Spotlight on a School: Heritage International School, Moldova

In one of Europe’s least-known countries, Heritage is making a big impact in a short time, writes director Rob Ford

Heritage International School in Moldova

The origins of Heritage International School have a remarkable story and vision. It was established by Natalia Cecetova and Sinan Bora, in 2017. Two business people with strong connections to Moldova, they wanted to provide the first truly international school in the country as part of their commitment to social responsibility.

Moldova is one of the least well-known countries in Europe, bordered by the much bigger Romania and Ukraine. Being at a pivotal and historical crossroads, Moldova has been strongly influenced by Latin, Slavic and Ottoman cultures and more recently was part of the USSR. This legacy of a complex but fascinating history makes the establishment of an international school even more astonishing.

During the pandemic, Heritage made its own contribution. We not only developed a sophisticated online learning model but we shared this with the minister of education and the whole country to ensure learning could continue. Like everyone in education this past year, we have continued to adapt.

“Moldova’s complex but fascinating history makes the establishment of an international school even more astonishing.”

The founding principles are that Heritage is not only the country’s first truly international school, but is an innovative and pioneering world-class educational institution. The founders’ vision for the school says it all:

“Preparing students for the challenges of the future… A dream of an international school that will give the children of our country the atmosphere of an alternative, progressive, modern educational institution.”

The curriculum is based on recognised, well-established, transferable global curricula and qualifications such as the IPC and Cambridge International and Heritage is the first and only school in Moldova offering iGCSEs and A-levels.

It also means access to global universities and this is crucial in a country where migration is an issue. Moldova has a tendency to lose the crucial talent that could help develop society further.

There are over 20 nationalities in the Heritage community and English is our common working language, alongside Romanian and Russian. The challenge here has been forging a cohesive community as we develop and establish the school.

I was appointed as director in early 2019 to bring my experience of running schools successfully in the UK and working with international schools as an advisor and British Council schools’ ambassador.

“One scholarship student remarked that stepping through the school gates every day feels like going abroad to study.”

The school prides itself on its inclusive international and local student body and we recruit staff from around the world and from Moldova. One student who was awarded a Heritage scholarship remarked that stepping through the school gates every day feels like going abroad to study.

We have only just completed our fourth year as a school and our alumni are definitely developing for the future. But we are proud of our students as we can already see the inspirational role models for future generations to look to.

These include Romanian carting champion, Marc, national science prize winners Andre and Max, and national tennis champion Xenia. We also have the winner of the international COBIS Art prize this year for KS2, Eva.

Amongst the many brilliant teachers, Tatiana Popa leads and contributes to international education as head of global learning. She has been recognised nationally, by the EU’s etwinning programme, the UK and US Embassies and the British Council for the astonishing contribution she has made to global education.

“Amongst the many brilliant teachers, Tatiana Popa leads and contributes to international education as head of global learning.”

At the core of Heritage is the belief in developing future leaders with a strong sense of social responsibility. The school partners with a number of NGOs and charitable organisations, these include animal welfare charities, local orphanages and vulnerable families.

Our Founders’ Lectures series is a unique opportunity to bring the real world into the classroom through a range of inspirational speakers from all fields. This has ranged from ambassadors to heads of Oxford colleges. Some of the most powerful talks have come from young, successful Moldovans sharing their stories such as the UK Chevening scholarship recipients.

We also involve local state schools to attend these lectures so we share these opportunities widely.

Heritage has an extensive global network of schools and organisations we partner with to enhance learning and to make international education intrinsic to daily education.

The British Council honoured the school with the International School Award in 2019, and we organised and hosted their “Getting back to Global” conference in the summer of 2020, the first of its kind for teachers and leaders in Eastern Europe.

“We aim to make our school one of the best in Europe.”

At the end of our fourth year, we received the terrific news that Cobis had awarded the school accreditation compliance and membership. To achieve this in an extraordinary academic year of the full pandemic demonstrates the ambition and talent of our young school.

Our post-16 Lyceum starts this autumn offering A-levels for the first time and we continue to lead the innovation in education in Moldova and the wider region.

Heritage is growing fast, with a strong reputation nationally and increasingly globally. We aim to make our school one of the best in Europe and a school Moldova can be proud of as education improves the life chances of all our citizens.