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Old 23.06.2012, 21:17
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Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Hi everyone,

Our little one is 4 1/2. By the end of this year we will be living in Geneva.

I would love your input on:

1) Does it sound like international school is right for us? (Our school criteria below)

2) Positives about International school?

3) Negatives? (besides expensive tuition..which for sure is a bit daunting!)


What we are looking for in a school:

* Solid foundation in core subjects: science, math etc. Both of parents very strong in science so this is important to us

* an array of choices for extracurricular activities especially in the arts: music, film, etc. (also important to us. I write music on the side and my husband writes books on the side)

* International emphasis. We both love traveling and living around the world. We lived in Japan for a few years. I speak Japanese, our child understands Japanese, and my husband has functional French.

* A school that could let her continue her Japanese language proficiency would be great although not a necessity as we could get a tutor.

* Would be happy if education was in French or English

* Neither one of us are interested in sending her to an "elitist" school but rather a school that fits the criteria about.

* Most importantly is the style of learning. When looking around briefly, so far, the international school in Geneva articulated perfectly the style I'm looking for:

"The programme is built on the promotion of intercultural awareness, communication and holistic learning through an integrated approach to teaching and learning provided by learning contexts, known as “Areas of Interaction”. We aim to teach the child to become an independent life-long learner through the “approaches to learning” (learning how to learn) that provide students with transferable skills."


Any feedback would be wonderful! Thank you everyone!
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Old 23.06.2012, 21:42
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Actually, it looks to me like you've made your decision! Maybe you're looking for validation now. But nobody knows your needs as well as you do.

One important criterion to consider is, how long do you plan to be in Switzerland? If you think you're likely to relocate within the next few years, local schooling may not be best for your daughter. In general, the quality of Swiss (local) education is exceptionally high, and most schools give children the opportunities you seek. As I was told recently by an American-trained teacher in Switzerland, Swiss teachers are highly-qualified and highly paid; they enjoy their jobs and are motivated to teach. Quite a difference from many other countries.

In the end, it's down to you, but for me, intending to stay here indefinitely, integration and high-quality educational options for my child steer me to the local schooling route.
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Old 23.06.2012, 21:49
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Hi,

Thank you for your input.

I actually may start one last thread about the state schools.

I have heard so many wonderful things about them but then I've heard a bit of negative too (although not in their quality of education, but just some say it's a bit assembly-line in nature).

So I would love to here your feedback on this.

I'll go start a thread concerning that, and please let me know your thoughts
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Old 23.06.2012, 22:50
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

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"The programme is built on the promotion of intercultural awareness, communication and holistic learning through an integrated approach to teaching and learning provided by learning contexts, known as “Areas of Interaction”. We aim to teach the child to become an independent life-long learner through the “approaches to learning” (learning how to learn) that provide students with transferable skills."
Do you really understand what that actually means? wow, I admire you.
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Old 23.06.2012, 23:24
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Well, if you would like your child to be educated with learning skills, i have found that most schools here in Canton Zurich teach this skill as well. Children are also taught how to manage their tasks given to them.
It all depends on the time frame that you will be residing in Switzerland. If it is long term i would concentrate on intergating your child, and that means most importantly her/his language skills. Its all fine and well to keep her Japanese fluent, but you want her to be able to socialise aswell.
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Old 24.06.2012, 00:49
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

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"The programme is built on the promotion of intercultural awareness, communication and holistic learning through an integrated approach to teaching and learning provided by learning contexts, known as “Areas of Interaction”. We aim to teach the child to become an independent life-long learner through the “approaches to learning” (learning how to learn) that provide students with transferable skills."
Take care. Private schools are a business. What you're reading is marketing. Anyone can claim that stuff. Ask them what it means and HOW they do it: i.e. exactly what are these "areas of interaction"? how do these integrate the teaching? how do they integrate the learning? how does this integration promote intercultural awareness. If they can give a succinct and convincing answer, go for it. If they mumble more jargon and evade the specifics, throw their brochure in the trash.

Remember that your child is 4.5 yrs old and for the duration of his/her primary education, she/he needs to learn social skills like: how to share, how to collaborate, how to concentrate, how to deal with frustration and conflict, and how to treat others with respect, plus basic "technical skills" like adding up, taking away, reading, writing. When you're sure you understand what they are, think about at what point he/she will benefit from these holistic skills provided by those areas of interaction?

Good luck

Steve
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Old 24.06.2012, 01:04
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

My guess is that the jargon above is known under usual words elsewhere and that they probably are doing a good job, like any other place that puts some thinking into the teaching.
I am quite optimistic about this, private or public, remember that the teachers all get their training the same places...
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Old 24.06.2012, 02:40
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Hi guys,

Thank you for all your great input.

