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Old 19.07.2012, 12:41
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Experience with bilingual schools?

Dear All,

We are trying to figure out what school to send our 4 year old child to. Having read some of the posts on this topic we are most likely going to choose one of the bilingual schools.

Does anybody have any direct experience with SIS (Swiss International School) or Tandem? What are the positives and the negatives if any?

Many thanks in advance.
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Old 21.07.2012, 08:46
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

We sent our daughter to SIS Winterthur, I imagine it has similar teaching & care standards. She was in the Kindergarten section. The teaching staff is good, if your child easily conforms. I found safety & supervision to be lacking. Our daughter has a need for speech therapy & we received no support or assistance in lining up therapy through the canton. If you wish to private message me with additional questions, I am happy to give more detailed feedback.
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Old 23.07.2012, 00:29
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

ICS in zumikon is a good international school. You can check their website but it's not cheap school
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Old 23.07.2012, 09:31
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

Dear Discolvr and Drwiso,

Thank you very much for the information.

Regarding ICS Zumikon, would our child be able to acquire enough German there to be able to later attend university in Germany and Switzerland?
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Old 23.07.2012, 19:23
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

I visited many of the bilingual schools not too far from Zurich. PM me if you are interested in my impressions.
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Old 25.07.2012, 21:34
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

The bilingual school here r so expensive that we have decided to put our child in the Kanton school here...i have heard non german speaking children learn to cope up soon.
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Old 29.07.2012, 18:18
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

Hi

There is TAZ in horgen but I heard the academic side for older children isn't great. The kindergarten school looks good though . We have decided to send our son to the local school until he's nine and then either move to uk or use an international school.

There is also see below which I have only heard good things about !


Eichenstrasse 4C
Pfäffikon, SZ
055 415 51 70
Obersee Bilingual School
www.oberseebilingualschool.ch/
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Old 01.08.2012, 13:08
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New law about international schools, information about bilingual and public schools

Thank you very much for the information about the Obersee School.

To add to our worries we just learnt about the new law restricting the admission of locals and foreigners who intend to stay longer in Kanton ZH than approximately 3 years to international schools.

See the article below (in German).

http://www.swissinfo.ch/ger/Specials...l?cid=32345456

I read the actual text of the law in the website of the ZH Bildungsdirektion and apparently if one lives in Kanton ZH and intends to live here for an indefinite period of time the children must attend a school than follows the Zürich curriculum (Lernplan). In this case, since we live in Kanton ZH we would not be allowed to send our child to the Obersee School because they follow the curriculum of the Kanton of Schwyz.


Does anyone know anything about this law? How will it be enforced I wonder?

After having visited several of the bilingual and international schools we were thinking of going for the international schools for a variety of reasons.

Now we just don't know what to do. We have lived in ZH for a while and unfortunately after numerous conversations with both foreigners and Swiss, recent articles in the Swiss newspapers and situations we have observed (we used to live across from a public school) we don't have a very good impression of the public schools.

Nevertheless, I was happy to read that at least some people in this Forum are happy with it.
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Old 01.08.2012, 13:16
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

We sent our kids to the public Swiss schools.
Excellent experience for the most part, they are now fluent in Swiss-German and high-German, as well as English which we speak at home. As English is now an important subject on which they are graded, this can be a gift for your kids if they already have it.

The public schools get very tough starting about the end of 2nd grade, however, and your success may vary depending on the teacher your child receives (typically they will be stuck with the same one for 3 years, so it can be a good or bad thing depending on who they get).

After the end of primary school, only the top 20 percent get selected to go on to the best schools (Gymnasium in ZH, Bezirkschule in AG). So, it is pretty selective.
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Old 01.08.2012, 15:36
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

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After the end of primary school, only the top 20 percent get selected to go on to the best schools (Gymnasium in ZH, Bezirkschule in AG). So, it is pretty selective.
I would not use the word 'best' to describe the Gymnasium or Bezirkschule. They are just the highest academic level schools - and the entrance exam is only based on German, Mathematics and Geometry in Zurich, so it's very narrowly selecting kids for academics.

There's no reason why a child should be considered a 'failure' because they are going to a local secondary school, or even the lower levels of secondary schooling, if that suits their academic goals, abilities and gives them the support you need.

Doesn't matter whether you pay lots of money or not IMHO, the schools vary and your choices will be limited by your budget, location and willingness to travel. It's always going to be an individual choice, and I suspect that it will never be 'perfect' no matter what you choose. You take the best you can from what you have, take an active interest, participate where appropriate in the school community, and trust that you've made the right choice.
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Old 01.08.2012, 16:44
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Re: New law about international schools, information about bilingual and public schoo

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Now we just don't know what to do. We have lived in ZH for a while and unfortunately after numerous conversations with both foreigners and Swiss, recent articles in the Swiss newspapers and situations we have observed (we used to live across from a public school) we don't have a very good impression of the public schools.

