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Old 30.08.2011, 14:51
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UK / Swiss school comparison

Hello All,

I'd imagine this subject has been written about many times on this forum.
However I would be grateful if you could publish the links again for me please.
I'm considering moving back to England after a 13 year absence, as I'm wanting to educate my children in the UK. Aged 3 & 1.
Any advice would be appreciated.
thanks
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Old 30.08.2011, 14:54
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

You mean this link.
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Old 30.08.2011, 15:23
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

Very useful link if you wanted just to know about UK schools but the OP was very specific in the title, he is looking for a comparison of Swiss over UK schools
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Old 30.08.2011, 15:55
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

The main differences are at secondary level. In most UK schools (and there are still huge variations in the UK) - a class is an 'administrative' group. Said class goes to Form tutor for registration, notices, etc, then disperses to different classes according to ability for many subjects. So child can be in Set 1 for Sciences, Set 2 for French and maths, and say, Set 3 for German.
In Switzerland a class generally moves around the school as a group - so do all subjects at different ability level as a 'lump' not as individuals. This has pros and cons of course. But it certainly makes it very difficult for a child who arrives here without a good command of the local language, during or just before sec. ed. In the school where I taught in the UK, some of foreign kids who arrived could still excel in maths and sciences, It, etc- even though their command of English was poor. This is just not possible in CH - which is why if at all possible you should try and come here before the age of 10 at the latest- so a good command of the local language can be acquired before secondary school. Please note there is great variation between each K/Canton - but generally in CH children are oriented towards 'grammar' style and 'sec mod' type education at around 14- so arrival at that time can have a disastrous effect. In such a case, my advice is always to go back a year to allow for language acquisition, or an International private school.

Switzerland's system post 16 is very much like the Scottish system, or French, German, etc, eg all subjects are continued to the BAC/Matu- and it is not possible to pass unless you have a good basic knowledge of all subjects. Unlike the UK where 4 subjects are chosen for Year 12, and 3 continued for Year 13. Which allows students to succeed and go on to Uni without a basic knowledge of all basic subjects. Again pros and cons. One reason why the UK has so many excellent designers, musicians, who in CH wouldn't be allowed to continue to Uni without the bac.
But at the same time many with a very narrow basic knowledge of the world around them. Horses for courses.

Your kids are young and will fit in no problem - whichever way round you do it. Where are you headed?
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Old 31.08.2011, 10:01
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

Many thanks for your reply.

I am unsure yet, just testing the water re jobs etc. Maybe Cheshire or south east england, - not London.
One of my concerns is that they would miss out on many things that the UK has that CH does not, history, culture etc. This is of course not the overrriding reason but does have some influence on my decision. The people here seem to be very dour, ( I understand CH german) of course not all are like that. CH has lots of things going for it, outdoor lifestyle, general high standard of living which I have and still enjoy. But I keep thinking if I don't at least go back and give it a try, I'll regret it in years to come, I am 39 now.
Decisions decisions...
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Old 31.08.2011, 11:50
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

A good age to move from here back to the UK would be aged about 8-10.

I think the later start here is beneficial, having seen my daughter go through it. My son started school in the UK aged 4 and although happy enough the first year was very hard on him and his classmates; most days at pick-up time there was at least one of them sobbing with exhaustion and the strain of being group-managed for 6-7 hours non-stop.

When we moved over here, he had just turned 8 and was ahead of his classmates in maths and reading level. By 9.5, it had completely evened out with where he would have been had we stayed in the UK (I spent a lot of time comparing curriculum goals, in case we went back).

A 9-10 yr old moving from CH to UK would slot in quite easily academically into the cosy environment of a UK primary, would have had the lovely extended early childhood they do here, and would have transferred German reading skills to English and need only a little help to polish up their reading/writing. Plus they would by then be completely bilingual/ biliterate, and likely to retain at least some of the language in later life, ready for it to spring into action if needed.

Probably the trickiest short-term age to move would be 6 - that child would turn up in a class of kids who'd already had 2 years of formal schooling and could all read, to a greater or lesser degree. This isn't anything that the school couldn't manage and iron out in a couple of years, but it would make the initial period awkward.
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Old 31.08.2011, 15:15
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

I think you are asking which has a better all-round education system on the free state school system, correct? I'd also be interested in hearing some opinions.
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Old 31.08.2011, 15:36
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

We moved "home" to the UK for much the same reasons when my son was 2; we only lasted a few months before we realised we had made a huge mistake. We gave it a full year to make sure it was not reverse cluture shock then sold up & moved back here. We now have 2 kids both in the Swiss education system & we are well happy with it. It is not perfect but it works. We compensate on things like the history of our home countries by "teaching" our kids about his informally.

