The History of KIS
KIS was the brainchild of Kristian Rambjør. He was at the time on the board of the Kongsberg Group (KOG), and he saw that Kongsberg needed an international school to help attract and retain an international workforce, as well as to offer educational continuity for Norwegian families returning from stays abroad. FMC was in a process of rapid change in Kongsberg and quickly came on board. Then Mayor of Kongsberg, Morten Eriksrød, was also extremely supportive, along with several other companies in Kongsberg and the Chamber of Commerce.
The seeds that had been sown combined with the considerable support led to the KOG CEO, Jan Erik Korsjøen, giving the go-ahead to the start-up project. Olav Berdal was named the project leader and Michael Embley was then hired as Founding Principal in early 2003. Karin Gauteplass from the Kongsberg Chamber of Commerce was appointed Chair of the Board that year, a suitable site was chosen, and the school worked towards opening in August 2003.
At the time, there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether the small town of Kongsberg could sustain an international school, but interest was overwhelming. The school was predicted to open with 40 students, but there were actually 65 students enrolled on the opening day. It quickly became clear that the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) philosophy was the one that the school wanted to identify itself with and IB MYP and then PYP authorisation was obtained in record time. Student numbers grew rapidly, and the school soon needed to expand into the neighbouring building (“The Red Building” in 2008). Demand led to considerable waiting lists, but the school chose to remain small and was able to continue to keep its family feel and focus on seeing the individual student. This is perhaps reflected in the school’s logo, which was based on the Hopi Nakwách, a symbol of brotherhood.
The school’s national test results were consistently outstanding, but according to Karin Gauteplass, “the school gives more than just an education: It gave students self-confidence and inner harmony, and made such a difference to their way of thinking. It was built on passion and open-mindedness.”
Projects such as the Kongsberg to Korea (K2K) project have helped grow KIS’ reputation well beyond Kongsberg, giving KIS international recognition from the IB and elsewhere. It can truly be said that KIS today is well established in Kongsberg as a natural part of the education system and as an attractive alternative to the local schools. As Jan Erik Korssjøen puts it: “The school has developed very much in line with the initial thinking.”