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Old 23.08.2019, 03:41
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Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Dear all,

Brand-new to this forum and so grateful for all the useful info. My family will be relocating to Basel from Boston end of the year for my husband's new job, and I unfortunately can't visit/tour schools before as I'm expecting. We have an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old we plan to send to an international school. I've read all the related threads, but the latest feedback on ISB/SIS/Academia seemed to be from 2017 and I wonder if you have new thoughts on the schools today.

What have you chosen for your kids and why? What works well for you and what doesn't? It could be that my American concerns (how much time kids spend outside/playing/being active) are moot in Switzerland. Nonetheless, with an active 10yo bold who needs lots of activity and stimulation, I'm curious. Do some of the schools seem for accommodating than others? Is communication with admin/teachers better at some than others? ISB's 2 locations concern me a bit as my kids would be at separate schools after one semester; SIS feels tighter/closer-knit; Academia seems newer but not necessarily a bad thing, just not as much info out there.

Finally, did you choose to live near the school, and is that helpful to you and your kids socially? (If you have specific neighborhood to recommend based on schools you chose, I'm all ears there, too!)

Anyway, any input and experiences very much appreciated! And I hope to meet some of you in the winter in Basel.

Thank you.
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Old 23.08.2019, 07:01
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Send them to local schools and give them the chance to learn German properly.


Local schools are just as good and they cover all your points above, more than adequately.
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Old 23.08.2019, 07:44
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Today only, personally, I happen to agree with you that in many cases the local schools provide a wonderful opportunity and I observe that at least some folk coming from abroad don't realise that.

However, OP seems to have already made up her/his mind, for whatever reasons, about wanting an international school for her/his children. Fair enough.

OP, you say you've read threads [about international schools], and just in case you missed - and might still be interested in - the most recent of many, over the years, discussion of the pro and contra of:
  • international (which are always private and fee-paying),
  • private (which are fee-paying and may be but are not necessarily international) vs
  • local, government, free schools, and are interested in that debate, here's the link.
here's the link:
https://www.englishforum.ch/educatio...l-schools.html.

I hope for you that someone will come along soon, with recent info on the international schools in Basel.
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Old 23.08.2019, 08:22
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Whichever school you choose won't be a disaster. The schools each have their own strengths and weaknesses. My kids were all at local school and have done very well, but I do often come into contact with kids from the private schools.

You don't need to live very near to the schools as the north-west of Switzerland has a regular, reliable, frequent public transport network, especially around the city of Basel. I know kids who travelled from Hofstetten to the ISB every day.

maps.search.ch has a route planning function for trams/buses/trains.
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Old 24.08.2019, 17:45
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Thanks so much, all, and @doropfiz for the link - hadn't seen that one and it was helpful. It's true, for a variety of reasons I won't go into on a public forum, we're going for an international school, so I'll keep looking out for feedback from families who've had the ISB/SIS/Academia experience, and hope to also learn a bit more about neighborhoods where families might "convene" to make out-of-school socializing for both kids and adults easier. Great to hear once again, though, that that Swiss school system works so well for so many families Thanks again!
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Old 24.08.2019, 19:15
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

One of the factors I think is worth considering, when sending a child to a private school, is the time they will spend travelling. Not only do the hours of their commute to school add up but - since the children at the international schools come from a wider catchment area - so, too, does their travel time to visit friends.

I hear you clearly, that you're not considering government school. You have your reasons, fair enough. I mention it again only because the government school children, for the most part, do not have long commutes, and this gives them more free time, whether to spend on sports and arts, or with friends, or just chilling at home.

Therefore, I'd recommend that you try to live, if at all possible, near the international school you choose. In Switzerland, with its excellent public transport, "near" doesn't necessarily translate into geographical proximity, but into convenient, reliable, quick public transport routes with not too many changes.

Depending on the atmosphere where you've lived before, that may sound scary, but here it is completely usual (and safe) for school-children, from Kindergarten onwards, make their own way to and from school.

