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Old 13.08.2012, 17:27
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Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

Hello everyone,

This is my first time posting and it's because I just keep running into walls...grrrr.

My husband and I are wanting to buy our dream house (Vauffelin) and there it is French speaking. Our children speak English and Swiss German at home so we thought to ask if our kids can go to the German school which is 10 minutes away (it's in the town that we live in currently which is Bilingual/borders Biel-Bienne).

We've been told that there are only special contracts for classes 7-9 but for K - 6 it is French only even though there are a fair amount of Swiss Germans living in that village as well as the next.

I know it would be easy for the kids to pick up French (ages, 5 1/2, 4 1/2 and 16 months) but what about us lol. My husband is Swiss German and I am American and we both speak French fluently (but we speak English and Swiss German at home) however we do not write French nor could we explain in French terms certain types of homework and would have to hire tutors and having 4 children and me a SAHM, this would be really out of our budget.

So now onto my question, has anyone fought the school system here in Switzerland to send their child to another school? I must mention that both school are within the same canton (BE) and are 10 minutes apart. Both towns seem unconcerned to our plight and give it a take or leave it attitude but I guess I'm stubborn and cannot give up without a fight...so here I am .

Any suggestions!?! If it comes down to it we will give up the house and stay where we are as our children's education comes 1st - but to be honest it's a hard choice as I said.... dream house....sigh .

Thanks for any help!
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Old 13.08.2012, 17:44
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

Personally I would buy the house and put the kids if French school. So I can't really help you.

If you speak French fluently it shouldn't be too much of a problem for you to read your kids homework.
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Old 13.08.2012, 17:49
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

The Commune where you live has to pay a substantial proportion of the cost of the local childrens' education - so the Commune where you want to send your children to school are unlikely to accept to pay this when you pay your taxes elsewhere.

There is a long tradition of nearly 100% of children going to local schools in CH too- unlike in the UK- and the authorities are very keen to limit the influence of the great number of Anglo-Saxon arrivals 'shopping around' for schools, and sending kids away from the commune/Gemeinde where they live. Not just for financial reason, but for cultural and social ones- as they consider that children sent further away will have difficulties socialising, making local friends, learning the local language, etc (just as they are making it almost impossible to homeschool). Things are changing, and it is a bit different in large towns like Zurich and Geneva, which has had a large anglo-saxon community for a long time- but children who grow up in Switzerland generally are educated together, irrespective of the parents social class or business/professional status, and it is seen as a good thing for all sorts of reasons, and to encourage mobility.

Last edited by Odile; 13.08.2012 at 19:47.
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Old 13.08.2012, 18:39
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

@Odile: Exactly- this is the problem we seem to be running into as it seems there are not enough Swiss German families to make a fuss about such a thing. We were hoping we could pay a "fee" or some added taxes but so far - nope....

@MiniMia: Reading is one thing - replying is another lol. Thank you for your reply - all answers will help us make the final decision
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Old 13.08.2012, 19:00
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

I'm with Minimia on this one too. If you understand and read French then you really won't have a problem and you rarely actually have to write anything.

As Odile says I think you're onto a loser trying to convince the communes as it makes their lives pretty complicated and you'll be wanting to do it for 4 children which to them probably makes it a financial nightmare.
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Old 13.08.2012, 19:42
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

The problem isn't that one could not correct the children's homework (besides that a pupil should be able to do that by himself), nor that one couldn't reply in standard parisien,

but rather that a school in the French speaking part of CH/of Canton Bern has not enough skilled teachers in French, German and Schwyzertytsch together. Maybe some user from Seeland or Jura Bernois could give some further glimpse on this issue.

I don't say it's an insurmountable problem not being really fluent in Schwyzertytsch in the non-German-speaking parts of CH,

however it would not be a good idea not knowing good Schwyzertytsch in the Canton of Bern. Actually a bad bad idea.

OK OP says that the children do grow up partially speaking dialects, but then again High Standard German would be the missing part.


