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Old 16.06.2013, 18:37
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Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

Hi,

I have three kids (6, 11, 13 years old) and we are planning to move soon to Zurich.
I have read that foreign children who don't speak German have to attend a special school. I am worried about it because we cannot afford to pay for an international school . They are brilliant students here .

Should I be worried? Does anyone have any experiences with public schools and the language requirements in Zurich with children in these ages?

Many thanks
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Old 16.06.2013, 18:44
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

Hello and welcome,

How soon are you moving? If it is still a couple of months, why not enroll yourself and your eldest kids into German classes, so that you already have a little knowledge of the language before you arrive here?

Kash.
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Old 16.06.2013, 18:50
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

There is a lot of information in similar threads here, so perhaps read through those already. I won't lie - it will be easy for your 6 year old, but not so for the 11 and 13 year olds. Where are you from? Asking this as systems are so different - for instance it would not be so difficult if you moved to UK without English.
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Old 16.06.2013, 18:57
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

You are by no means the first person to come on here with this sort of question and it's Sunday evening and the sun is shining, people are outside, not on here answering the same questions for the fifth time. We don't know where you are from and what languages the children speak which doesn't help us much either.
So
1. Search function on here is not very good. However click on Search (top right) without putting words in.
2. New menu opens. Put in relevant words. Like 'child 16' and then press 'Google powered'
3. In among the other junk, there will be bits of posts from EF with enough words to let you guess as to whether there might be something useful in that thread or not.
4. Repeat until you run out of time, energy or patience.

All this will give you a few basic ideas of what happens with children coming from abroad to Zürich without a working knowledge of German.
Everything in Switzerland VARIES so info about any other canton may be interesting but will not be valid for your children. Laws have recently altered with regards to younger children so posts from 2008 are likely to be wrong.

Sorry I cannot do more but at least this will stop you having to twiddle your fingers all evening. The rest of the gals and guys will be around tomorrow...

Welcome to the Forum
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Old 16.06.2013, 18:59
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

Hofakker School, Kreis 8 has a brilliant integration class. Your kids will be in the same class learning German all day long doing other activities. I had a 12 and 11 year old attend and were able to speak enough German to attend regular school 9 months later. The Clasd teacher is brilliant.
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Old 16.06.2013, 19:20
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

If they are brilliant students back home, I wouldn't worry too much, for sure the first 6 months will be tough for them, but they will gain a lot in the long run. We are moving to Switzerland in a couple of weeks with a 10 & 12 yr old, and are confident it will work out. We are purposely letting the kids repeat a grade, so they get that extra year to get comfortable with the language.
They are currently using the duolingo app on their tablets to get a head start with German learning, every little bit will help, and it's free, available on the computer as well. The special school is not a special needs school, it is an integration programme with intensive German, and the kids attend only until they can follow the mainstream classes.
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Old 16.06.2013, 19:25
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

Hi,

We are a spanish family that lives right now in the UK. My kids speak good English and they also have a little knowledge of German but not enough to attend a normal German school. We must move to Switzerland because the company has moved my husband job. I know that there is a lot of information about moving with kids in this forum but no so much about moving with kids as old as my oldest daughter.

Thanks
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Old 16.06.2013, 19:33
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

Ignore the title on this one, about a girl being refused a place at a school, but read the info in it as some of it is general and not canton specific. I think it has a couple of good points if I remember correctly.
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Old 16.06.2013, 19:39
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

Are you going to be in Switzerland longterm? If yes, don't dismiss the vocational path for your older two children, instead of attending Gymnasium, which is very difficult to get into (even for Swiss kids), they could do an apprenticeship, get a "Berufsmatura", attend a Fachhochschule, and get their degrees that way.
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Old 16.06.2013, 19:40
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

There are lots of threads and posts that explain how the system works here, and why it is not so easy for children who are over the age of 9 to learn enough of the local language to enter the academic streams. It is not impossible, and as said there are excellent integration classes- but even so- the UK system is much much easier for children who have not yet mastered the language, as subjects as streamed individually- whereas here kids have got to be excellent in the local language + a second national language + English and be integrated in a class that will do all subjects together.

In the UK, in a comprehensive school, a child can be in, say, top set in maths and sciences, and a middle set for other subjects, and remedial or integration in English - not possible here. There are also lots more options for subjects at GCSE, and the post 16 system = only 4 subjects in Year 12, and only 3 in Year 13- with the possibility of re-taking GCSE English and maths whilst doing AS Levels in Year 12. Not so here.
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Old 16.06.2013, 19:49
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

In a nutshell, you will be allocated a school based on where you live. Some areas will have specific 'integration' classes, which seem to be generally very good.

We live in Adliswil, on the edge of Zurich city, and it's quite a diverse area and they do have an integration class for primary school level, and additional language support for secondary school.

I'd second the recommendation also for Hofacker school if you can find somewhere to live close by in Kreis 8 of Zurich (finding accommodation with three children may be quite a challenge though).

It also depends how much effort as a family you will make to integrate socially as well - living further out might mean less foreigners, so you will get a reputation fast in the local area as either 'making the effort' or 'staying separate'. If you are also prepared (as the mum) to be active to learn Swiss-German and make connections, that can only help your children's success.

