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Old 10.11.2011, 21:04
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Education System Culture Shock

I have just spent an hour at my daughters school and was looking forward to hearing about the themes and topics they would be undertaking this year......

But what did we get........ write neatly, work quickly, don't ask questions except when asked to do so............ and here's how they will be graded but we won't give anyone a top grade....... and maybe if there's time we'll talk about how to look after a dog......

Why are they so obsessed with snurlischrift.......And is it really necessary that a eight year old can do a calculation like 83-?=76 in under three seconds..... And for the kids that can do 60 of these on the trot the extension work is more of the same.

Apologies for the rant but I still have culture shock when it comes to the education system here.....

I will of course try and support my kids and support the teachers by singing from the same hymn sheet. I just wonder where's the learning from investigation, knowledge through understanding rather than rote repetitions, offering extension work to further explain or show application of skills learnt.

The wonderful Wragg would have something to say about this........
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Old 10.11.2011, 21:16
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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Apologies for the rant but I still have culture shock when it comes to the education system here.....
Apologies accepted, you're human, nobody is blaming you for that. More important: You know that it is a culture shock, that will be a great help to your child, to the teachers and to yourself.
Keep in mind that Swiss students don't do worse than English/American students ten years down the road, even if it's a bumpy road. Good luck to you all.
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Old 11.11.2011, 17:19
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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Apologies accepted, you're human, nobody is blaming you for that. More important: You know that it is a culture shock, that will be a great help to your child, to the teachers and to yourself.
Keep in mind that Swiss students don't do worse than English/American students ten years down the road, even if it's a bumpy road. Good luck to you all.
You say that Swiss students don't do any worse than English or American students at a later date, I disagree in as far as access to further education is far more flexible in the English education system than here. The Swiss system is highly restrictive, they are in effect cherry pickers, to enter higher education you have to have good grades in all core subjects. Without languages you can forget Uni, if this criterea existed in the UK most of our Uni's would be empty, except for foreign students of course. Another issue is that teachers here have a lot of power, they do all testing and grading, and as there is no independent examining body there is a strong possibility of favoritism or unfair marking.
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Old 11.11.2011, 18:30
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

I was also shocked when we first moved, but have since learned a bit more.
1) Your child's experience in the elementary school really depends on the teacher. My son had a similar one to what you are describing. She was really nice, very strict and focused on endless repetition, handwriting, etc. There were enough bright spots organized for the entire grade though (because the principal was a really cool guy all the kids loved), school camps, mystery writing month, etc. to brighten the year. And as I later learned, the teacher in the classroom next door was creative and fun..
2) It gets a lot better in middle school (at least at the higher level). My son (6th grade) is engaged and certainly not bored in all but 1 of his classes. The material is interesting and well presented by committed and well qualified teachers. There is theater and art after school for those who are interested. The peer group is also very good, most kids are very smart and are working hard, and the classroom time is no longer spent in endless repetition of basics.
My advice would be to try to find creative activities outside of school for the elementary years. We did music, creative writing (for English native speakers) and Lego League, and it was already not too bad.
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Old 11.11.2011, 18:39
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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Without maths, physics and chemistry you can forget Uni, if this criterea existed in the UK most of our Uni's would be empty, except for foreign students of course.
Fixed that for you - the reason why I had to finish schooling in England was that I ain't no good at science and this couldn't be offset by speaking three languages fluently as well as a few others at varying levels. I still managed a B at GCSE maths though, after years and years of getting the second to lowest mark in the Swiss system.
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Old 11.11.2011, 20:13
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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I have just spent an hour at my daughters school
And that gave you a comprehensive overview of the swiss education system? So they don't teach 8 year olds to write and calculate where you're coming from? What do they do then if taking care of a dog is too trivial? Plan a mission to Mars?
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Old 11.11.2011, 20:16
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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The Swiss system is highly restrictive, they are in effect cherry pickers, to enter higher education you have to have good grades in all core subjects. Without languages you can forget Uni, if this criteria existed in the UK most of our Uni's would be empty, except for foreign students of course. Another issue is that teachers here have a lot of power, they do all testing and grading, and as there is no independent examining body there is a strong possibility of favoritism or unfair marking.
Err... that says something, doesn't it?
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Old 12.11.2011, 22:14
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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You say that Swiss students don't do any worse than English or American students at a later date, I disagree in as far as access to further education is far more flexible in the English education system than here.
If access to higher education is your criteria of succes, you are right - but what access to what higher to what education ? Big questions there that are not as easy to answer as you seem to think. Yet another cultural difference for you to cope with.
Swiss do fine, also the ones in higher education. If you are not sure whether your child will be able to get to a Swiss university, think twice before blaming anybody.