In general, parents to not shuttle their children by car. The parents travel with the children on the bus or tram, up and down, for the first few weeks, diminishing the extent of the accompaniment and support in stages, and soon the children can do it on their own. Some schools organise the routes, teaching the children to increase their safety and their social skills by knowing that at stop x or route-intersection point y their classmate Anna will be embarking, and that on the way home Alex has to get off the tram at stop z.

In some cities, the children can get a pass for the public transport for only the route to and from school, in others the pass is for the whole city. I think (but am not sure) that you will be able to choose. The latter enables them to get to music lessons and go swimming, etc. and visit their friends, freely. Alternatively, you can buy individual day-cards for those days.

Here's a map of the routes and, on the right, the timetable.
https://www.bvb.ch/en/fahrplan/liniennetz/

Last edited by doropfiz; 25.08.2019 at 06:15. Reason: typo and grammar
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Old 25.08.2019, 16:35
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Most (all?) international and private schools offer van shuttles as an additional service for parents who want it. Regardless, a quick search in google shows that the 3 schools are centrally located within Basel-stadt. One by the Rhine; one north of it, and one south of the rhine, so this doesn't seem to be much of an issue.
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Old 25.08.2019, 21:27
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Thank you once again. We're currently fortunate enough to live next door to school, so we definitely see the benefits and are looking for a short commute, but as you say it isn't necessarily about how many blocks away it is but possibly about how many stops. That's why I'm hoping to figure out what other Int'l School families opted for We're leaning toward SIS for the tri-lingual aspect. Cheers!
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Old 23.04.2020, 08:34
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

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Thank you once again. We're currently fortunate enough to live next door to school, so we definitely see the benefits and are looking for a short commute, but as you say it isn't necessarily about how many blocks away it is but possibly about how many stops. That's why I'm hoping to figure out what other Int'l School families opted for We're leaning toward SIS for the tri-lingual aspect. Cheers!
Hello all, thanks for the wealth of advice on this forum. We are slated to move to Basel for the next school year (hopefully this goes smoothly with the pandemic!)
@AParTvet, hope your move went well and you are well settled (in SIS?)
My question is specifically about IB schools in Basel- which I believe narrows the search down to ISB and SIS. Would love to know the latest feedback on both schools in terms of academic standards/ college placement, teacher quality (and turnover), and school “feel” in terms of warmth/ responsiveness. With a senior schooler who will start looking at colleges soon and an MYP kid, all these would be important. Some of the ISB reviews online are concerning in terms of the new administration- were these teething troubles with new leadership or do they continue? We are very happy with our current international school and hope to find a good fit in Basel with your help!
Many thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Stay safe.
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Old 24.04.2020, 16:02
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

My kids are in local school but my son has friends in both SIS and ISB, and the parents seem happy with both. One has school up to high school which is beneficial if kids are younger and will be here longer, as apparently there is a wait to get into the upper grades and this way your kid is guaranteed entry, as I understand it.

The other school (sorry, cant remember which is which) has the more bilingual program with two or three full days a week in only German, so the consensus among my friends is that they learn there much quicker, where as at the other school the German class is just one course they take during the week. So from this perspective it might matter if you want your kids to pick up German or not.
I don't have any information on quality of education for each.
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Old 24.04.2020, 17:21
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

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Hello all, thanks for the wealth of advice on this forum. We are slated to move to Basel for the next school year (hopefully this goes smoothly with the pandemic!)
@AParTvet, hope your move went well and you are well settled (in SIS?)
My question is specifically about IB schools in Basel- which I believe narrows the search down to ISB and SIS. Would love to know the latest feedback on both schools in terms of academic standards/ college placement, teacher quality (and turnover), and school “feel” in terms of warmth/ responsiveness. With a senior schooler who will start looking at colleges soon and an MYP kid, all these would be important. Some of the ISB reviews online are concerning in terms of the new administration- were these teething troubles with new leadership or do they continue? We are very happy with our current international school and hope to find a good fit in Basel with your help!
Many thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Stay safe.
Hi there! I hope I can help - I remember how hard it was to make those decisions! It's a strange time to do a school review, with remote learning in full gear, but I'll try We actually opted for Academia, with kids in 3rd and 5th grade. It's a much smaller school, but still fully bilingual (German Monday & Tuesday, English Thursday and Friday, mix on Wednesday, with French as 3rd language). Overall, we've been happy with the school - for the 2 months we attended, anyway. They helped out a lot with figuring out the best placement for our daughter (borderline 2nd/3rd grade) and have been responsive to questions, have met with us when we asked, etc.

