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Old 13.10.2021, 00:53
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Re: international or local school

Thanks for the detailed information and the warm welcome, swissglobetrotter.
Well said about integration with locals and get real immersion of the language and community. That's indeed one of the downsides of international schools.
Its interesting to learn that in Switzerland the kid move to next step from primary school at age 12 where in the UK they do at 11 (i.e. 11+). We are leaning towards the university track atm however as you said we will do a bit more research on this subject.
Thanks again and I hope to make the move soon, this complicated b permit application process is driving me crazy!

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Hi Tongc,

Welcome to Switzerland! I would recommend for starters that you start your kids out in International School, if you have a choice to. There are plenty of International Schools in Zurich to choose from (Zurich International, Inter-Community School Zurich, etc.) but I can understand from a financial perspective this could be a bit of a stretch.

As I see you only plan on staying for two years (but to be honest, that's what we all say, but then we end up still being here 10 years later, this country grows on you), it wouldn't really be worth it to send your kids to a public school to "integrate" with Swiss culture. Swiss culture takes a while to get used to and it takes a while to get to know people and get into a routine, so as you plan on being here for a short period of time, not sure if it would be worth your while to do that.

If you were planning on staying longer than two years (which you just might), then I would recommend sending your kids to a local school to learn German well and perhaps make some Swiss friends as they are quite young. I briefly attended a Swiss local school, and from what I have noticed is that the teachers and faculty tend to be quite accommodating to those who don't speak German and they come up with solutions to best accommodate you. For example in some schools, they will give you one on one german lessons, which they may call "Deutsch als Zweitsprache". I can't say that this is the same for every school in every part of Switzerland, however from what I have noticed that the major cities (Zurich, Basel, Geneva), people tend to be used to those from around the world, so this wouldn't be their first rodeo when it comes to helping those who are not Swiss or speak the language well.

Even if you do decide to send your kids to local school and you only stay for two years, your kids will learn the language pretty well. I've noticed your kids are quite young, so this would be a perfect time for them to grasp a second language. As they are so young if the local school is not working out you can always swap them out to an international school if you wish, without much impact to their learning. It's not like you have teenagers who are about to head off to university, where the change in education could have some impact on them.

Continuing on the language topic, I can say that from my experience a lot of the International Schools in Switzerland (not all) are not amazing when it comes to language studies.. from either unqualified teachers who speak butchered German/French and lack of community involvement to really get you to speak and be about the language and not be "textbook" smart in the language, it's a disappointment for the money you pay. I have had classmates who have lived nearly their whole life in Switzerland and still barely speak the language. Yes, this also lies on the individual to use the language skills they learn in school, however, the quality and the depth that you learn the language at some of these schools is just abysmal. If you want your children to learn German and French well, send them to a public school. They will have friends to speak to in German and they will have a more comprehensive grasp on the language than they will ever get from an International school.

As I went through the international schooling for most of my educational career, I am not sure what it would be like from a local school perspective if your children stay put in local school up until they are University age (which, is a LONGG way away, and likely the last thing on your mind). I wouldn't worry about it right now, as they will be academically successful in both places regardless. However if you do end up sending them to local school and in 2 years decide you would like to stay here indefinitely, I would recommend revisiting your options when your eldest child hits the age of 12/13, as usually that is when Switzerland starts putting kids on these "tracks". Depending on your child's wishes and her educational performance through primary school, she can either go on a track where students are planning to go to University, or she could go on a track where kids tend to either do internships or go to vocational schools. That is a very, very simplified explanation of the three tracks that Switzerland has, I would recommend doing your own research in your own time about what each track entails and what it means for you. For international schools it's more straightforward. Most International Schools follow the International Baccalaureate, (IB), so you will have Primary Years Programme (PYP, which your girls would be in), Middle Years Programme (MYP, which runs from 6th grade to about 10th grade, Y7 to Y11 I believe on the UK grading system), and finally the DP program which runs from grade 11 to grade 12 (Y12-Y13). I am not sure of any schools that offer IGCSE in the Zurich area but it wouldn't hurt to research that! I know that Zurich International also offers the American Diploma Program to those who want to study in the US. Overall, the International School academic program tends to be more holistic and makes gives you many choices when it comes to studying abroad (which of course is a long ways away for your girls), or just ease of learning even if you leave Switzerland for another country where you can't go to public school, as many of the International Schools use universal educational tools that are recognized all over the world. I cannot say the same for Swiss school.