And frankly, if you prefer the English system, go for it.

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I still managed a B at GCSE maths though, after years and years of getting the second to lowest mark in the Swiss system.
In languages, a colleague of mine uses French GCSE material in her beginner's class. Quod erat demonstrandum.
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Old 13.11.2011, 09:10
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

Developmentally, the period from 6-10 years is the smoothest, most predictable one - it makes sense to use this time to get all those basics laid down. Once adolescence hits, it's much harder to engage the children in the 'humdrum' and the children become unpredictable and more challenging.

I'm not sure where the 'all roads lead to university' mentality came from - as a parent and a product of the academically selective process in Australia - I think it does the person a dis-service if they feel like a 'failure' because they can't have a straight run to becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer....

My kids switched to 'schnurlischrift' when they arrived and the *love* it and their handwriting now is absolutely beautiful and a source of pride, and it gives them the tool of self-expression too - writing just for the enjoyment....

The kids do a lot more outdoors/excursions here than where I come from, and they have a much healthier sense of independence and self-reliance.

Some things are not learnt any other way than by rote (doing sums in your head is one of them). Personally, I managed to muddle through and go to university without that skill, but it cut me out of the option of doing a science or medical stream, because I could not hack the rote learning....
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Old 13.11.2011, 09:13
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

PS. forgot to add. My kids are in the Montessori school, and I have to say that although they have a very creative approach to education, the kids at 8-10 are still doing 'mental arithmetic' 'penmanship and dictation' and 'learn box'... fact is, your school is actually equipping your child with the tools for success, and some of that is rather boring but absolutely necessary.
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Old 13.11.2011, 09:43
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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PS. forgot to add. My kids are in the Montessori school, and I have to say that although they have a very creative approach to education, the kids at 8-10 are still doing 'mental arithmetic' 'penmanship and dictation' and 'learn box'... fact is, your school is actually equipping your child with the tools for success, and some of that is rather boring but absolutely necessary.
Quite agree. My 8 year old son beats me hands down in every game of adding up the contents of my shopping trolley, and I used to pride myself in being not bad at mental arithmetic. This might be a somewhat trite example (particulary as now they have scanners at checkouts for this sort of thing ..) but I am amazed at the thoroughness in which they teach the basic skills, such as mental arithmetic, skills will be invaluable for later life.

They do try, in sofar as they are able, to make these basic learning skills interesting; but even if they are facing an uphill task in this respect, the success at teaching these skills is undeniable.

It is a culture shock. You need time to adjust. Once you get these feelings out of the way (excellent idea to rant on here for that) you will be pleasantly surprised going forward by how many things are really good in this system. Different, but good.
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Old 13.11.2011, 11:04
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

It sounds like the Swiss education system still believes in a solid grounding in the "3 R's" - not the most exciting for those wanting fun and creativity but is a solid grounding for later years. I was pretty shocked to find my UK-based nephew learning multiplication by using Excel... for an 8 year old he now has good Excel skills but can't multipy without it

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Old 13.11.2011, 19:52
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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You say that Swiss students don't do any worse than English or American students at a later date, I disagree in as far as access to further education is far more flexible in the English education system than here. The Swiss system is highly restrictive, they are in effect cherry pickers, to enter higher education you have to have good grades in all core subjects. Without languages you can forget Uni, if this criterea existed in the UK most of our Uni's would be empty, except for foreign students of course. Another issue is that teachers here have a lot of power, they do all testing and grading, and as there is no independent examining body there is a strong possibility of favoritism or unfair marking.
"Without languages" ?? You apparently think that the system here is giving too much points to languages, while I think the system is far too much mathematics-etc oriented. I once tried to get towards the Matura but crashed as languages were/are my forte, but mathematics and geometry have always been my weak sides. The problem rather is that they right from the start try to reduce the number of people aspiring for the matura and so, when the students are good, simply raise the barrier, in order to phase out a fixed percentage
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Old 13.11.2011, 20:07
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

Not really. In a country where French is one of the national languages and people have regular access via TV and newspapers, the high-school certificate material from a foreign country is going to be beginners stuff.