I will say that not speaking German myself feels like a pretty big challenge, made significantly harder by remote learning. When they say immersive, they mean it: everything is in German on German days: instructions, books, etc. Which can be great in theory, but in practice has been challenging as we can't help our kids. Will there be lots of intermittent remote learning in the future? We don't know, but I guess that's something to consider. It is not optimal at all for learning a new language. Online, the kids just kind of zone out when the teacher is speaking German, losing a lot of time. Maybe they're picking it up slowly, but right now, on video, it's not working out so great. The school does provide Booster lessons for newbies. Again, great in theory. But there's only one Booster at Academia per class, meaning that kids of varying levels and abilities are together. Looking back, we should have asked about this. Maybe a bigger school has more capacity to segment? But our son, who's turned out to be quite quick at German, says he's not learning much because it's paced for the kids who need the most help, so he's bored. It would be interesting to know how ISB and SIS handle this, if there's more matching of teaching to level...

What else...the small school is simultaneously a pro and con I think. Warmer feel, but also fewer kids to make a real connection with. Again, hard to make definitive statement after just 2 months.

Interestingly, academically we found the curriculum a bit behind that of our school in a Boston suburb. (I was taking kids to extra math and private German before we came to prepare for what I somehow assumed was a more rigorous curriculum, and that proved unnecessary.)

If you have any more questions I can answer please write!
Nice thing about Academia is also a bus that gets the younger kids and drops them off, door to door.

All the best in your decision!
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Old 25.04.2020, 14:47
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Thanks for that candid feedback- indeed different times for learning- I had not even thought about the online learning continuing but that’s a good point.
I believe Academia doesn’t offer an IB curriculum but rather IGCSE hence was not looking at it. Interesting to know about the bilingual aspect- definitely something to consider.
Hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend!

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Hi there! I hope I can help - I remember how hard it was to make those decisions! It's a strange time to do a school review, with remote learning in full gear, but I'll try We actually opted for Academia, with kids in 3rd and 5th grade. It's a much smaller school, but still fully bilingual (German Monday & Tuesday, English Thursday and Friday, mix on Wednesday, with French as 3rd language). Overall, we've been happy with the school - for the 2 months we attended, anyway. They helped out a lot with figuring out the best placement for our daughter (borderline 2nd/3rd grade) and have been responsive to questions, have met with us when we asked, etc.

I will say that not speaking German myself feels like a pretty big challenge, made significantly harder by remote learning. When they say immersive, they mean it: everything is in German on German days: instructions, books, etc. Which can be great in theory, but in practice has been challenging as we can't help our kids. Will there be lots of intermittent remote learning in the future? We don't know, but I guess that's something to consider. It is not optimal at all for learning a new language. Online, the kids just kind of zone out when the teacher is speaking German, losing a lot of time. Maybe they're picking it up slowly, but right now, on video, it's not working out so great. The school does provide Booster lessons for newbies. Again, great in theory. But there's only one Booster at Academia per class, meaning that kids of varying levels and abilities are together. Looking back, we should have asked about this. Maybe a bigger school has more capacity to segment? But our son, who's turned out to be quite quick at German, says he's not learning much because it's paced for the kids who need the most help, so he's bored. It would be interesting to know how ISB and SIS handle this, if there's more matching of teaching to level...

What else...the small school is simultaneously a pro and con I think. Warmer feel, but also fewer kids to make a real connection with. Again, hard to make definitive statement after just 2 months.

