Children’s Education Management celebrates milestones

A teacher with two students in a classroom.
CEM aims to provide quality educational services to the children of Canadian military families. Photo: CFMWS

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AFNORTH International School in Brunssum, The Netherlands, and SHAPE International School – Canadian Section in Casteau, Belgium, both celebrated their 50th year of operation in 2017.

The two overseas schools were established in 1967 are operated by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Overseen by the Military Family Services division of Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, school operations fall under Children’s Education Management (CEM).

Since 1947, CEM has ensured children’s education is compatible when Canadian military families are posted to one of over 250 locations outside Canada.

“Seventy years ago, the CAF asked for schools and we provided them,” said Marc Bélanger, director of Children’s Education Management. “As the CAF progressed as a force, we built schools in Lahr and Baden in Germany, and other locations in Europe and then, 50 years ago, SHAPE and AFNORTH. Over the years,  educational requirements (for CAF military families outside of Canada) have evolved due to changes in operational tempo; however, CEM is always been prepared to step up and provide quality educational services to the children of Canadian military families.”

For 50 years, CAF overseas schools have offered the unique opportunity for children of CAF members to attend the Canadian section at both SHAPE and AFNORTH. At both schools, Canadian educators deliver the Ontario curriculum on a loan of service from their Canadian school board. Within the tight-knit school communities–through field trips, school activities, and in the classroom–students meet children from other NATO nations and return to Canada with a truly global perspective.

For 70 years CEM has been reactive to the needs of the CAF.

“We listen to families,” said Mr. Belanger.  “We advocate for them and we are there to ensure that benefits meet their needs. The CEM program is innovative, not passive. We’ve maintained our relevance by flexibly meeting the needs of Canadian military families no matter where they are located in the world.”

CEM assists 500 to 800 new clients every year. When children arrive at one of the CAF overseas schools, there are Canadian teachers waiting to welcome them. On loan from the Toronto District School Board, Fiona Hopkins has been teaching at SHAPE for three years.

“I understand first-hand what it is like for them to enter a new country and a new culture, and the struggle of trying to communicate in a foreign language,” she said. “I know these things from my own experience. CEM has been here for families in the past and will be supporting them into the future.”

To learn more about SHAPE and AFNORTH schools please visit the CAF Connection website.

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