Nevertheless, I was happy to read that at least some people in this Forum are happy with it.
Don't forget that it's usually people who have a problem with something that post or make a noise about it. Hardly anyone stands up and says they find something absolutely fine and dandy. It doesn't make for an exciting thread.

The same goes for public schools. If you ask someone who is happy with the system they'll answer you with "Everything's great, thanks" and move on to something else. If they're not happy, they'll bend your ear for as long as you will listen.

Failing to take my own (above-mentioned) advice, I would be dead against sending my child to a Montessori and/or Rudolf Steiner lala-factory because I've heard so many pissed-off-parent stories but perhaps I've never spoken to anyone who has had a good experience with them.

For the record, I am a happy parent with a happy 5 year old in normal public school in Zurich. No complaints, just not going to shout it from the rooftops...
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Old 01.08.2012, 17:25
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

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We had absolutely harrowing experiences with tone of the Montessori Bilingual Schools.
Obviously a difficult time in the past there. But Montessori schools are a very particular world and it doesn't fit everybody. Calling teachers incompetent is meaningless because they only can be competent within a set pedagogical policy. Montessori teachers, even the ones you didn't appreciate, were most probably competent within the Montessori pedagogical philosophy. I don't like it either but I can accept differences.

So ask yourself what you are looking for in a school and what is considered a good standard in the local culture. Then, make the best compromise possible between those two visions.


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we don't have a very good impression of the public schools.
Impressions? I sometimes don't have very good impressions of the school I work in, and still, when my brain wakes up again, I find it a good school. Local school is a reflection of the local ideas about education, one can't fight it. There is always more diversity in a school than one thinks seen from the outside, and what you don't like in a school isn't necessary what your children won't like. Furthermore, some students are even grateful in Highschool to have done in middle school thing they did not always liked at the time. Everything is possible but one thing: foreseeing the future of your kids in a school system. There is no such thing as a good school vs. bad school question like in the UK or the US. At all. One gets the impression that there is, sometimes, but guess what: it's an impression. What leads students to success: the best grades they can, accepting one's limitations in order to discover one's talents with a free mind. That can be done in any school, public cantonal school included.
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Old 05.03.2013, 07:22
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

May I ask fro a bit more advice on bilingual school:

I'm embarrassed to say I don't quite get it - even after reading through a few websites. There is talk of alternating days, weeks, instruction in both languages, etc.

But my basic question is still: Can a child be totally monolingual and have a smooth transition to a bilngual school? Is it total immersion half the time, or a mix all day? How do older kids respond to this? (And yes, I am contacting schools, but would love to hear how older kids have done with this).

My children are 12, 10 and 4. I know the 4 year old would be fine, but could anyone offer a bit more advice re: the older two? Has anyone put a child over the age of 10 into bilingual school without a word of German? Is 12 too late to do this?

I have read many (helpful!) threads on this, but I would love a bit more...

Thanks so much for any additional thoughts on this.
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Old 05.03.2013, 10:26
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

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But my basic question is still: Can a child be totally monolingual and have a smooth transition to a bilngual school? Is it total immersion half the time, or a mix all day? How do older kids respond to this?
I do not have any experience with bilingual schools in the Zurich area, but do in the french-speaking part. I will say a few words on this from my perspective. The term bilingual school sometimes means that everything is split 50/50 and children are immersed and taught in the two languages from the beginning, however in my experience this happens but is rather rare. More than often, there is a core language, and a second one is added, albeit at a skewed percentage, i.e. 70/30 for example. I think bilingual schools are great for younger kids who start with the two or more languages by immersiion, but the problem is that older kids have to work towards some curriculum degree--ie. swiss matura, UK A levels, IB, etc... These are bascially language specific curricula, i.e. you do not study English as the primary language to obtain the swiss matura. Thus, for bilingual schools, the imporatant question to ask is which curricula is it following and what degree will those children have at graduation, assuming school continues to age 16/18, etc.? If it is the swiss matura, expect that the german/french languages will be key, and I believe most will have to have a high level of experience with these languages and have a lot of extra help to succeed. Alternatively, if obtaining an IB degree then you should have English emphasised at this should be a higher percentage. Some bilingual schools have two or more degree routes, but the child/parent has to specifiy which route to take around age 10, as the subjects, language, and curricula are very distinct and specialised.
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Old 05.03.2013, 11:10
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

I would agree with runningdeer. You can't really put 'bilingual' schools into one basket. They vary greatly.

Our daughter moved from the Montessori system in Australia, from an excellent school, to a very well established Montessori primary school (bilingual) in Zurich, and we were very happy with her experience. The cost factor is phenomenal, but my husband and I are teachers, our children's tuition is bundled with the salary package and we are paying significantly less than the average family who use the private school system.