It is a valid point - these private schools are businesses and I totally agree that what I highlighted is full of colorful jargon. And it may be nothing more than that.

So, it is on my to do list to ask exactly how they implement this.


Faltrad:

What i mean by 'holistic' is that I want the teachers to give the students the tools to be able to ask their own questions, come to their own conclusions, manipulate information and creatively problem solve.

It is not enough to give kids children fact sheets and information to memorize with minimal manipulation.

That was the approach of a public school I went to in high school in the U.S.

And was the approach of the middle school I taught at in Japan (and in many of them). The teacher would talk at the students would listen. Zero dialogue.

For example. Typical lecture based teaching example:

"This is ice. It's cold. The water has frozen"

A holistic more holistic approach would be:

"What is this? How does it feel? (the children touch it). What was this before? How did it get like this? Why do you think this happens".

Obviously, complexity of the topic and questions increasing as the children get older.


Whether the international school accomplishes this is to be scene.
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Old 24.06.2012, 02:42
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Pather,


I think we will be there for a while. 4 or 5 years +.

And I totally agree. Japanese is all fine and well, but my biggest priority is getting her to socialize in whatever her peers are socializing in, be it in French, English etc.

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Old 24.06.2012, 08:51
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

OK, I don't have personal experience with the international schools - but my husband and his brothers went to one in Germany, and my nieces and nephew go to one there now. Also, my former neighbor sent her son to one while they were in the Munich area (paid for by the company)

Here is my take on them. They provide a really nice education, offer full day schools and also seem to have a bunch of extracurricular activities for kids. But they are (as you mentioned) really really expensive. They are probably the more comfortable choice for those of us who grew up in the US because they seem to be pretty similar to schools there.

That being said, I find the Swiss schools to be quite good. Although I would prefer if the kids went for a "full" day and not home for lunch...but that is a different issue. Your kids end up being friends with the kids in the neighborhood and learn the local language. I am not sure if going to an international school taught primarily in English will give a child adequate local language skills if the local language is not spoken at home. The child will learn enough to communicate, I am sure, but I am not sure they will learn it at a native language level. (which may or may not be important to you)

If you think you might be here for the long haul, 30K a year is a lot of money to spend - for a fraction of that money you would be able to round out your child's local school education by involving them in other activities outside of school that you want to focus on. (art, music, etc.) Which are offered here, as well. My daughters will be starting piano and recorder lessons this coming school year that is run through the school, and we pay a bit extra to participate.

One question I have, are you both going to be working?

In my opinion, your child is at the perfect age to go to the local schools. It really depends on what you want. From what you write, it does sound like you have made up your mind that the international school fits your needs the best. But I also wonder if you have picked your needs to fit the international school because you perceive it to be a better choice.

One aspect I want to bring up, the international schools are really here to provide education to those kids of expats who will be here for a few years and then return to their home country. At least this is my experience. They aren't private schools that cater to the local population as another option to the local schools. This might not be a big deal, but there tends to be a lot of turnover of kids at the international school and your child's friends might be leaving every 2 years.

In the end it is a personal decision. Do you want to learn and live the Swiss culture while you are here or do you want to be a fixture mostly in the expat scene?
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Old 24.06.2012, 10:17
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

I have heard that the International School in Geneva has a long waiting list, but I don't have kids there, just what I have heard. I do know it has campuses around the Geneva area, so depends on which part of the city you will be living, and transport time and costs etc. The traffic is very busy at rush hours, especially crossing the Rhone bridge, in fact busy most of the day!
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Old 24.06.2012, 10:38
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

You indicate that you are coming to Geneva "at the end of the year."

Does that mean you are searching for a school place for your child as of the beginning of next school year in September, or as of January 2013? Without a "relationship" between you or your husband's employer and the international school you would like your child to attend, it could be too late at this point to get an acceptance for next year. The waiting lists are exceedingly long, especially for reception-age classes.

I am hoping that you have already made application to the international schools in the area in which you are interested; if not then the discussion of "international vs. local" might be a moot one, at least for the upcoming school year.

As for evaluating the teaching, if you or your husband will be employed by a company that will be paying the tuition, your/his coworkers who have children in the school would hopefully be able to give you extensive and candid thoughts on the experience.

Best of luck with your decision and with your move.
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Old 24.06.2012, 11:12
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

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My guess is that the jargon above is known under usual words elsewhere and that they probably are doing a good job, like any other place that puts some thinking into the teaching.
I am quite optimistic about this, private or public, remember that the teachers all get their training the same places...

As a teacher, I agree with you. We all do our training at universities or teachers colleges, probably studying the same sort of theory.

However, a teacher's personal philosophy and interests probably help determine where we go to teach. We have preferences for certain curricula, as do informed parents. For example, there are subtle differences between what is taught, and frequently how it is taught, depending on whether one is at a "English," a "USA style" ( their being no national USA curriculum that I am aware of) an IPC, PYP/MYP/IB school, etc, amongst the private ones available here.