How does the Swiss high school English exam compare to an English GCSE set by a UK examining board and aimed at native speakers I wonder?

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In languages, a colleague of mine uses French GCSE material in her beginner's class. Quod erat demonstrandum.
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Old 13.11.2011, 20:40
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

1 in 4 teachers (or thereabouts) has this weird idea about top grades. (I've also encountered it in various forms in the UK). In secondary and gymnasium you tend not to get this, as the inspectors will jump on it. Rote learning is rife throughout the whole system (somewhat better at Gymnasium), which does cause trouble at the higher levels, where rote learning won't get you through, and someone used to getting 5.5 or more suddenly struggles to get a 4.

It is old fashioned, it's recognised by the powers that be that it could have a detrimental effect on Switzerland's international competitiveness, and it is changing. So much depends on individual teachers, schools, village, town, canton...
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Old 13.11.2011, 20:50
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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Not really. In a country where French is one of the national languages and people have regular access via TV and newspapers, the high-school certificate material from a foreign country is going to be beginners stuff.
Just the UK, not any foreigh country. The high school requirements in French as a foreign language from the Netherlands, Germany or Danmark that I know is a different league. Sorry dear.
Nothing in the way for a particular Brit to be an excellent linguist, but the school material europa-wide speaks a clear language. It may the other way around in other subjects ,I have no idea, I didn't do the research for other subjects than the ones I teach.

Languages are a core subject in Switzerland's school system. Fact of life, basta.



P.S. I admit that German class in the Netherlands and French class in Italy is a whole different issue... I am not talking about those cases of sister languages.
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Old 13.11.2011, 21:09
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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The Swiss system is highly restrictive, they are in effect cherry pickers, to enter higher education you have to have good grades in all core subjects. Without languages you can forget Uni
Yes but Switzerland has four national languages, of course they are going to want (need) their higher students to speak at least two if not three of them... without forgetting that they will also need English, in todays world, in addition to French, German and Italian.
Plus, in some branches of the swiss university system, you can not choose what language you would like to study in, becoming a vet for example can only be done in German and italian students can only study theology and architecture in their mother tongue.
Languages just come with the swiss package.
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Old 13.11.2011, 21:13
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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Not really. In a country where French is one of the national languages and people have regular access via TV and newspapers, the high-school certificate material from a foreign country is going to be beginners stuff.

How does the Swiss high school English exam compare to an English GCSE set by a UK examining board and aimed at native speakers I wonder?

Cheers,
Nick
All those exams are in the hands of "delegate-professors" from Cambridge. A cousin of me, after her graduating from Bern University, and aspiring to become a teacher, had to go to university for a "meeting" and was astonished to find out that the counterpart was a Cambridge-professor who told her quite openly what he thought about her English. She then went to England for two months in order to reach the expectations.
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Old 13.11.2011, 22:33
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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You say that Swiss students don't do any worse than English or American students at a later date, I disagree in as far as access to further education is far more flexible in the English education system than here. The Swiss system is highly restrictive, they are in effect cherry pickers, to enter higher education you have to have good grades in all core subjects. Without languages you can forget Uni, if this criterea existed in the UK most of our Uni's would be empty, except for foreign students of course. Another issue is that teachers here have a lot of power, they do all testing and grading, and as there is no independent examining body there is a strong possibility of favoritism or unfair marking.
There are options for University schooling for Swiss students. They can go to university in other countries, private universities. Also there are also good trade schools, certificates, diplomas. They can even do university in the UK. Personally I don't think the uni is for everyone. I have a master's degree and frankly I'd probably have been off with a trade. It's more in keeping with my character. But my mother was an academic and pushed all of us to uni. Now I'm considering retraining in a trade of some sort. Not everyone is best suited to uni.

I'm curious to know how is the UK system immune from favoritism and unfair marking?
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Old 13.11.2011, 23:17
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Re: Education System Culture Shock

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I'm curious to know how is the UK system immune from favoritism and unfair marking?
everything of value is externaly marked... peer reviewed (double marking is not uncommon) and with a central board visiting regularly ensuring that everything is in order. Oh and students know what criteria they are being marked against.

In australia it gets even crazier... Students names are replaced by numbers, double marking, students know what criteria they are being marked against, observation by heads of department and the fact that students arent stupid. if they suspect it enough they will savage you. OH and the Professional of the Australian Teaching pool (baised, i am one of them :-P)
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