Anyway, she was 9 and her teacher basically had to invent a whole learning process for her because she had zero German, she was 4 years in the primary school here in Switzerland, and has this year gone into the local secondary school. We chose not to put her straight into gymnasium because even if she had managed to scrape in (her German and Mathematics are actually very good), the competitiveness for us was a big issue. We considered it better that she move to the secondary (she's in Sek A which is the highest academic level in the local school), get confident with being in the traditional school system, and see how it goes. Many of the children coming out of her Montessori school do go straight to Gymnasium (even on pure demographics you'd expect that), and a lot transfer to the 'kurzgymnasium' later if they didn't go direct.

There are so many tracks. In our case, we are totally happy with the Montessori approach at d'Insle to the language development, and to taking each child as an individual learner and keeping them on their own track, and at least in our case, at the primary school, there has been a very good consistency of staff (same teachers for 3-4 years), and many of the teachers are dual trained (Montessori and approved university teaching degrees).

I also totally agree with svaha's points, and I would always ask what the qualifications of the teachers are, whether the school complies with the local curriculum, and what the turnover is like.

In our case, our children got plenty of additional support in the Montessori setting for their individual learning needs. In the Sek, although she is coping (and getting better than average) marks in German, they know she has things that she needs to work on, so they offered her two additional sessions per week with the 'German as a second language' class. She skips one class of biology and the typing class to do these intensive language sessions, and we are happy with that decision. She is able to catch up on the biology very easily (she has an awesome grounding in that from Montessori), and the typing is no problem, as she can easily practice at home...

Anyway, that's a bit of a tangent. There are many layers to the issue.

Oh, and update, from friends who brought their 12 year old to Switzerland 4years ago, he did 2 years at the 'RealSchule' - which is the lowest level of the secondary, because that is where the intensive German support teachers are to be found. They loved him because he was smart, polite and very motivated (most of the kids in "Real" have learning difficulties).. The school offered to transfer him to the general secondary level after 12 months, but the parents found out that he would get no additional language help, so they kept him in Real for another year. Then they put him into a private German secondary school for a year, and he just found out that she has a transfer to the Gymnasium. If I understood correctly, he's done 4 years of 'grounding' in German schooling, and now he's going to do a 3 year Gymnasium transit, and from there we hope the 'world is his oyster'...

So, it can be done. Navigating the system is not easy, but I feel that at least here they promote all the layers and different ways to access tertiary education, and don't just stream out their 5% and tell everyone else their life is going to be a failure because they didn't get straight into university (which is my experience from Australia)...
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Old 12.03.2013, 10:36
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

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May I ask fro a bit more advice on bilingual school:

I'm embarrassed to say I don't quite get it - even after reading through a few websites. There is talk of alternating days, weeks, instruction in both languages, etc.

But my basic question is still: Can a child be totally monolingual and have a smooth transition to a bilngual school? Is it total immersion half the time, or a mix all day? How do older kids respond to this? (And yes, I am contacting schools, but would love to hear how older kids have done with this).

My children are 12, 10 and 4. I know the 4 year old would be fine, but could anyone offer a bit more advice re: the older two? Has anyone put a child over the age of 10 into bilingual school without a word of German? Is 12 too late to do this?

I have read many (helpful!) threads on this, but I would love a bit more...

Thanks so much for any additional thoughts on this.
My kids are in their second year at Terra Nova Bilingual School in Kusnacht (they also have a Feldmeilen campus for older kids). They are now 8 and 5 and both went in knowing no German at all. My younger guy does M/Tu in German , alternates Geman one week and English the other on W, and has English Th/F. My 8 year old has always done English for a week then German for the next, switching languages on Wednesdays. They both have separate classrooms and teachers for both languages. Special classes like music, handicrafts, sport are all taught in German regardless of the week.

We have been very happy with their progress. All children learn differently of course. Mine definitely understood everything that was going on in German by the end of their first year, but were still shy to speak. This year it is completely comfortable and it is all very normal for them and they interact with the other kids in both languages. The teachers have been great in helping make it a fun experience and not a scary one.

My friend moved here and put her 12 year old into Terra Nova with no German. This child had supplementary German courses outside the classroom (which Terra Nova helped arrange) and he worked very hard and is doing quite well now. He was fluent by the end of the year and is now well assimilated into their community with activities and such.
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Old 12.03.2013, 23:43
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

I put my then 11, 9 and 7 year olds in bilingual school 2 years ago without any german. On balance it has gone well. They have learnt a lot of german and have kept up with english as well, which is obviously important. it's a lot of work as everything is basically done in both languages but I think it's worth it for the sake of learning german. You could try it for a year and see how it goes?
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Old 03.03.2015, 09:59
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Re: Experience with bilingual schools?

Hi there, I'm interested in hearing more about your 11 year old's experience with the bilingual school. Did they enter without any German at all? Was the intensive language support enough for them to progress? Are you happy to disclose which school?
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