Although this was a lengthy response, I hope this gave you a good insight and comparison to Local and International Schools. Please definitely tour both schools, ask plenty of questions, and of course do your own research on what you want to do as I don't know your specific situation. I think generally since your children are still very young they will be fine either way and it'll just come down to the financials, however if you really want your kids to truly integrate, send them to a local school or a Swiss private school, as in my opinion, they have a better way of immersing the kids into Swiss culture and not just keeping them in this "Expat" bubble which can be quite transitional and hard to have long lasting friends as their friends may move away after a year or two. All the best with your move and I hope you have a wonderful time in Switzerland!
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  #42  
Old 13.10.2021, 01:11
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Re: international or local school

Thanks NotAllThere. I wish I could shake off the a-level obsession
interesting that 2/3 of your kids actually enjoyed the apprenticeship track. kind of make sense i guess as people in the UK also do gap years.
"Their degrees cost about 800 francs per semester." this makes me a bit sad as the universities in England are now far from being free, although its a lot worse in the state.

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Age 4 and 6 - local school. Save your money. Plans change. You may stay 2 years and then go, you've lost nothing. If you find you want to stay longer you may regret putting them in international school.

If you decide to return to the UK for GCSE, then your older child may need to repeat a year, but will have gained from 5 years experience in an completely different environment from the UK.

At that age, you've also got the option of keeping them in the Swiss system. If you can lose the obsession that most British people have (I know we did) for our kids to go from school to university, then there are many advantages to Swiss schooling, apprenticeships not being the least of it. It's very flexible, although this is not always appreciated. It has its issues, but what system doesn't?

My kids came over age 4,6 and 10. They all went through the Swiss system. The oldest went to gymnasium, then university and is now settled with a Swiss wife and two kids. The middle one dropped out of high school, worked a year, then got an OU degree, and is now in her final year of an education degree, training to be a teacher. The youngest got to gym, dropped out to do an apprenticeship, and is now in her final year doing a degree in pharmaceutical engineering.

Their degrees cost about 800 francs per semester.

If you're concerned about their progress in any subject, it's cheaper to hire a tutor than send them to an international school. I'm not against such schools, I know kids who've been through them, and turned out fine.
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  #43  
Old 13.10.2021, 11:44
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Re: international or local school

Why would they not enjoy the apprenticeship track? They can do something they are interested in, and get a small salary which goes up every year. At the end of it ( 3-4 years, not a "gap year"!) they have a certificate in their pocket which gets them a job in any corner of the country. Youth unemployment is extremely low, and kids can often even stay on at the company they apprenticed at. After getting some experience they can go on to higher education.
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Old 13.10.2021, 12:03
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Re: international or local school

tongc- not sure where you live in the UK, but we lived in Leicestershire when our kids were young in the 70s-80s and the 11+ never applied there. Only some regions of UK still use the 11+ system.

I did my B.Ed.Hons Degree there as a mature student (youngest and myself started 'school' on same day- I was 29)- and I taught all secondary levels, 11-16, 11-18, 10-13, 14-18.

One big difference you may not fully be aware of, is that students in CH have a lot less subject options at secondary school, and even less in the 6th Form-Gymnasium, where all subjects are continued to the Matura/Bac- with some specialisation. Unlike the GCSE system in UK where the options available are almost endless, and A'Levels where normally students take 4 chosen subjects for AS, then drop to 3. (ok Scottish system is somewhere in between). Totally different. In the UK if you fail one important GCSE, like maths or English, you can retake alongside AS- in CH you have to pass all exams at the same time, the same year, and re-take the whole year, all subjects, if you are too low in even one subject - even if said subject is not relevant to your future career or study choices.