There are also differences, that includes the provision of hours and parent involvement at the various private and the public schools.

As well, we have schools such as the Montesorri and the Steiner schools, providing more choices.

ONe comment that seems to come up a lot on EF discussions, is the idea that one either goes to a local school and becomes "integrated with the locals) or goes to an International school and remains in the "expat bubble."

Now, obviously we all see plenty of examples of those who have gone through the local system ( locals anyway - can we have some more examples of expats who have stayed with the local system?) but can anyone give some examples of those who have gone longterm, graduating from an International school in Switzerland. This might help give a more balanced, or definite, view.

I don't know enough to be able to generalise, but the three I am aware of all went on to university - two in the UK, one in the USA. All are fluent in German, speak reasonable French and are now back in Switzerland, working fulltime. One has a Swiss partner. They all seem to move smoothly between locals and expats, depending on their interests.
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Old 24.06.2012, 13:49
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

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there are subtle differences between what is taught, and frequently how it is taught, depending on whether one is at a "English," a "USA style" ( their being no national USA curriculum that I am aware of) an IPC, PYP/MYP/IB school, etc, amongst the private ones available here. (...) As well, we have schools such as the Montesorri and the Steiner schools
Hard to know how technical the OP wants the debate to be, but yeah, absolutely

The style of teaching is personal and reinforced or softened by school policy and/or cultural factors. Montesorri and Steiner definitely takes it to the extreme and end up with a very different experience for the students. However, the difference between international schools and Swiss matura schools is no way that big that the parents would notice the difference. What parents notice, if at all, is a particular teacher's habits, and there might be conflict with their own ideas. Parents and usually students call pedagogy what is actually the result of the pedagogical policies and methodologies put into practice. What we as teachers call pedagogy is the reasoning behind what the students experience and the parents hear about.

When I use lecture-style teaching in a particular lesson, it's not for the reasons mentions above... my rational is different from the one the parents guess when they hear about me holding a lecture in one particular lesson. On top of it, there is an age issue: if the OP is only thinking of students age 8-14, my rational for holding a lecture once in a while does not stand and I don't do it with students that young either.

When I use class discussion settings, some parents could come and say that their child is too shy and doesn't benefit from this method. On the short term, indeed, the student is quiet. But if you never enter the water, how do you learn to swim? The question is how you enter the water but wet you will be. The shy student will have scary moment, and my job is not to avoid all this scary moments for him/her but giving a learning environment that encourage the student to overcome them. A snap shot of my teaching at certain moments could even be used as evidence against me for harassing the child, although in a greater context, I was on the contrary working on overcoming student's difficulties. What one sees from outside is not necessarily what is actually happening. If one avoid dialogue with teachers and attack right away putting wrong conclusions into the student's head, then said student will beginning to see your teaching through that lens and your whole work as teacher is ruined and the parents feel they were right from the beginning. But no they weren't and you're the only one to know it. Kafkaian, isn't it?

Therefore I plead for a very careful interpretation of what one hears and sees from outside in education. Getting to the bottom of things can only be achieved with open and real dialogue, which means a certain level of trust.
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Old 24.06.2012, 14:13
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

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[SIZE=3]
ONe comment that seems to come up a lot on EF discussions, is the idea that one either goes to a local school and becomes "integrated with the locals) or goes to an International school and remains in the "expat bubble."

Now, obviously we all see plenty of examples of those who have gone through the local system ( locals anyway - can we have some more examples of expats who have stayed with the local system?) but can anyone give some examples of those who have gone longterm, graduating from an International school in Switzerland. This might help give a more balanced, or definite, view.
I have a number of friends whose children have gone right through international school and the most common complaint is that their ability to speak the local language is poor. I have one friend who would love to pull her daughter out and put her in local school but as the girl 13 it's totally the wrong age. The family are all bilingual (English/Spanish) but after 6 years at international school the daughter's German level is well below her local school peers.

Another friend is happy with her son's level of German but they have done huge amounts outwith school, putting him in local sports clubs and holiday activities.

The people I know with children who have graduated from international school in the last few years have all seen their children move to the UK for university and none of the children have mentioned coming back (they are all from the UK).

International schools who are using the PYP programme in primary do teach children to ask questions, investigate and discuss but how much depends on the teacher they have |(I can't comment on other curriculums). I am putting my kids in the local system and it does worry me how much 'talking at' will happen rather than allowing them to investigate but I know I can do things at home with them to equip them with these skills. This to me is a key factor - if the school does not do the things you want your kids to learn then use the weekend, holidays, after school and do the activities with them yourself. Yes it would be wonderful if schools did everything we wanted them to do but with 20+ children in a class and very different ideas on education it's impossible.
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Old 24.06.2012, 14:23
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Coming with child/children over the age of 9 - due to early selection towards academic 'versus' vocational at a couple of years later requiring an excellent level of the local language + an other national language - I'd always advise Private bi-lingual school. For children able to start in the local language from scratch, going to the local public school is by far the best option imho- unless the stay in CH is for a short period only. Even then - I'd say the public sector is best. If returning 'home', it is easy enough to put the child back a year to catch up- but with the added advantage of being bi-lingual.

