For the first time since 2018, and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, directors of secondary schools (Gymnasien specifically) in Rhineland-Palatinate gathered for their traditional annual meeting. This conference, which had previously been held in Mainz, took place this year on the Vallendar campus of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management on April 19, 2023, following an invitation from Professor Christina Günther, Holder of the IHK-Chair of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. Professor Christian Hagist, Academic Director of Bachelor Programs at WHU, introduced the business school to the attendees in his opening address. It was news to some that WHU, though a private institution, holds its doors open to secondary school graudates with limited financial resources. “We want to give today’s top talent a space where they can fully develop and prepare themselves for assuming responsibility later, both in business and in society,” said Professor Hagist. “Pursuit of this goal should never be contingent on financial resources. And it’s for that reason that WHU waives all tuition costs for 20% of its student body and offers additional scholarships and financing options.”
The school directors in attendance, more than one hundred in total, used the event as a chance to meet in small groups, discussing and tackling current topics relevant to their work and then presenting the results of their collaboration before the whole audience. A visit from Minister of Education Dr. Stefanie Hubrig, who had accepted an invitation to a short campus tour before giving her presentation, was a particular highlight of this year’s event. She gave an overview of the most urgent issues on the Ministry’s agenda, including the need to meet teaching demand while maintaining the general quality standards. She expressed her gratitude to the school directors for making integration a possibility for the many refugee children from Ukraine and other nations. According to her, other important topics at the moment include the establishment of schools as Lebensorte (i.e., “a place where life is lived” and not only where students learn) as well the Schule der Zukunft [School of the Future] project, which currently has eleven participating secondary schools from Rhineland-Palatinate. She continued, mentioning that certain topics would be of note, such as artificial intelligence, personal development, promoting good health for students and teachers alike, and protection against sexual violence. “The individual schools coming together in one network, which is also supported by this project, is something quite important and valuable,” she said.
Dr. Hendrik Förster, Director of the Oppenheim School and Speaker for the Landesdirektorenvereinigung [Association of Secondary School Directors], expressed his satisfaction with the event, which, after the five-year break, saw many directors attend for the very first time: “The great advantage of this setup is that we’re among like minds and can design the program of our own accord. And also, generally speaking, maintaining a trustful and collaborative relationship with the Ministry of Education means that our colleagues have the possibility to pose their questions directly to the Minister.”