, evaluate, accept, understand, and feel.
We imagined a school where the group setup is flexible; where children can learn in the group that is best for them. Our schedules are not defined by mandatory target hours in each subject. They are based on the topics, interests, and objectives of the community, and we allocate the time to those projects which nobody thought would be part of the general curriculum months ago.
This is a school where everyone is allowed to practice a task for as long as it takes, and, once ready, can move to the next level. Where it is accepted that learning happens inside and outside of the school, where books are not the only sources of knowledge. Where teachers and parents join forces to support a child’s development and growth. Where it’s OK to say that you don’t know something yet, because we learn together. Where mentors pay attention to children and their dreams, not just the progress in their studies. Where conflicts are solved by conversations among the parties involved, and not in the headmaster’s office.
We built a school for our kids, but we want to have an effect on a whole generation. This is not a small school, available only to an elite. It is an educational model that can benefit many children across Hungary and can be implemented anywhere in the world. Because from Berlin to New York, people are trying to find ways to build schools that can accommodate the children’s needs and adapt to the ever-changing modern world, while being cost-efficient.
In the past two-and-a-half years we worked to merge the BPS model, with its flexibility and growth mindset, into a 150-year-old educational system. We mentioned this dilemma to one of our international advisors, Sugata Mitra, and he said ‘Map your system to the government’s system.’ National educational systems change really slowly, and we have to live with this. So it wasn’t an easy task to match our methods with these slowly reacting systems, national or international.
We’ve consulted with 12 Hungarian and international experts in education, studied 27 schools in operation, considered more than 107 laws and sets of regulations, and analyzed two national curriculums. After several hundred amendments and 17 iterations, we have attained a status that is safe for all parties. The BPS model follows the National Curriculum to create a safe and foreseeable environment for learning. This meets both the wishes of the parents and the children’s need for structured learning and social engagement. It also supports its major stakeholders, the teachers, by building and growing their experience.
The more we worked on our program, the more we realized that others had already done the legwork for us. The learning of tomorrow knows no boundaries; it can happen at any time, and anywhere. Our job is to give structure to this. Flexible groups, a modular curriculum, mentoring, individual learning paths, mastery-based learning, personalized education, location- and time-independent learning, cooperative learning, portfolio-based evaluation, modern conflict resolution methods, and the development of EQ and metacognition are already common practices in various educational projects. We just put them together, founded on the methods used by our teachers and shaped in a user-friendly way.
We designed a learning experience, similar to how we build software. We could achieve this only with the constant cooperation, reflection, and never-ending support of our children, parents, and teachers.
I’m grateful for the hundreds of families and teachers who have been with us over the past five years. Our shared goal is to make the school years fun — to find joy again and again in learning and creating. This is our shared value. As a BPS parent, we want to be present with our kids. As a BPS child, we want to be in the flow state, be creative, and grow within the safe net of the community. As a BPS teacher, we love to create, build, help, support, and advance.
It is common in all of us that we are willing to swim against the current, should it be the action required to make ends meet. BPS would not be able to work today if we had not had the trust of our investors who took the risk and had pre-financed our planned growth two years ago. Without your courage, we would not have dared to move on to the uncertain.
BPS parents and BPS teachers: I know how difficult and exhausting these past five years have been. I’m glad that you stuck with us throughout these hardships, and I thank you all. It’s good to belong to a community where everyone is involved in creating a better-shared future.
We’ve dreamed of a new school where we can learn together and from each other. And sometimes, if we work hard enough, dreams come true.