“A good education is an important foundation for equal opportunities in life”
Dr. Carsten Breyde: As a businessman, why are you engaged with schools and day-care centres?
Christian Boehringer: We work in the pharmaceuticals business, so we research and market drugs. In order to do this independently over the long term, our company has to generate a profit. Our commitment to education does not depend on this profit orientation. However, we can show that we are able to transfer our experience in continuous improvement as a “learning organisation” to schools and day-care centres as “learning institutions”. We also believe that a good education is an important foundation for equal opportunities in life. Ensuring the ability of young people to go through education and enter a profession regardless of their parents” level of education, income and social background is a goal in schooling that we hold dear, both as entrepreneurs and members of the community. We want to make a contribution here.
Dr. Carsten Breyde: In your view, how does Phorms contribute to the education system in Germany?
Christian Boehringer: A good school education depends on variety, which means ways of learning that take into account parents’ wishes as well as the needs and talents of the children. The focus of Phorms Schools is on bilingualism, all the way from nursery to the final exams of secondary school. Another important aspect is cross-cultural experiences, and these are part of everyday life because the students who attend Phorms Schools come from different backgrounds. The teaching and support staff at Phorms establishments are also very international. In short, the positive features of the German education system are combined with the innovative approach of an internationally oriented education plus a bilingual system based on the immersion method. This is also what makes Phorms Schools so unique with respect to what they offer.
Dr. Carsten Breyde: How would you describe the ideal school?
Christian Boehringer: The ideal school should not only provide children with knowledge, but also teach them how to apply the things they learn so that they can solve everyday problems. Whether students imagine working as managers, teachers or musicians in the future, this is an individual decision that begins to form during their time at school.
The ideal school should therefore give young people opportunities in life so that they can make their dreams happen. As always, it is also a question of successful life planning.
Dr. Carsten Breyde: You recently acquired another large share in Phorms Education SE, the parent company of the Phorms Schools. What does this additional commitment mean for the Phorms establishments in Germany?
Christian Boehringer: Our commitment is now of a very long-term nature. In recent years, our involvement has contributed significantly to many of the positive developments in terms of teaching quality, growing student numbers, very encouraging Abitur results and the overall consolidation of the group. We firmly believe that the Phorms teaching concept with its international orientation gives young people an excellent foundation in life, and that is why we perceive our commitment to be very long term, spanning multiple generations.
From the point of view of students, parents and teachers, nothing will change. Phorms will consistently remain on the same path. Our additional investment provides even greater strategic security. The shareholders from whom we acquired the stake will remain with us in joint educational projects, focusing on these in the role of committed partners.
Dr. Carsten Breyde: What originally convinced you to invest in the Phorms concept?
Christian Boehringer: Private schools require initial funding. What attracted us to the Phorms concept was that this initial funding would come back to us in the form of a long-term loan, and we could then initiate further educational activities. In this way, the initial investment can be used several times. Furthermore, compared to donations, this model has the advantage that the organisation can continue to finance itself independently, and it does not rely on an annual budget allowance.
At the same time, private schools have a high affinity for concepts such as “learning institutions” because they must demonstrate to parents how well they can impart academic and personal standards. For this reason, they are used to dealing with the question how to achieve maximum success with a limited supply of resources. In this respect, a more businesslike approach is called for.
Dr. Carsten Breyde: Thinking back to your time at school, what do you remember?
Christian Boehringer: My parents did not consider private school, and the overall social conditions were very different back then. I grew up in an environment with students from all backgrounds, and looking back I can say that this has helped me in life. It was only when I started my career that I was able use the knowledge I had gained to solve practical problems, such as how to find solutions as part of a team and how to communicate my own convictions and ideas effectively to others. However, when my son and his classmates are working together, I can already see a similar learning curve in terms of the development of social skills. In that sense, I am pleased to see how school has changed the days when I was there, and it fills with me hope when I see how much more young people can do today at school.
Christian Boehringer is chairman of the shareholders’ committee at Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, and a member of the advisory board at Phorms Education SE. He has been involved in education for many years, both with the schools and nurseries operated by Phorms and with other institutions such as the Frankfurt International School.