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Many thanks for your reply.

I am unsure yet, just testing the water re jobs etc. Maybe Cheshire or south east england, - not London.
One of my concerns is that they would miss out on many things that the UK has that CH does not, history, culture etc. This is of course not the overrriding reason but does have some influence on my decision. The people here seem to be very dour, ( I understand CH german) of course not all are like that. CH has lots of things going for it, outdoor lifestyle, general high standard of living which I have and still enjoy. But I keep thinking if I don't at least go back and give it a try, I'll regret it in years to come, I am 39 now.
Decisions decisions...
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Old 31.08.2011, 15:45
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

Horses for courses. The UK system would have suited me much much better- as the time spent on maths, chemistry and physics in the Lycée (6th Form) here was totally wasted on me. I just learnt enough to just pass the exam in those 3 subjects, and the back of a stamp would be too big for me to write anything I can remember! On the other hand I excelled at non science subjects, so would have loved to narrow down earlier as for Year 12 and 13 in UK. Would have loved the option of doing drama, design, pottery, etc. and even (dare I say it without too much derision coming my way) some of the so-called soft options like psychology or (oh dear oh dear asking for trouble here) sociology. MY OH is a scientist, and the UK Grammar school system (in the 50s and 60s) suited him perfectly, and so would have the Swiss system. The UK system offers an amazing array of options- and also a mixture of academic and vocational subjects, which is almost impossible in CH. However, the UK system 'creates' students who may be very good at the subject they have chosen, but totally clueless about anything else. I've never lived in Scotland, but from a distance it seems to me they've got a very good balance between the two.

Dr W, I think that stating that Switzerland has no culture or history is a bit harsh - really !
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Old 31.08.2011, 15:55
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

There is no such thing as the UK system. Scotland has a totally separate education system to England etc leading to different qualifications.

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Old 31.08.2011, 15:59
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

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There is no such thing as the UK system. Scotland has a totally separate education system to England etc leading to different qualifications.
Ditto Northern Ireland.
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Old 31.08.2011, 16:02
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

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Ditto Northern Ireland.
And Wales is different to a degree - Welsh is compulsory from a very young age, for starters.
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Old 31.08.2011, 16:02
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

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There is no such thing as the UK system. Scotland has a totally separate education system to England etc leading to different qualifications.
OK sorry. I meant in England where I taught for 25 years.
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Old 31.08.2011, 16:35
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

Interesting discussion. I spent my first year of high school (age 12) in the UK in a good private school, and it wasn't very challenging for me at all. At that age kids in CH have already had algebra, (more advanced) natural sciences and so on, so I struggled when I returned to Switzerland because of that, but also because of my lacking French, as the language teaching in the UK progressed much, much more slowly than in CH. My older brother, who did most of his A levels in the UK, was insufficiently prepared for his studies in computer sciences in CH, and also had a hard time in the beginning for his lack of knowledge in statistics and algebra. Again that's just my experience, I don't claim to understand the two systems perfectly, but there was too much of an emphasis on soft subjects like arts, drama, music and so on in the UK, which us kids loved, but which were, in my humble opinion, pretty useless for the majority of students later on.
Also the Unis in the UK seem very selective at admissions, but after that much, much fewer students drop out than in CH which are open to all admissions. From my personal experience degrees in economics aren't nearly as difficult at the Uni of Nottingham (again, not the best University in the UK either despite being highly ranked) as at Uni Zürich. From what I know and experienced, there is much more an emphasis on mathematics, natural sciences and other topics few kids like at first in CH than in the UK. I don't want to hijack the thread though with a meta-discussion, just my 2 Rappen.
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Old 31.08.2011, 17:51
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

OK, so, I have no figures and numbers and academic comparisons for you but here's some basic things about the (non academic) differences that I have observed.

In Switzerland (assuming you and your other half speak English at home) your kids will grow up bilingual - properly bilingual - and perhaps with even more languages - which they probably won't in the UK where languages are taught as academic subjects much later.

Kids start school at an early age in the UK, and are taught reading, writing, maths much earlier. Here they don't start that until 7 years (primary school age here), but I'm told things basically even out around 9 to 10 years of age.

