Profile of The Month: Denise Walsh, Head of School – Bali Island School

walsh-denise_officeWhat do one consider when sending their precious kids to school? First they have to make sure that the school will be the second home for the children, providing the best education that will nurture their mind and soul. They have to check the teachers. They have to see the list of extracurricular activities that the school offers. And they have to make sure that their kids thrive to be the best version of themselves. Well, look no further. What’s New Bali came to visit the Bali Island School earlier this October and talk to its amazing Head of School, Denise Walsh. As the school is still celebrating its 30th anniversary and children with costumes are running around happily, Denise shares what she loves the most about this school.

WNB: Hi Denise, so nice to meet you. What are these kids doing right now? Why are they in costumes?

Denise: You are right in the middle of DC VS Marvel Day, as part of Spirit Week – an annual thing we do every end of the term, so children can dressed up in their favorite superhero costumes. Last month, we had a month long activities for the 30th anniversary celebration. As you know, Bali Island School (formerly known as Bali International School) is the first international school in Bali founded in September 1986. The celebration continues for weeks with the teachers, parents and students because we’re so happy and proud.

WNB: Can you tell us about your experience in this school?

Denise: This is my third school year working in Bali Island School, and my first time in Indonesia. Before coming to Indonesia, I worked in Italy, Qatar, Kuwait, China, Thailand, Germany, and America where I first started my career in education. I was always teaching, and on one point I found out about this thing called International Schools and I want to work in one. In my family, we worked our whole live and retire and take one big trip. I thought, why don’t I turn this mindset around, and travel the world while teaching… and so I did.

WNB: How do you like it here? How is it different from the other schools you worked for?

Denise: Oh I love Bali, my whole family love Bali. They’re all a bit different but it’s all IB (International Baccalaureate) schools or accredited ones. Bologna is probably the prettiest one – the building is from medieval times, from the turn of the century. Here, we have so many facilities and it’s beautiful and very Balinese. But what I loved the most is the community. Everybody is really positive and happy. There’s a lot of community pride and they are willing to collaborate. This is very special.

WNB: How is this school different from the other schools in Bali?

Denise: First, we’re the oldest. We have more international teachers than the others. We’re an SPK school from an international school background. We’re the only three programs IB school in the island, where we give education from age 3 to 18 years old.

WNB: What would you say is the main pillars of BIS? Because BIS have it all, both in academics, facilities, extracurricular, and many things.

Denise: That all means we’re just spoilt with choices here at Bali Island School. We’ve been a leader here for a long time. We started the Bali Schools Sports Association (BSSA). We started the IISSAC (Indonesian International Small Schools Activities Council. Both are sports event. We hosted GIN last year (Global Issues Network). Most of the things that started on the island, mostly started here… so we’re the leader. That says a lot about this school.

WNB: How tough is the screening process to enter BIS?

Denise: We only have 300 students in the whole school. But most of our students are expatriates, who are only in the island for several years. So it’s not unusual to have new students in different level. Regarding to our screening test, we have an entrance test. Basically we accept people who we think that we can offer them good education, and if they need it, we can give enough support.

WNB: Can you tell me more about the International Baccalaureate program in BIS?

Denise: The International Baccalaureate has been around more than 50 years. It is initially started as a way so that student who lives abroad or do not in their home countries can get to do the same thing that other students in their countries are doing, with the same standard. It is usually in English or in French, Spanish. That was the original purpose. Since then, National System has taken it and private school has done it because it is considered to be a rigorous academically challenging program, which if you do well it became a good indication for colleges. So having this diploma makes it easier for students to get into colleges abroad.

WNB: Is it mandatory?

Denise: No, it’s not. In BIS, you can get the full IB diploma, you can get some, or you can graduate with a BIS Diploma. Because we are an accredited school, we can give our own diploma. However, the great thing about Bali Island School is that we offer the IB programs from 3 years old to 18 years old. Student can get the diploma when they finish the last two years of the programs. For IB Diploma you have to take 6 subjects, do an internal assessment, and take the final examinations. We worked very hard to get and keep this IB program, and we are being reviewed every five years to ensure the quality.

WNB: What about the other accreditations that BIS has?

Denise: Yes, we have two others: CIS and WASC – Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Basically these are schools that will look at your curriculum, and check it, along with the finances, facilities, policies, system, etc. This guarantees that we meet the standards. This is the equivalent of the BAN (Badan Akreditasi Nasional) in Indonesia.

WNB: How do you prepare your students to the changing world and globalization?

Denise: We believe in the progressive and holistic teaching. This means, all of our teaching is concept based rather than fact based to teach them critical thinking. We look at different things and get them to ask questions, try to do data analysis, to form conclusion, to be able to present their thoughts – written or orally. We don’t know what they will face in the future, but we know they have to think critically. So this became our focus.

WNB: What’s the school policy on bullying?

Denise: We have zero tolerance on bullying. Fortunately, this is not an issue in our school. However, for every issues and problems that may occur amongst the students we have a counselor, whom they can talk to anytime about anything. She’s always available. We also always talk and monitor with other schools, and discusses things. So, even across school bullying are not permitted.

WNB: What artistic or athletic programs are available in BIS?

Denise: There are so many options. We have the music academy, individual lessons, three types of bands, we have the gamelan, we have drama productions. So the students can choose which one they like. For the after school activities, we have various clubs that the students form themselves, or classes that the teachers offer. For the athletic programs we have the best facilities. We have a large field for any sports, a swimming pool, climbing wall, football field, basketball fields, play yards. We are very lucky to have all the facilities that we have.

Another program that I always highlighted is the Taman Bacaan – a local outreach that we do with our students. We cooperate with six local schools that send their students in the afternoon and they do activities with our students. This pretty much sums up the spirit of our school and the spirits and communities we try to build here.

Bali Island School

Jl. Danau Buyan IV No.15, Sanur, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

  1. +62 361 288 770 | Web: Email:


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