Your 13 year old definitely would have a steep learning curve - an Australian family we know relocated with their son at this age. He was a highly motivated, extremely polite and morally upright, self-directed young man. They tried a private school but found it was somewhat of a dumping ground for kids with learning and behaviour problems, so they put him for a year in the "real" schule level of the local system, which is where the intensive language programmes are, however the "realschule' is mostly populated by kids who have learning and behaviour issues, but the level of drugs and other antisocial behaviour was lower than the private school (more money seems to mean less parental attention and more access to drugs and alcohol) - anyway, that was his experience.

After one year, he was offered a transfer into the higher academic stream, but the parents found out that he would not get any more intensive German language support in that higher stream, so they opted to keep him in the Realschule level for another year.

After that he will do 2 years at a private Gymnasium, and then hopefully transfer to the Gymnasium of the government system.

A bit complicated ? Yes, but here in Switzerland there are many roads to get to the end-goal - and he's still a highly-motivated and morally-upright hard-working teen, who has a goal in mind.

It's probably fair to say that the 11 year old would most likely go to grade 5 integration class if available, and then maybe if lucky transfer to grade 6 of the local school and probably the middle level (Sek B) or possibly Sek A of the secondary school, if they can get their German up high enough. After 3 years of Sek they can start an apprenticeship, do a 10th academic year, or sit the exam (German, Maths, Geometry, French) to get into the "Short Gymnasium" - if they complete the Gymnasium and get a Matura, they have a direct path to university. If they don't do that, they can to a 10th year and then try again, or do an apprenticeship and sit the Berufsmatura exam (German, Maths, Geometry, French, English) to get into a 'Fachhochschule' which is the equivalent to an 'applied sciences' university.

It's also possible to try to integrate them for as many years as possible, and if they can't quite get there, to invest later (a lot of money!) into a private school for 1-2-3 years, if they truly want to get into a swiss university, and they are highly motivated...

Personally, you have to look very carefully at finances. I think for a family with three children and only one salary, that salary should be at bare minimum 80-90K, rent no more than 2500chf per month including additional costs, and you may not be able to afford a car. Spend whatever extra funds you have on saving a little for a rainy day and on the kids extracurricular, language tutoring and holidays back to see family.

We have three kids that age, and our food costs per month are probably 1200-1500 chf per month, and we all get a cooked lunch at work/school, which is not going to be possible with the local school (the 'lunch' care at my daughter's secondary school is 2 hours of care from 12-2 and it costs 20chf per day.).

I don't know if that gets you any closer to your answers, but honestly, accommodation is going to be the biggest hurdle with three children (especially if they all require their own bedrooms - we have a larger bedroom the two boys share and a tiny room that is used as an office/guest room so that we have more than one living area). - and it will really limit you to school options...
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Old 16.06.2013, 19:51
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

Oh, forgot to add, our kids are exactly the same as yours - 5.5, 11, 13. We arrived 5 years ago, and our daughter is probably only 'just' integrating now socially, and it's been a very hard road for her. The 11 year old arrived at 6 and is absolutely engaged and integrated (and speaks awesome High German, Swiss-German in more than one dialect, French and English) and our little one at the moment refuses to speak German, but understands it of course!
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Old 12.07.2013, 19:14
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

hi
I am 15 and moved to Zürich this year with literally NO german. I am in a german school and next year I am going to Gymnasium which is the swiss high school equivalent for those wishing to go to university directly afterward. there are MANY options. Here are the best in my opinion and the ones I have the most information on:
1) For your younger kids i would recommend the aufnahme class which is a class which they have one of in every kreis, in the main city at least. This is an integration class and there are kids from all over. My brother went there this last year (he is 10) and he is also pretty much fluent. He went to the one in the Letten Schule in Kreis 6 and i can honestly say, he has had what sounds like the time of his life there. the teachers are great.
2) You can enroll your kids in a 'Sprachschule'. I did this year. I went to allegra. It does cost a lot. But i think it was really worth it. I now feel completely comfortable with my german and can write and speak almost fluently. I also go part time to the local school which helps hugely because I was involved and heard how people speak in normal life and not just in an artificial situation. However, i did this mainly because I was a bit too old for the aufnahme class and the overall feeling was that I wouldn't benefit as much because I am past that age where I can just pick up a language, i have to learn the grammar too.

Overall I think that if your children are bright, which i am sure they are, they will have no problem fitting in quite quickly and learning the language. If you talk to the kreisebüro they are also very friendly and happily give out a lot of helpful information and help you to find the thing that suits you best. You must not send your children to the international school, there is no obligation.

Your children will also be very high up in English. I find it fun to listen in on the English classes and see how you learn it as a foreign language. It is quite interesting Hope this helps!
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Old 12.07.2013, 22:36
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Re: Moving to Zurich with 3 kids (6, 11, 13 years old)

Our daughter was 4 when we moved to Austria and was fluent in German at kindergarten within 6 months. I also met people who had kids of various ages (4 - 13) who had been put straight into German speaking schools with no supplementary support and they all managed eventually. Friends of ours moved to Luzern with their 6 year old son and he went straight into a Swiss local School anf had 3 hours extra German tuition per week. He is doing really well 3 years on.

I'm sure your 6 year old will learn and integrate very quickly. The older two may find it more difficult and take longer but if they are motivated I'm sure they will cope.

Living in a multicultural area will help so oyu are not the only non-natives around. On my daughter's first day a school it turned out that 2 girls in her class were also native English speakers and 6 months later she realised another girl also spoke English. At our local school the native English kids have their own English class so they don't have to do the normal English curriculum.

Good luck with your move.
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