Kids go to school longer hours in the UK and have lunch at school - here they get sent home for lunch and are not at school most afternoons (until quite a late age anyway). Schools in the UK pretty much all cater for the 2 working parent scenario with after school and before school care options, here they really don't at all (although this is changing slowly in some places).

Most UK schools have a uniform, here they don't.

In the UK not all schools are equal and with the publishing of league tables there is a lot of competition for "good schools" - so you may not get a place at the school closest to you, or one that you want. Here all schools are pretty much equal, there are no league tables or results published and you will definitely get a place at the school closest you whether you like it or not.

In the UK nearly every kid is driven to school by their parents. Here, everyone walks to school (or rides their bike/scooter) on their own from age (around) 5. Normally this is because school is much closer here!

One huge advantage of having your kids grow up in your home country though is that you at least have a basic understanding of what they are going through - even if you were at school a lot of years ago (like me!) you will still understand what English school is like. And how things like "assembly" and "show and tell" work, and what's expected of you as a parent. What consists a "sports kit" and what sports they might do. I really struggle here with knowing a lot of things that are totally obvious to Swiss parents e.g. the first day at school - I had no idea that there was a big ceremonial party type thing with songs and welcome gifts and other stuff for parents and kids - in the UK you would have dropped your kid at school, perhaps said hi to the teacher and then left straight away and as soon as possible!

At the end of the day I think it's probably better if your child completes their education in one country - switching is always going to have difficulties of one kind or another (big, small or unknown), and for the kids a stable life where they know where they are and will be in the future is important - in terms of happiness and friendships at least (and these are important to kids). The exception of course being if your child is deeply unhappy at school - then it is probably a good idea to move!

I know where you're coming from though. My son has loved his years at Kindergarten and his first 2 weeks of primary school. I on the other hand have found it more and more complicated and confusing and wishing that we were going through all this in the UK where I'd have a much better clue about how things work. But I have to put him first - he is happy and is doing brilliantly, and as a parent, that's what's most important to me.
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Old 01.09.2011, 15:38
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

Many thanks to you all for your detailed replies. A question to Lou - what didn't you like about returning home?
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Old 01.09.2011, 16:55
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

We realised we could give out son a much better life here in Switzerland. There is nothing wrong with the UK or Scotland specifically which is where we were living it was just not for us anymore, the lifestyle had changed a lot in the time since I left. We had lived in Switzerland for 7 years when we moved back & I guess we had become Swissyfied. We like it here much beter.

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Many thanks to you all for your detailed replies. A question to Lou - what didn't you like about returning home?
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Old 01.09.2011, 17:03
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

Rose tinted glasses and all that. Two of my French friends in the UK, with young kids at the time, missed France so much and decided to move back. Kids hated school there- just sitting at a desk, learning lots of stuff by heart, and just wanted to go back to school in the UK where they had more freedom, did more activities and 'hands on' stuff. Parents also realised that what they were yearning for didn't actually exist anymore. The whole process was painful, but they felt much happier afterwards, having got it out of their system. Fortunately both families had rented their houses instead of selling, so could move straight back in.
Nostalgia ain't what it wasany more.
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Old 01.09.2011, 19:29
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

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Rose tinted glasses and all that. Two of my French friends in the UK, with young kids at the time, missed France so much and decided to move back. Kids hated school there- just sitting at a desk, learning lots of stuff by heart, and just wanted to go back to school in the UK where they had more freedom, did more activities and 'hands on' stuff. Parents also realised that what they were yearning for didn't actually exist anymore. The whole process was painful, but they felt much happier afterwards, having got it out of their system. Fortunately both families had rented their houses instead of selling, so could move straight back in.
Nostalgia ain't what it wasany more.
French school is very competitive, especially high school/école préparatoire which is the entry ticket to good colleges.
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Old 01.09.2011, 21:41
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Re: UK / Swiss school comparison

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French school is very competitive, especially high school/école préparatoire which is the entry ticket to good colleges.
Although I can understand very well why children would hate French school, I must admit that I will not support your claim entirely. It depends your plans... grandes écoles are not always the best way and going to one can end up in an epic crash. There is no such thing as a good or a bad French university, the best and the worse are usually in the same building. That would be off topic here, but let's say that we can agree that Switzerland does not have the same problem.

I can't get a very disturbing experience in Danmark out of my head: we, German and French (exchange) students, were flying above the level of the courses. The UK ones were finding it more difficult (this is an euphemism). Is there something in the UK that academicly weaker students all go to Danmark? Just askin'. I don't want to make overhasted generalizations.
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