1952–1965: The SHAPE school
The International school was founded in 1951 when NATO implemented their European headquarters in the neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France. Many military families originating from all NATO country members settled in newly created “SHAPE Village” ((SHAPE meaning "Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe"), now known as “Village d’Hennemont”, in a lovely park. The castle of Hennemont was transformed to a school, the “SHAPE school”, and was home to 18 pupils in January 1952 and 400 the following year. Children of around 1500 military families from 13 different countries visited the school by the time the SHAPE relocated to Mons, Belgium, in 1965. It enrolled also French children as the rule was that the school should respect a 50% foreigner / 50% French makeup. At this time, the turnover is high since the military families are commonly allowed a 2-year contract at the SHAPE only. René Tallard, an Associate Professor of English, is the first Headmaster. He is the initiator of the development of this international spirit, making mandatory the bi-cultural school system whereby the foreign pupils will be taught by teachers of their native countries in Literature and History as well as by French teachers for the other school subjects. A special class “Français Spécial” is created in order for the new arrivals to be proficient in French quickly and be able to integrate the “normal” classes the following year or even before. The first bachelors graduated in 1959. This first period witnessed the first extension of the Lycée with the construction of a new main building in 1962.
1966–1989: The “Scherer” years
Professor Tallard retired just one year before France decided to withdraw from NATO (March 1966) and the subsequent depart of the SHAPE from France. The task was even more difficult for newly nominated Headmaster Edgar Scherer to maintain this unique school in operation. The number of pupils decreased by 2/3 and the co-financing by NATO was lost. But Mr Scherer is a man of considerable energy and great ideas, he will make the French instances as well as the foreign governments adhere to the principles of this special school and driver for European integration and even further. The Lycée now recruits more and more pupils from the ever growing expatriate community settling to the west of Paris. The results at the French Baccalaureate are amongst France’s best despite the additional time spent by the pupils in order to achieve both the French as their national curriculum. In 1968, there are six National Sections: American, British, Danish, Dutch, German and Italian. 3 more are added by the time Mr Scherer retires in 1989: Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. Most importantly, there is a true international and solidary spirit at the Lycée and pupils identify themselves first as pupils of the Lycée International, before belonging to this or this National Section. The school opens the pupils eyes on the multicultural aspect of this world, but it is truly after, when integrating universities and thereafter companies, that one does realise the benefits of the education, open mindness and tolerance gained during the Lycée period.
From 1990 onwards
The Lycée nowadays is one of France’s most successful schools. It has a strong reputation, driven by this international spirit which from inception has never failed. The turnover is very low. It has also become a big school with more than 3000 pupils, making it challenging for the successors of Mr Scherer to pilot. All levels from Kindergarten to Baccalaureate are available. Due to the shortage of amenities at the main campus of Hennemont, some National Sections for some grades are also available in partner schools of Saint Germain en Laye and around: Collège les Hauts Grillets, Collège Marcel Roby, École Schnapper, etc. The piloting of the school on the political level is also a permanent challenge as the special status of the school needs to be revalidated regularly with the French instances and foreign governments which, for some of them, contribute to their National Section. Under Headmaster Mr Maillard (1989 – 1997), the Lycée witnesses some changes with the refurbishment of the Agora building. The Agora is home to a new canteen run by Mario, originally a man who used to sell sandwiches out of his van outside the Lycée, who from now on is part of this big family. Mario retired in 2011. The Primary school building was also replaced by a bigger, more modern building in that period. The Japanese Section opens in 1993.
It is only under Patrick Charpeil, Headmaster between 1997 and 2001, that the Lycée is at last provided with statutory rights and that it officially exists as a legally recognised entity, 50 years after its inception. Under Headmaster Yves Lemaire (2001-2012), 2 new sections are added: Polish (1998) and Russian (2010). A Chinese Section shall open soon.
Joël Bianco is the new Headmaster since 2012. Mr Bianco has the full support of our Alumni Association and of all of us as ambassadors of the Lycée in our quality as Alumni or previous professor or actor of this formidable establishment.