As for helping with Home work, etc - this won't happen for a while yet if your little one is 4 1/2 - and with a bit of effort, your French should be up to scratch by the time is becomes relevant.
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Old 24.06.2012, 14:27
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Coming with child/children over the age of 9 - due to early selection towards academic 'versus' vocational at a couple of years later requiring an excellent level of the local language + an other national language - I'd always advise Private bi-lingual school. For children able to start in the local language from scratch, going to the local public school is by far the best option imho- unless the stay in CH is for a short period only. Even then - I'd say the public sector is best. If returning 'home', it is easy enough to put the child back a year to catch up- but with the added advantage of being bi-lingual.


As for helping with homework - by the time it becomes relevant, with a bit of effort your French should be OK in 2 or so years time.
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Old 24.06.2012, 14:34
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

You are right about different styles of teaching. But consider this: any school is a mixture of teachers of various ages and abilities, with varying degrees of competence and training. Schools can themselves be on an slow moving educational cycle, such as excellent but getting worse, or improving from a poor inspection report. Like other establishments, schools have their unique politics and personnel issues. Not every teacher gets on with their colleagues or their administrators. A class of 20+ can also be an eclectic mix, some with learning difficulties, language and behavioural issues etc. Stir all of this into a pot, add teenage hormones, stress with being in a different country and you have an interesting mixture.
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Old 24.06.2012, 15:21
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Ok, will add my 2 cents on this subject and respond to your questions.

First, I don't think it has to be local vs. international, both will work for different students and you really need to see what is best for your child and your situation (ie. staying long or short term, age, etc). Another point, which I think is often too much overlooked on this forum when speaking about schools, is that, at least in Geneva, there is a wide range of school possibilities from local public, montesorri, other types of private schooling including bilingual, public French (even international) schools just over the border, and true international or often English curriculum education. There is indeed a wide spectrum in Geneva and you might want to look beyond just the largest international school in Geneva, there are more than one and a number of outstanding bilingual schools. One you may want to check out per your criteria is Les Decouvertes, it is french/english bilingual as well www.decouverte.ch/.

There is the issue of extracurricular school activities. Please note that the swiss norm is that these take place outside of school and are organised by the parents, ie. sports, hobbies, etc. I do not know of any local swiss school that offers extracurriculars, so if this is important, you are definitely looking at a private or international school. Some Swiss local schools offer after school care, but I don't think this is what you were after.

Finally as to approach to learning as I call it. If you are used to the american style education, you might be in for a quick awakening in the swiss public schools. There is definitely a different style or approach, not saying it is bad or good, just likely very different than most anglo education systems. For this reason alone, I know many expat children that have struggled in the local schools, it nearly all has to do with how they are rewarded, and encouraged than anything to do with rote learning of letters for example. If this aspect is important, you may well need to consider an international or private school.

As for Japanese, I understand it is offered as an extra at the big international school in Geneva, but probably not much elsewhere. Although there are plenty of language schools, teachers, and tutors in Geneva that you could organise yourselves.
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Old 24.06.2012, 16:18
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Re: Tell me all about International Schooling! :) Good/ Bad and all in between

Our three children attended five international schools, over the span of 15 years. They were British, American and pure International systems. For the older two, who are highly academic, it was a dream. (Oxford and Skidmore..top grades) But, for our youngest, it was a nightmare. None of them had the sufficient resources to help him, and he is only dyslexic. Honestly, I could write a book...so, if you can predict your children may have special needs, do think about this decision.

Second, the financial impact is great. Even, if your company pays for it NOW, do understand life can change. Can you forecast the long term costs of international school through high school AND university abroad? Does it fit your budget long term? We are talking about serious money. It can definitely change holiday plans.

Depending upon the country, learning the local language might be easier or more difficult. In Madrid, access to locals was super easy, as was it in Mexico and Portugal. The Swiss (and my husband is Swiss...) are quite unique, in this area. If your chldren do not attend school with the local kids, they will probably not be invited to the neighbors houses (my experience..)

However, all things said, the philsophy of education is the biggest difference. And, depending upon the base system (ie British or American) there can be a big difference between those and local schools. Where do YOU feel most comfortable?

If you can afford the schools and the post graduate studies, then you have a choice. If not, I understand the Swiss university graduates are also very well educated.
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