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Meet Christof Martin, Principal of GESS – International School

Updated: Jul 10, 2021

In this issue of Education Matters we talk to Christof Martin, about his two years as Principal of GESS and his legacy to the school on his return to Germany at the end of this academic year.

What was your journey to GESS?

I have been a Principal for more than 20 years now, in different schools in Germany and abroad. My first Principal position was in Quito, Ecuador where there is a large German international school. That was with my family in tow. We had small children at the time and it was a great experience so I thought that one day I would like to lead another international school. When my children were adults, I thought this is now the time and I was lucky because the German government were then looking for a new Principal for GESS. So, I came to GESS two years ago.

What was your biggest challenge on arrival in 2019?

I think for me, the biggest challenge has been the integration of the two separate streams, the German curriculum and the international curriculum, into a one school approach. In Germany I was in a school which offered both the German Abitur and the IB Diploma so I knew already that each curriculum has its own strengths and weaknesses and I wanted to bring the strengths from one stream to the other if possible. For example, in the IB stream we have the Theory of Knowledge and CAS projects which we didn’t have in the German stream while the home room concept is really strong in the German stream, so it’s about what one stream can learn and benefit from the other. These are the interesting aspects of a school running two streams.

You are returning to Germany at the end of this academic year, what do you see as your legacy to the school?

My big headline has always been academic excellence, not just here at GESS but in my other schools too. GESS is a non-selective school, everyone gets a chance but academic excellence should also be a focus; for everyone to give their very best to develop their own potential. I’m not a fan of selective schools because it’s easy to get good results if you only have the best of the best students, they are self-motivated, organised and all that. But real teaching is about challenging and developing students of all abilities. So, I’m supportive of a non-selective school that is also committed to academic excellence. This is my legacy, to set the school on a journey to keep improving.

What is the educational philosophy which guides you as a Principal?

Well, after twenty years as a Principal, I have a conviction that a school thrives, first and foremost, from its relationships with staff, students and families. You need to see the human being. Once the relationships are there and people feel accepted, then we can proceed with the academic part.

I also believe that students really have to experience their own barriers. How far can I go? What is too much for me? What are the barriers that I have to accept to get what I want? What level of frustration must I tolerate? It’s part of life after school, you may not get to every point that you want but you can try. I think that is my philosophy.

Do you have a particular motto to inspire you each day?

My motto is to always put the students at the centre. While you always have to give honest and transparent feedback you should make sure that you are criticising behaviour and not the person. It’s a different issue. You can change the behaviour but it doesn’t mean you have to change the person.

What’s been your favourite moment in the school?

Actually I believe that we did really well in the way we have tackled the pandemic here in Singapore for the last calendar year and it was only possible because the whole school co-operated together. Teachers did a really great job, digitalization of lessons has gone well as has co-operation with parents and students, to keep in touch with them. We did whatever was possible and we did it well and I’m really proud of it.

What will you miss most?

I really like the international community here; all these cultural backgrounds, the diversity of families, of students, of parents and teachers. You pick up so many things you can learn from other cultures so I will really miss that.


GESS is an international School in Singapore that offers a choice between two curricula: the English-speaking International Baccalaureate (IB) programme and the German Curriculum. We cater to students of all ages, starting from 2 years to graduation at 18 years. To find out more about the school and its programmes please see its admissions information here.

Read our interview with Sarah Thomas, Head of Primary & Middle School, IB Section at GESS - International School here


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