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Old 21.05.2012, 23:26
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Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

Hi There All,

We here, in the stix in Zurich canton, feel in a bit of a pickle. The thing is we have an almost 14 year old boy who we moved into Switzerland a year ago and settled into the local school. He is pretty happy (which is good) and seems to be communicating ok in the local language (which is better than us) but our rural idyll has been interrupted by a rude parents' evening awakening.

Now we have been told that our son is a bit unmotivated (As I was at that age) and that while his Maths/science is excellent and his English extremely good his German is unlikely to reach the required level for him to get to the gymnasium and French is not being offered to him because he does not appear that interested...

Having now found myself focusing on this question we are currently studying options. Private School - No chance, too expensive but as things stand things don't look so bright either. What I would like to know is if we park him in the local school for another couple of years (We are buying a house..) to get his German up to the level, tack on extra french lessons for him, and put him through a year of some kind of intensive crammer (ie hold him back a year before trying the exam) does that make sense. Does anyone know any experts have any experience before I start filling in forms to send him to Billy Bunter's 21st Century equivalent back in Blighty? (Which I have been informed is a relatively financially sane move)

Thanks

Good2Go.
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Old 21.05.2012, 23:43
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

Does he absolutely positively have to go to gymnasium? Why not let him find an apprenticeship he likes and then do his matura or whatever he likes after?
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Old 21.05.2012, 23:47
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

How does your son feel about the options you are suggesting? What are his thoughts about going, or not going to the gymnasium? You are talking about him having extra lessons - will he be motivated to learn, or is he more interested in other subjects? Does he have any ideas about a possible career?

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Hi There All,

We here, in the stix in Zurich canton, feel in a bit of a pickle. The thing is we have an almost 14 year old boy who we moved into Switzerland a year ago and settled into the local school. He is pretty happy (which is good) and seems to be communicating ok in the local language (which is better than us) but our rural idyll has been interrupted by a rude parents' evening awakening.

Now we have been told that our son is a bit unmotivated (As I was at that age) and that while his Maths/science is excellent and his English extremely good his German is unlikely to reach the required level for him to get to the gymnasium and French is not being offered to him because he does not appear that interested...

Having now found myself focusing on this question we are currently studying options. Private School - No chance, too expensive but as things stand things don't look so bright either. What I would like to know is if we park him in the local school for another couple of years (We are buying a house..) to get his German up to the level, tack on extra french lessons for him, and put him through a year of some kind of intensive crammer (ie hold him back a year before trying the exam) does that make sense. Does anyone know any experts have any experience before I start filling in forms to send him to Billy Bunter's 21st Century equivalent back in Blighty? (Which I have been informed is a relatively financially sane move)

Thanks

Good2Go.
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Old 21.05.2012, 23:52
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

Gymnasium is not the be-all and end-all. The teacher is probably just being rather honest. At some point your son is expected to take control of his learning and become somewhat 'motivated'...

What does your son actually want to do - no point in my mind of putting him into the highly competitive 'gymi' stream when he really has his heart set on being a mechanic...

Not sure what you mean about 'the exam' ? Each Canton is different so it's hard to get a handle on what happens with the levels...

As far as I know there is not just one major 'exam' at the end of the Gymnasium for university - it's based on successful completion of the 'Matura' to the school's standard, in various subjects...

If you are happy with the level if work he's been given in Maths, English, whatever, and he's happy with school, and he's building his German and happy to continue the way he's going - then I'd say 'Great' - because there's no point in my mind burning a kid out, trying to motivate them when the motivation really should come from within, or setting him up to fail... That's probably an opinion coloured by going to an extremely competitive high school similar to the 'Gymnasium' and I can certainly tell you about the kids who had nervous breakdowns, got glandular fever or chronic fatigue, fell pregnant, or got onto drugs, or even made it all the way and then didn't turn up to the final exam...

The only other experience I can give you is a second-hand one from an acquaintance whose child was unhappy in Switzerland. They sent her to the UK but brought her back after 6 months because the academic standard was lower in most subjects and she was fairly bored. She ended up finishing school at 16 to start a swiss apprenticeship - did a year in 'Administration' then a year in 'Hospitality' and is now well on her way to a rewarding career (and shining)...

Point is, there may be a lot more options in Switzerland in the long-run, even if he doesn't make the (Very) narrow path to university...

Youth unemployment rate as a percentage of youth labour force - Switzerland 7%, UK 19% - that's 2010 figures. Source here:
http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/employm...0752342-table2

Personally, I'd focus on the German. Not sure about adding the French if he's not that 'motivated'.