Interestingly, academically we found the curriculum a bit behind that of our school in a Boston suburb. (I was taking kids to extra math and private German before we came to prepare for what I somehow assumed was a more rigorous curriculum, and that proved unnecessary.)

If you have any more questions I can answer please write!
Nice thing about Academia is also a bus that gets the younger kids and drops them off, door to door.

All the best in your decision!
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Old 25.04.2020, 14:50
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

Many thanks @la canadiense - it helps to know both schools are rated well. At least there is a good baseline to start from!
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Old 27.04.2020, 06:44
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

in addition depends how long you plan to stay and also on your child. We came here 1 1/2 ago from California (previously lived in french part of Switzerland for many years so well aware of the local environment). coming back to Basel has been a little challenging. With our kids, 2 have successfully followed the german integration program and are attending local schools (10, 12 years) with elder being placed in higher tier of secondary. They are coping well with german, and were lucky to have excellent teachers. With our eldest (15 years when we arrive), public school were a disaster with teachers in integration not much interested in encouraging/challenging him to learn. He was following academic program as challenging as a 5th grade in the USA (in second year of secondary school). Anyways, long story short: we opted to put him in international school- in SIS in German stream still to try and see if he can get into german schooling (he was interested as well). However, we felt he was not followed up properly at SIS, there were no discussions with teachers/parents, no academic advisors etc. When it became clear that he would not follow german track, we opted for ISB. These are still early days, but ISB seems much more organized in terms of admission process, student coaching and has better facilities.
In summary, if you are not looking at settling in german part of the Switzerland , I would recommend ISB from our personal experience, obviously, a lot depends on your child.
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Old 20.05.2020, 00:44
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

I'm glad I found this thread, as we are considering a move back to Basel with children ages 12 and 14 who speak some French but no German. We're coming from the UK system and have older children who did the IB as ISB.
One consideration is that IGCSE exams do give actual qualifications after which a child can move to the IB or A-levels. The MYP program is theme-based and happy, but with no end qualifications. If your child does not suit the full IB diploma, then other options may become more tricky. For this reason, we are considering Academia. We're still undecided at this point, and with school visits on hold, it is difficult.
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Old 23.05.2020, 09:02
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

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in addition depends how long you plan to stay and also on your child. We came here 1 1/2 ago from California (previously lived in french part of Switzerland for many years so well aware of the local environment). coming back to Basel has been a little challenging. With our kids, 2 have successfully followed the german integration program and are attending local schools (10, 12 years) with elder being placed in higher tier of secondary. They are coping well with german, and were lucky to have excellent teachers. With our eldest (15 years when we arrive), public school were a disaster with teachers in integration not much interested in encouraging/challenging him to learn. He was following academic program as challenging as a 5th grade in the USA (in second year of secondary school). Anyways, long story short: we opted to put him in international school- in SIS in German stream still to try and see if he can get into german schooling (he was interested as well). However, we felt he was not followed up properly at SIS, there were no discussions with teachers/parents, no academic advisors etc. When it became clear that he would not follow german track, we opted for ISB. These are still early days, but ISB seems much more organized in terms of admission process, student coaching and has better facilities.
In summary, if you are not looking at settling in german part of the Switzerland , I would recommend ISB from our personal experience, obviously, a lot depends on your child.
All good points- many thanks
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Old 23.05.2020, 09:04
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Re: Choosing an international school in Basel: ISB, SIS, Academia?

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I'm glad I found this thread, as we are considering a move back to Basel with children ages 12 and 14 who speak some French but no German. We're coming from the UK system and have older children who did the IB as ISB.
One consideration is that IGCSE exams do give actual qualifications after which a child can move to the IB or A-levels. The MYP program is theme-based and happy, but with no end qualifications. If your child does not suit the full IB diploma, then other options may become more tricky. For this reason, we are considering Academia. We're still undecided at this point, and with school visits on hold, it is difficult.
Good luck with your move! We are in the same boat regarding school visits and leaning towards ISB mainly due to IB familiarity- the kids have been in international schools (PYP/ MYP) over the past seven years
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