Get going through foundation aid
It quickly became apparent that the need for intensive and trustworthy on-site support in Germany was enormous. Chinese parents who wanted to give their children an excellent school education in Germany could now send their children abroad on their own because they could rely on the support of GEP on site. The unique scope of support became so popular that inquiries to GEP increased due to countless recommendations and word of mouth. In addition to recognition through parent and student satisfaction, GEP's concept of the all-round carefree package was also awarded by two foundations in the early days: In 2014, GEP took part in the start-up competition of the Foundation of German Business (SdW Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft) and won it, so that the SdW supported GEP in the realization of the vision Connecting Cultures Through Education ideally and financially. The Heinz Nixdorf Foundation also recognized the social benefits of the educational concept and supported GEP from then on.
Another problem, another solution:
"SVK Schulvorbereitungskurs" - GEP school preparation course
The following years were characterized by building a strong team and gathering a wide variety of experiences on the German education market. During this time GEP also won many excellent boarding schools for a common realization of lived international understanding. Some of these schools had already had their own experiences with Chinese students and therefore knew, as did GEP, that a solid language level is crucial for a successful school career. However, the wealth of experience at these schools went even further. They told GEP about something the Chinese students had in common: Almost all of the students had enormous difficulties finding their way around the subjects after starting school - they couldn't get on with the teaching style, wouldn't understand the subject matter and their English, based on learning German, fell into oblivion. Even an ordinary language course with a B2 certificate on paper is often not enough for the upper school level. The GEP team considered: How can we solve this problem for our partners and for our students alike? The answer was obvious and yet it had never been answered before: The establishment of a course that not only leads to the B2 level, but also ideally prepares students for entry into school with English and other specific school subjects. The students should also stay with German host families on a daily basis in order to be able to learn as much German as possible and to be able to successfully take the demanding Telc B2 exam at the end of the course. In 2016, GEP started the first two school preparation courses SVK1 and SVK2. Since 2016, our SVK have become the gold standard for school preparation and the concept has been copied many times.
New projects: public boarding schools
Through ongoing recommendations, more and more Chinese families turned to GEP, who wanted to enable their high-performing children to graduate from high school in Germany, but could not afford the costs of private boarding schools of 40 - 50,000 euros per year. In order to give these families the chance of attending school in Germany, GEP discovered a large number of boarding schools that promised a more cost-effective educational exchange - public boarding schools. Many public boarding schools were very keen to take in Chinese students, but faced two major problems: On the one hand, the high legal residence hurdles and, on the other hand, the closing times of the boarding schools on some weekends and holidays during the school year. GEP has been taking on both challenges since 2016. GEP mastered the first challenge through its own residence law expertise and clarification of the issue with the authorities and embassies. The second by building a wide network of host families. For this purpose, GEP looked for and found warm families who were looking forward to the intercultural exchange and who appreciated the enrichment for their families and the students. They looked forward to welcoming and caring for the Chinese students in their families during boarding school closing times. By solving these two problems, GEP was able to offer less financially strong families a more cost-effective offer for the first time, in which the annual price was only half the average fees of private boarding schools.
What happens after graduating from German High School?
When asked "Why do you want to come to Germany?", The GEP team often receives the following answer from potential students during the student interview: "Because I want to study mechanical engineering / engineering / vehicle technology." One thing is clear - Germany is in the World and in China known for its technical strength. At the same time, the German education market has a lot more to offer than just that and for many students a non-technical course would be a much more appropriate and successful choice. GEP has therefore made it its task since 2016 (from that year the first high school graduates came and asked for advice) to provide information about educational diversity. At GEP, students receive individual study advice in order to find a suitable course for their talents and interests. GEP organizes regular trips to various Bachelor Days as well as special training courses to prepare interested students for the demanding selection process of various business schools.
There is a solution for every student
In the same year, GEP again became a pioneer in the German educational landscape. At this point in time (2016), many Chinese students had already come to Germany via various routes. Unfortunately, many of these students had not received good language training before they started school - one of the most common reasons for failure at school. At that time there was no alternative but to return to China with a “lost face” for these students who did not pass the demanding Abitur. It has been different since 2016, because then GEP offered the students the option of a one-year guided internship, which, after successful completion, gives many students the "Fachabitur" college entrance qualification. After a long clarification of the residence status with the authorities involved, the first interns were able to complete their practical internship at GEP in the 2016/17 school year. Both sides benefited greatly from this concept - the student interns through new experiences, a solid education and the school leaving certificate; and GEP through the collaboration and collaboration with young and motivated interns, who also repeatedly point out what really concerns young people and how they can best be encouraged and supported.
GEP Home - A Home away from Home
Weekend care with loving host families has been an important pillar of student care for GEP since 2016. It didn't take a year before another pillar was added. For a long time, GEP wanted to network the students more closely with one another and to be able to offer them a place in Germany to which they can come home at any time and, for example, celebrate festivals such as the Chinese New Year together. With moving the GEP headquarter from Düsseldorf to Frankfurt, new possibilities finally opened up. GEP founded the GEP Home in 2017 in central and easily accessible Frankfurt. The GEP Home quickly became a second home for the students, whether they lived there permanently, came to visit on the weekends or holidays, or came only once a year for the traditional New Year celebrations and were able to satisfy their homesickness with friends.
GEP goes international...
A decisive development for GEP took place from 2017 onwards. The question “How can we offer the parents of our students a better service?” resulted in the opening up to China. But one after another. Why did this question have to be asked at all? After all, the parents of our students have been looked after by GEP since 2012 and visited at regular parents' meetings in China. Of course that was correct, but over time cultural differences with parents became clear. Even if the founder Wenxin Zhang has Chinese roots and several team members are also Chinese, GEP has always remained very “German” in the way it works. In addition, the parents were irritated by the many public holidays in Germany and expected that messages with inquiries or comments should be answered immediately at any time of the day or night, because this is so common in China. However, this was not always possible due to the time difference alone. Since GEP could understand the parents well on these points, they did everything possible to meet the needs of the parents and to offer better, more tailored care. So it was decided to set up a second GEP team in Shanghai. It quickly became apparent that this step was a complete success in looking after the parents and contributed significantly to their satisfaction. GEP also found that the DNA of the GEP team in Shanghai was similar to that of the team in Frankfurt: Everyone at GEP loves karaoke, laser tag and escape rooms (and of course good food!). The GEP Scrap Secret Santa, which traditionally takes place in the pre-Christmas season, was also enthusiastically adopted by the Shanghai team.
GEP used the corona pandemic at the beginning of 2020 to intensify the implementation of plans that have been implemented bit by bit since 2018. In 2018, GEP had already placed hundreds of students in German boarding schools. The majority of the students learned successfully in school, especially because of their successful entry into school after attending the SVK. GEP could have been satisfied at this point. However, GEP repeatedly observed intercultural misunderstandings between students and schools; the parents of the students asked about special course concepts like Abicamps; schools saw the need for systematic tutoring, etc. Out of these and similar problems and challenges, GEP decided to develop a holistic concept: GEP Academy. The GEP Academy program includes, among other things, regular training for parents, intercultural training for schools, individual tutoring concepts and Abitur preparation courses. All of this serves to encourage the students so that the whole world is open to them after their Abitur.
A look into the future
In the future, GEP would like to remain true to its vision and connect cultures through education. GEP wants to leave a positive footprint in the world, expand its own scholarship program and get involved in charitable projects around the world. An important goal will be to bring the advantages and strengths of German education to the world.
„Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.“