Save the money and you can always buy him a place at university...
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Old 22.05.2012, 14:41
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

Yet another important factor is where you and he are planning he will go to university, if that is the plan. If you are thinking he'll go in the UK, one option to investigate is a foundation year. You would want to call a few of the foundation year programs accepted by universities he might be interested in to see what types of Swiss secondary school qualifications they accept, and be sure he will be on track for one of those. My impression is that these programs are intended for students who have not been in a university-track gymnase.

The downside is that these programs typically cost as much or more than a year of university.
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Old 22.05.2012, 15:20
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

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Hi There All,

We here, in the stix in Zurich canton, feel in a bit of a pickle. The thing is we have an almost 14 year old boy who we moved into Switzerland a year ago and settled into the local school. He is pretty happy (which is good) and seems to be communicating ok in the local language (which is better than us) but our rural idyll has been interrupted by a rude parents' evening awakening.

Now we have been told that our son is a bit unmotivated (As I was at that age) and that while his Maths/science is excellent and his English extremely good his German is unlikely to reach the required level for him to get to the gymnasium and French is not being offered to him because he does not appear that interested...

Having now found myself focusing on this question we are currently studying options. Private School - No chance, too expensive but as things stand things don't look so bright either. What I would like to know is if we park him in the local school for another couple of years (We are buying a house..) to get his German up to the level, tack on extra french lessons for him, and put him through a year of some kind of intensive crammer (ie hold him back a year before trying the exam) does that make sense. Does anyone know any experts have any experience before I start filling in forms to send him to Billy Bunter's 21st Century equivalent back in Blighty? (Which I have been informed is a relatively financially sane move)

Thanks

Good2Go.
Maybe he is being an unmotivated teenager and simply needs a kick up the backside like most 14 year old kids.
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Old 22.05.2012, 17:48
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

The process of looking for an apprenticeship or trying to define what kind of job he would like can add a boost to the motivation. Has your son done any Schnupperlehre? He may find that the professions he is interested in require good grades or further education. It may help.
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Old 22.05.2012, 18:03
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

We have been sort of in the same situation with our son. When we got here he got into the 8th class A (even though he did not know German at that time) and now he is almost done with the 9th class A. We were told that he is the gym level but he would not make it because of his German level. He was told two things: try to find a lehrstelle and if it does not work out, go to the 10th class. We live in Fehraltorf and we found a 10th class option for him very close in Uster in a business science class. He was told that his German will improve, he will have an English certificate (some classes are in English), typing certificate and other things. We will pay 2500 chf and the Gemeinde will pay the rest (quite a lot as we were told that we pay like 25%).
BUT...
We came from a country with a pretty old school system (Romania) where you are sort of forced into doing pretty much everything. The Swiss system looked too easy for our kids and we noticed that here you are not forced but helped, encouraged (the school in Fehraltorf is a great school) so our kids took it easy so they needed a push. When the swiss kids were complaining my son was happy and he was telling them that some things are piece of cake compared to what he needed to do.
BUT
He also came late in the game. It was a different system and we just do not talk about lehrstelle when you are 13 or 14 in Romania. So we did not know a lot of things and we needed to catch up. For example we found out too late that for some lehrstelle he needs a Multicheck...he did it anyway and he passed.
Hope this helps
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Old 23.05.2012, 07:27
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

The first thing everybody (including Swiss) has to do: get yourself some information about the system. There are oveviews about everything either on the homepages of the cantons or on www.ch.ch
Before you even look for a Schnupperstelle go to a "Berufsberatung", talk to them and get as much information about the hundreds of different possibilities. Choose the ones the child shows is interested in. After this is done you look for as much "Schnupperlehren" you can get.
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Old 23.05.2012, 07:58
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

Maybe a good time to take a good hard look at your priorities, building a house or paying for private education if that is so important for you. What does your son say? What are his interests?
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Old 25.05.2012, 20:49
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

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How does your son feel about the options you are suggesting? What are his thoughts about going, or not going to the gymnasium? You are talking about him having extra lessons - will he be motivated to learn, or is he more interested in other subjects? Does he have any ideas about a possible career?
Thanks very much for asking. His Mum thinks that he should definitely go to University. I think he should have the option to study for Gymnasium but Vania (The Russian 'Huckelberry Finn' in question) goes full-on ballistic at the thought of not going to University.

