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Old 24.05.2012, 14:35
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Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

Hi,

Hopefully someone can help with some questions I have regarding the education system within Switzerland.

My family is relocating from the UK to Zurich in July and I've been trying to find out whether it is worth my daughter, who is 15, to take her year 10 GCSE exams before we leave or is it completely pointless as she will not be there next year in order to complete her coursework and do the final exams in year 11. Would it count for anything at her new school in Zurich.

Does anyone know what things the gymnasium will require?

She currently attends a very good grammar school which has also opted to include the Baccalaureate but no-one within the school seems to be able to give me a straight answer as to whether any of the work she has done so far will be transferable to her new school.

Any help at all would be appreciated.
Heather
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Old 24.05.2012, 14:42
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

This is a much discussed topic on this forum, as you can imagine. If you do a search you will find how other people have handled this situation, although usually with younger children.

If your daughter isn't fluent in German it's going to be extremely difficult for her to enter a Gymnasium. While some are bilingual, they are not geared towards native English speakers.

Is an international school an option? Either way, having her GCSEs will at least mean she has some kind of qualification.
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Old 24.05.2012, 15:01
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

Hi there,

I've been trolling through the various posts about schools but none of them seemed to answer my particular questions and as you say they are mostly about much younger children.

We've looked at the international school side and financially it really isn't an option unless of course we'd be happy to live in a tent

My daughter has been learning German for the past 3 years and will at least get her full GCSE in that before we leave.

I've already been into the Gymnasium at Enge and they seem to think that she'd not have much of a problem. They've said for the 1st year they would treat her as a guest until her languages were up to standard. This is, of course, as yet to be seen.

It's been a really hard decision to make especially when she's at such an important stage in her UK education and I'd like the transition to be a smooth as possible.

Any advice though is very much appreciated.
Heather
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Old 24.05.2012, 15:10
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

Hello and welcome.

I'd say it would be worth doing Year 11 final GCSE's, but not Year 10.

Please read some of the recent threads here, as there has been much discussion about this no no point writing rems to re-explain the very wide basic differences between the 2 systems, Uk / Switzerland. Sorry if my reply comes as a shock- but you truly need to know.

Those differences are at their widest at the stage your daughter is getting to - so it is paramount that you understand those. To be in an academic 'Grammar' school type of school- you HAVE TO have an excellent level of German (French or Italian depending on the area) + a good school basic knowledge of a second national language. Even if you daughter is brilliant in say maths ans sciences, the lack of local language means she ill truly struggle at this stage- and very unlikely to get into the Bac/Matu stream. The system here post 16 is much more like the Scottish system, and students continue ALL their subjects- not just 4 for As, and then 3 for A- so a student without excellent knowledge of the local language cannot possible cope with writing formal essays, etc.

Having taught GCSE French and German (as well as As and A'level) - the gap between GCSE and a Bac/Matu stream here is VAST- and although will be very useful in helping her fit in with peers- it will not help much on the academic side, I am sorry to say.
Would your re-location package afford you to send your daughter to an international bi-lingual school? It might be the only suitable option.

Kids arriving here before the age of 9 can easily fit in the State system and get to an appropriate level of German/French/Italian by the time of selection at 11. Any later than that it is likely that a child have to go via the vocational and apprenticeship rout - which is great for some- a disaster for others. I am so sorry Heather, but it couldn't possibly be the worst time for her to make the switch. It is not like in the UK where kids are setted individually and on individual subjects - here students have to be part of a class that has to be more or less at the same level throughout. It is a completely different kettle of fish- not necessarily worse or better- there are pros and cons for all systems. But the UK system is so far out of step with all the other European systems, not just Switzerland. It is the only European country with such a narrow A'Level system (4 subjects in Year 12, then 3 in Year 13 - opposed to 9-11 subjects in Europe). It has advantages and dis- but is unique- so a late switch to any European country at that stage is very difficult- which is why most opt for a bilingual European private school for older children.

Last edited by Odile; 24.05.2012 at 15:20.
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Old 24.05.2012, 16:05
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

Thanks so much for your candid advice Odile Never been one for pussy footing around so it's good to hear.

Unlike most people we are not coming to Switzerland due to my husbands company relocating him so we do not have the luxury of a relocation package - we're having to fund everything ourselves.

My husband moved over to Zurich 2 years ago on a contract. At the time it was only going to be temporary which is why we didn't all move over then.

We're not under any illusions that this is going to be easy but anything is better than being apart.