The choice of different routes at 11 is based on all key subjects- including the level of local language.
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Old 14.10.2021, 13:27
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Re: international or local school

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Also not a lot of flexibility, one has to conform and fit in. Kids are a spectrum, CH system fits the middle majority, those at further ends of of the spectrum tend to have issues.
Actually this is one big disadvantage we found with international schools.

One of my daughters needed some extra help. In the international school we were advised to get help externally. Outside school hours, more money to be spent, etc.

Then we switched to the public school and found out that the help was all part of the package. Public schools simply have the scale (a few local councils getting together) and govt funding to deal with these things.
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  #46  
Old 14.10.2021, 13:45
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Re: international or local school

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Actually this is one big disadvantage we found with international schools.

One of my daughters needed some extra help. In the international school we were advised to get help externally. Outside school hours, more money to be spent, etc.

Then we switched to the public school and found out that the help was all part of the package. Public schools simply have the scale (a few local councils getting together) and govt funding to deal with these things.
This would depend on the school, not all international schools are created equally, some have great services and others have inadequate services. This is also true of public schools - especially when moving to different countries. There are many websites out there that provide reviews of the different schools - but parents need to do their... err... homework.
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Old 14.10.2021, 14:10
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Re: international or local school

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Thanks NotAllThere. I wish I could shake off the a-level obsession
interesting that 2/3 of your kids actually enjoyed the apprenticeship track. kind of make sense i guess as people in the UK also do gap years.
"Their degrees cost about 800 francs per semester." this makes me a bit sad as the universities in England are now far from being free, although its a lot worse in the state.

A levels are hardly worth the paper they are writen on, especially after the COVID fiasco, a lot of degree courses are totaly worthless and end up unused.


Apprenticeship scheme, kids learn a trade properly, get a piece of paper that has value, can find a job almost anywhere they want, can go on and do futher studies to earn a Maitraise Federal in thier chosen field. They can do a second apprenticship either as a complement to the first one or something completely different.


The apprenticeship scheme is certainly equal to false A-level grades and worthless university paper, arguably it is even superior to the UK model.
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  #48  
Old 14.10.2021, 15:21
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Re: international or local school

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tongc- not sure where you live in the UK, but we lived in Leicestershire when our kids were young in the 70s-80s and the 11+ never applied there. Only some regions of UK still use the 11+ system.

I did my B.Ed.Hons Degree there as a mature student (youngest and myself started 'school' on same day- I was 29)- and I taught all secondary levels, 11-16, 11-18, 10-13, 14-18.

One big difference you may not fully be aware of, is that students in CH have a lot less subject options at secondary school, and even less in the 6th Form-Gymnasium, where all subjects are continued to the Matura/Bac- with some specialisation. Unlike the GCSE system in UK where the options available are almost endless, and A'Levels where normally students take 4 chosen subjects for AS, then drop to 3. (ok Scottish system is somewhere in between). Totally different. In the UK if you fail one important GCSE, like maths or English, you can retake alongside AS- in CH you have to pass all exams at the same time, the same year, and re-take the whole year, all subjects, if you are too low in even one subject - even if said subject is not relevant to your future career or study choices.

The choice of different routes at 11 is based on all key subjects- including the level of local language.

I'm not familiar with the GCSE system, but I've never heard of haveing to pass all subjects in Switzerland. May vary from canton to canton (almost certainly does), but around here, you're allowed to have (final) grades under 4 in three subjects, as long as you can make up the points (you usually have to compensate the points twice, so to compensate for a 3.5, you'd need a 5 or two 4.5s.). As far as I know, this even applies to the Matur. There are some special rules for going from Sekundarschule to Gymnasium or FMS here in BL (German and maths count double, plus twice the average of chemistry and biology plus English and French or something), but you still wouldn't have to pass every subject.
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