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Lebanon 2013 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Carl Bistany, President of SABIS® Educational Services, on the school's early growth, international development, and the strengths and weaknesses of the Lebanese education sector.

Carl Bistany
BIOGRAPHY
Carl Bistany has two Master’s degrees, in Mathematics and Computer Science, from Syracuse University. He is President of SABIS® Educational Services, as well as ABIS® Educational Systems. Furthermore, he is a board member of SABIS® Holdings. He joined the company in 1992 and is the fourth generation in the family-owned business.

SABIS® member schools are present in 15 countries on four continents. What is behind the company's success story?

SABIS® member schools around the world have always been driven by a clear vision to raise education standards. The first school in what later became the SABIS® School Network started in 1886 with a view to providing girls in the village of Choueifat, Lebanon, with an education. Very soon after that first school was opened, the villagers asked the school to admit boys because girls were starting to learn more than their male counterparts. In 1975, due to the civil war, the first school outside of Lebanon was established. The SABIS® School Network, through its various offices around the world, has continued on an expansion path since then. Fuelling the successful expansion of the network is the fact that SABIS® member schools have access to the right methodology and assessment tools, which allow them to ensure that learning is happening in the classroom. With a new school set to open in Panama in 2015, the SABIS®School Network will expand to include a 16th country. Expansion is an ongoing process and comes as a result of a commitment to raise education standards around the world regardless of the challenges. SABIS® is driven by the realization that education can basically change the world.

What different models does SABIS® follow?

SABIS® member schools are college-preparatory schools that serve students from pre-school and kindergarten to grade 12. Schools within the SABIS® School Network operate under one of three operational models. There are private schools, public schools, and schools that license the SABIS® Educational System. Private schools that are members of the SABIS® School Network operate all around the world, from the US to Pakistan. The SABIS® School Network in the US also includes public charter schools that are overseen by SABIS® Educational Systems. The global SABIS® School Network also includes public schools in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq. These schools start as primary schools, and upon renewal of the management contract, gradually expand to serve students up through grade 12. The SABIS® franchising or licensing model was introduced six years ago and offers schools the opportunity to license the proven SABIS® Educational System. The SABIS® US office currently works with two licensees in the US; one in New York City with three existing schools and plans to add two more schools in 2013-14, and one in New Jersey. The network also has another licensee in Romania.

What role does technology play for SABIS®?

The SABIS® Educational System is performance-driven and fuelled by ongoing access to data. Teachers and administrators in SABIS® member schools around the world use proprietary SABIS® IT tools and systems to monitor student learning on a daily basis. Individuals employed by SABIS® regional offices around the world also access the data to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the system. At any moment in time, through the comprehensive IT systems available, it is possible to monitor performance across the network, in member schools in Lahore, Pakistan, New Orleans, the US, Frankfurt, Germany, Dubai, UAE, and Lebanon.

What are the Lebanese education system's weaknesses and advantages?

Lebanon differentiates itself from other countries in that its private education sector is strong and well established. That, unfortunately, is a result of the weak public education sector. Having said that, public education worldwide is not performing the way it should. This is why the US came up with the charter school model and is privatizing public education or introducing the private sector to the public sector. In Lebanon, we have a strong private sector. Through the competition that SABIS® member schools have helped spark, the private education sector in Lebanon has been strengthened. What differentiates SABIS® schools from all of the other private schools is that SABIS® member schools implement a non-selective admissions policy. Most private schools—in Lebanon and indeed around the world—tend to be very selective in nature. SABIS® member schools, on the other hand, pride themselves on being academically non-selective. As long as an applicant does not have any major disabilities that the school is not equipped to handle, SABIS® member schools can work with almost any student to raise his or her education level.