My only poor advice would be that one to talk right flat out with both schools about that matter.
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Old 13.08.2012, 20:50
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

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dream house (Vauffelin) (...) German school which is 10 minutes away
Be careful about what you really set yourself up to. The local language situation is VERY tensed and will be getting even more tensed in the next two years, there are some referendums and threats of divisions around. For local people, it is an EXTREMELY important issue and the French speaking Jurassiens are up for any fight for their right to be francophone in Bern and stay francophone. Just on the language border, the issue is so delicate that there is no easy answer to your situation.
Don't underestimate the importance of language communities here. It's a huge issue. My guess is, it's bigger than you, but you might be more optimistic, it's all right. I hope you are good at climbing up the wall, you'll be doing that for a while, because in a Jura Bernois francophone's head, your family is just yet another Swiss-German that doesn't want to understand that adapting to francophone Switzerland is not optional when moving to a francophone village. You even risk to find people in front of you who will be delighted to make their point. You might hate it, even be against it, but that's the last thing they care about. They care about the francophone life of their village. They care A LOT about it.
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Old 14.08.2012, 03:20
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

The French for homework will honestly be no problem at all. My French was very basic when we moved over (school French, from nearly 20 years ago), and my son then didn't speak or read a word of it, yet I still found it perfectly simple to work out what was required and help him with his homework.

During grades 2 until the end of 5th, when we left Switzerland, he didn't once take a blank piece of paper and have to write an original sentence for homework, let alone produce an essay. It was all 'fill in the blank with the verb in the 3rd person conditional' type exercises, and helping him drill verbs and spellings. It'll be a piece of cake for you.

That said, I'd personally consider picking a different dream house, in the 'right' area...
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Old 14.08.2012, 08:05
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

I don't know how plausible this is... but how about you buy your dream house, rent it out and rent a place in the town where you want to send your kids?
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Old 14.08.2012, 13:29
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

I can tell you that I know someone who has bought land to build a house, and put their daughter into the school near to their land, but stayed renting in their temporary house until the new house is built.

The building is taking much longer than planned, and they have been sent a bill from the school (more than 10,000 chf) because they do not technically 'live' in the feeder area for the school, and it's only allowed as a temporary situation up to 12 months maximum...
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Old 14.08.2012, 13:47
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

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So now onto my question, has anyone fought the school system here in Switzerland to send their child to another school? I must mention that both school are within the same canton (BE) and are 10 minutes apart. Both towns seem unconcerned to our plight and give it a take or leave it attitude but I guess I'm stubborn and cannot give up without a fight...so here I am .

Any suggestions!?! If it comes down to it we will give up the house and stay where we are as our children's education comes 1st - but to be honest it's a hard choice as I said.... dream house....sigh .

Thanks for any help!
As your husband and therefore your children are Swiss and you are moving from one Bernese town to another one you had till the July 31th the possibility to move officially to the new town with the "Heimatschein", move back with the "Heimatausweis" and send you children to the schools of your "old" town. However there was a change in the legislation per August 1st 2012. Now, the commune, where you have deposited the "Heimatschein" has to pay not only the costs for infrastructure and textbooks and Co. but the wages of the teachers as well to the town of the "old" school. The costs for one child and year would be between CHF 9'500 and CHF 11'000.
That's the reason why the towns are not willing to agree and honestly I don't think you stand a chance unless they do have some common agreements for cases like yours. Judging by their reaction, I very much doubt, they have.
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Old 14.08.2012, 14:27
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Re: Buying a house in French speaking town but want children to go to German school

Salut Mrs Smith.

I live in one of these Berna-Jura villages.
By us the school situation is like you explain, complicated.
The village schools are French speaking.

Some of the German speaking familys here, have found a way around this.
They send their children to the "Steiner school" http://www.steinerschule.ch/grundsaetze/in Biel.
This is a half private school (it becomes subvention from the kanton Bern).
For you from Vauffelin, the Steiner school would be almost the best.
It is on the road down into town, near the Juravorstadt and its on the bus route from Vauffelin.

Have you thought about in winter, the road to Vauffelin from Biel is not always clear of snow and the valley is almost without sunshine for 2 months.

What would I do? For a start send your children to the local "Kindergarten", that way they learn a little french and make friends in the village.
Afterwards you can always send them to the Steiner School.
Hope this helps.

Salut Zämma


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