I agree about everything you say about the differences in the Uk education and European systems which is why I've been after some clarification as too whether any of it is indeed valid for the Swiss system. At the moment she's about to take her ear 10 exams and of course the question has been asked is there any point - my answer haven't got a clue

I also have a 10 year old boy which we're putting into Swiss school too.
I know everyone must think we're mad but we really do not have a choice and fingers crossed it won't be as bad as everyone claims

Thanks again for the advice but no need to apologise I already know the timing sucks and it really is useful info for me.
Heather
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Old 24.05.2012, 16:19
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

Is leaving your daughter in the UK to finish school a conceivable, even if not optimal, option?
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Old 24.05.2012, 16:28
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

We've thought about leaving my daughter (many times)

Unfortunately we don't have any family close by and both my parents were diagnosed with cancer last year so not really an option for her to go and stay with them. She'd also have to move schools in order to live with them
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Old 24.05.2012, 16:31
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

I think you need to be really careful about this - moving her at such a critical stage of her education could be a major problem for her.

I know its probably not the answer you wanted - sorry
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Old 24.05.2012, 16:52
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

The most common conversation I have with friends here is whether or not our kids will have German at a highe enough level to first of all get into Gymnasium and then secondly to be able to stay there. And most of these friends have kids who, by the time they get to Gymi age (either year 6 or later for the short Gymnasium), will have done all their schooling in the Swiss system.

Knowing what I know now, if it were me, I wouldn't transfer my daughter from one system to another unless she was in primary school, and preferably the early years. Even better, would be kindergarten age.

And it's not just the differing systems. It's also the different ways of doing things, the cultural differences, which kid have to understand to effectively compete against the locals, for whom all of that is second nature.
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Old 24.05.2012, 17:01
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

Odile mentioned in another post about state boarding schools in the UK where all you pay for is board and lodging. Is that a possibility?
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Old 24.05.2012, 17:03
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

I think you already know this, but moving your daughter at age 15 will have an enormous impact on her education. She is almost an adult, your 10 year old would be fine but not not a 15 yr old unless you can stretch to an international school where she can continue on the track she is on. If she is aiming for university I think you would be jeopardising her chances (if she isn't interested in university then maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing). You've already been living apart form your husband for 2 years, I know it's not optimal to keep doing that but it would be a temporary arrangement, whereas interrupting your daughter's education at this point is likely to have permanent consequences.
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Old 24.05.2012, 17:09
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

These state boarding schools were originally set up for army personel serving abroad. Nowadays, this is very rare - but those schools have kept going as there is a great demand for expats. BTW you do not have to be British to attend such a school- 2 of my friends, 1 from France and one from CH, sent their kids to 'my' school when I was teaching there.

The boarding school had brilliant staff, lots of activities, sport, week-end outings, etc - and staff kept a close eye on academic achievements by liaising regularly with teaching staff and Heads of year. 'Mine' was close to East Midlands airport and/or trains to Luton.

www.sbsa.org.uk

Your son will have it a bit easier - but it won't be easy for him either. Is he academic- or will a more vocational oriented education suit him? Only a year to reach a very good level of German (and a decent French or Italian Level) - suitably advanced to cope with formal tuition in the language- will be hard. He will need help and a lot of dedicated time to achieve somewhere near. (again, I am really sorry to say - but it is best you know now).

As for the end of year 10 exams - they won't be of any particular use to come here, but I think it it worth finishing the year as per normal. Any experience of sitting exams, having to deal with nerves, and 'perform' in a more formal setting is well worth it for its own sake. Telling here 'there is no need to bother' would send all the wrong signals imho. Bonne chance.
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Old 24.05.2012, 18:19
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

Dear Heather, I do feel for you terribly. The responses are not at all what you want to hear but I can assure you that they are all extremely truthful responses from people who are here, have done it and are in a good position to know.

You say anything has to be better than your current living arrangement but it sounds as if your daughter has so far a solid academic background and it sounds as if she is aiming at university. Certainly the grammar schools I know of in the UK are highly selective so she almost certainly already did well to get in to her current school. Does she have only 3 or 2 years left at school? In any event, I guess I would look at it as being only 3 years of your life, but potentially having devastating consequences on the rest of her life.

Friends in similar situations have chosen either to return to the UK (having tried the Swiss system) or to split up with Dad just working in CH during the week. Alternatively, one family left their daughter with her best friend's family ... what a fabulous best friend to have! And the daughter of a dear friend currently teaches in a state boarding school in East Anglia and has high praise for the establishment.