He wants to be an engineer is extremely bright and analytical. My view is that its a wee bit ealry to be foisting these decisions on chldren but the fact he is new here makes it more understandable.
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Old 25.05.2012, 20:50
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

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Does he absolutely positively have to go to gymnasium? Why not let him find an apprenticeship he likes and then do his matura or whatever he likes after?
Thanks very much - Good Question - I don't really think so but everyone else does, especially him.
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Old 26.05.2012, 01:09
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

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Thanks very much - Good Question - I don't really think so but everyone else does, especially him.
Well, if he is set on going to gynasium, then that should be enough for him to be motivated - he has to work hard to get there.
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Old 26.05.2012, 09:04
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

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Well, if he is set on going to gynasium, then that should be enough for him to be motivated - he has to work hard to get there.
He will also have to work hard when he gets there as I have seen a few cases of children making it and then getting kicked out in the first year because they didn't sustain the required level. If the child is not a natural at that level then they will need a parent relatively fluent in the language to help with the schooling.
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Old 26.05.2012, 10:28
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

If your son wants to be an engineer, then an apprenticeship in one of the tougher technical professions + a Berufsmatura and then FH may be a much more motivating way to go than the normal matura way (if you are here for a long time and plan on using the Swiss higher education system). Have him try to Schnupper as a Konstrukteur, for example, especially if you could get into a company that designs/builds cool stuff. Or maybe as Elektroniker? Berufsberatung consultations would help narrow down the field.

In the end, without sustained high level of motivation, gymnasium is a disaster even for the Swiss kids.
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Old 26.05.2012, 11:55
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

I totally agree with amch. The challenge is to actually get a decent apprenticeship with a relevant firm as they are much sought after. However you need to discuss this thoroughly with your son.
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Old 26.05.2012, 13:25
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

I second the opinion that a good apprenticeship is a much better option than a bad Gymnasium. Being motivated in whatever one is doing is the key to being successful and happy. As others have mentioned, this can lead to a Fachhochschule; furthermore I think that there is a theoretical possibility to attend one of the ETHs too (by passing a federal Matura), although I can imagine that it would be hard to get to the end of such a study, if one lacked the exercise offered by a Gymnasium in academic-style learning.

Having said that, I was wondering how bilingual Gymnasiums would fit into the picture. I wonder if a very good English could make up for a bad German in this kind of school? Maybe something to investigate about?
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Old 26.05.2012, 13:40
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

Even though it can be expensive, you may want to look into an international school. Especially if is an IB school. The IB diploma is recognized in most countries for entry to University. You might have to suck financial wind for a few years, but he would be taught in English and then have the option to continue to learn German as well. Many of the big International Schools like Zurich International may have was to finance his education. Thee are also options to get private loans. It really does depend on what he wants to do.
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Old 26.05.2012, 13:49
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

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As others have mentioned, this can lead to a Fachhochschule; furthermore I think that there is a theoretical possibility to attend one of the ETHs too (by passing a federal Matura), although I can imagine that it would be hard to get to the end of such a study, if one lacked the exercise offered by a Gymnasium in academic-style learning.
The possibility to attend ETH after studying engineering FH is certainly not theoretical. The FH issues a Bachelor of Science in engineering, which allows you to apply for a master's degree at ETH. If you did well at FH you certainly will be taken by ETH, altough you most likely will have to do an extra year. This however does only make sense, if your goal is set on research, or very high end engeneering, as the FH degree is often considered supperior to the ETH one (you have already some amount of practical experience) by the Industry.
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Old 26.05.2012, 14:42
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Re: Help.. Swiss education and English teenagers!

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The possibility to attend ETH after studying engineering FH is certainly not theoretical. The FH issues a Bachelor of Science in engineering, which allows you to apply for a master's degree at ETH. If you did well at FH you certainly will be taken by ETH, altough you most likely will have to do an extra year. This however does only make sense, if your goal is set on research, or very high end engeneering, as the FH degree is often considered supperior to the ETH one (you have already some amount of practical experience) by the Industry.
I didn't think of this possibility. This would definitely be the easier/better option. I was still thinking in terms of the older Diplomstudium, which would translate in doing also one's bachelor's at ETH: I had a classmate who did an apprenticeship, then passed a federal Matura, and joined ETH in the first year. Unfortunately he did not make it through the first year. I don't know if this route is still allowed (hence the word "theoretical"). The comment this guy made to me (at the time) was that FH engineers knew how to do things in practice, but sometimes lacked a proper theoretical understanding, whereas the picture for ETH engineers was reversed. I don't know if still holds... or if it's some kind of stereotype.

Anyway, I guess that the message that the OP can take away is that for a subject like engineering, an apprenticeship can be a very good option, especially if his son is someone who likes to do things in practice, rather than focus on the theory.
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