Finally, even if your daughter did achieve the impossible, get into gymi and do the matura, does she consider the rest of her life will be here in CH? Does she want to attend uni in the UK? A Swiss school qualification sets you up really well for entry into the Swiss higher education system ... check it will be similarly recognised in the UK if her intention is to return back to the UK for uni.

It's hard. But I guess we are ready to do practically anything for our kids.
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Old 24.05.2012, 18:30
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

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Even if you daughter is brilliant in say maths ans sciences, the lack of local language means she ill truly struggle at this stage- and very unlikely to get into the Bac/Matu stream.
From what I've seen, there are just no foreign student coming into Bac/Matu stream at all if the knowledge of the local language is not marvelously excellent. It didn't happen in my years here. From abroad, only Germans and Austrian enter and leave Swiss school with no harm. Even between France and Geneva it's a pain. Otherwise, I wouldn't move students at that age, if possible. Most importantly: do the high school in the country where you want to get into university. Really.
I can not insist enough on the necessity to be a good language student in the other national language. Really. English is just a good thing on top of it.
Otherwise, your posts says it all. Listen to Odile, people!
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Old 24.05.2012, 18:33
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

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From what I've seen, there are just no foreign student coming into Bac/Matu stream at all if the knowledge of the local language is not marvelously excellent.
I can not insist enough on the necessity to be a good language student in the other national language. Really. English is just a good thing on top of it.
Otherwise, your posts says it all. Listen to Odile, people!
Heather - check out Faltrad's profile for his day job .. not just the lovely Odile who knows what they are talking about.
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Old 24.05.2012, 18:47
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

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And it's not just the differing systems. It's also the different ways of doing things, the cultural differences.
Good one! I've taught in three countries and studied in two others. There are not two of them where essays are constructed and reasoned arguments conducted the same way. I never got used to the Scandinavian style.
I consider that it is just too much asked of an adolescent to twinkle around with their brain like that. So even if the academic level of your child is top class of the world, it's linked to a context, not absolute, by the nature of the evaluation.
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Old 24.05.2012, 20:12
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

Thank you so much everyone for all your comments.

None of them are a great surprise

This is not a temporary move for us which I notice seems to be the case for many expats. We intend to have switzerland as our permanent home.

My daughter doesn't really want to go to University but if we stayed in the UK we would probably encourage her to follow that route.

Although my son is bright he isn't academic so we'd probably go down the vocational route with him anyway.

You've all given me a lot to think about.
Thankyou
Heather
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Old 24.05.2012, 20:33
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

One of my daughters was in exactly the same situation as you. She took her GCSE's and moved out to Geneva with us. I don't know if it still happens but as a foreigner she had to attend a college and follow a programme called CASPO. Any foreigner had to do this
This was very much based on maths and then she could continue to join the swiss system.
She had left a grammar school in the UK but the level of the study was very high.
In the end though she did return to the UK for uni - of course I do not want to stress you but do find out exactly where she will go - this was a few years ago but we found it really stressful.
Good Luck with the move!!
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Old 24.05.2012, 22:29
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

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This is not a temporary move for us which I notice seems to be the case for many expats. We intend to have switzerland as our permanent home.
Wish you all the very best of luck. Just remember though that although you may be considering this a permanent move for your family, in a very short time your daughter will be making her own choices about her future that may not be the same as your choices. Keeping her options open for her may be one of the best gifts you can give her.
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Old 24.05.2012, 22:33
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Re: Transferring from UK grammar school to Swiss gymnasium

I run Gymnase prep courses for foreign kids who are not up the snuff in the local lingo..and it is extremely difficult since they are disadvantaged. It is doable, I think the fastest would be one year "auditeur" in a local 10th grade, next year real 10th grade, both years receiving FLA or the German equivalent, get her private tutors and get into the Gymnase entrance tests training. We have had a great success rate, but we push hard, kids work extremely hard, and they have been in the country for at least a few years prior trying for Gymnase. There are some exceptions getting in after a mere 2 years in the country, but they are far apart.

What has been said here is ze trus. If one wants to succeed in the local high school, you really need the language. Get your kid stay in the UK, with or without you, I would even pull for her being with grandparents, especially if they are sick, since they can take care of eachother. Change of school in the UK is not so extreme, comparing to changing into CH one, where you have no idea what people are saying.
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