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Old 27.03.2010, 12:43
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Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Hello there,

I would really be interested in hearing from Swiss people about the primary school system with regards to teachers' attitude towards the individual child. Please understand that I am not making any kind of moral point or saying which is better. I am just trying to figure out if my children will do well to remain within the system.

As far as I understand, kindergarten is all about socializing the children and making sure they can function in a group. Most activities are centered around learning how to take direction as opposed to encouraging exploration or learning. The burden is on the children to behave, as opposed to the more Anglo Saxon approach, which believes children are naturally boisterous and it is the teacher's job to keep them under control.

It appears that in CH, children who don't obey directions (or dont seem to enjoy the various group activities) are seen as anomalies with learning difficulties. Rather than drawing them in with a mixture of encouragement and punishment, the school tries to fix them with various therapies.

Again, this is not a value judgment --I am just seeking to understand. Is it then fair to say that children who dont naturally follow rules -- but rather, like to test them -- will never do well in the Swiss system? I have a (very boisterous, rule breaking, clown-like) child who did just fine at our local British school (and at home) but has had a really difficult time within the system here. We are very keen to keep him in the Swiss system as I think it offers a great education for the right child. Ironically, he says he really likes school now that he speaks German. He likes his teachers even though frankly, they say the most ghastly things about him to me. He truly and honestly exasperates them and its been made clear to me that they think he won't be able to cope in the regular first class.

My question is: is the Swiss system flexible enough to recognise the needs of the individual child or does the needs of the group trump all? I am reluctant to take him out because he seems to be having a good time however, I fear its just a matter of time before the immovable object (him) meets an unstoppable force (the swiss system.)

help.
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Old 27.03.2010, 13:03
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

When my son went to Kindergarten, the teacher was concerned because he was a bit sloppy in his pronunciation and he couldn't sit still. A therapy was arranged for his speech and the teacher suggested putting him on a homeopathic therapy for his energy.

The outcome:

Speech: We went about 4 times and then my son adamantly said he didn't like it and felt it was a waste of time. I agreed with him.

6 years later: He's still slightly sloppy with some of his words but nothing to be concerned about.

Energy level: I ignored the teacher's advice because my son didn't have concentration problems and was otherwise doing well.

6 years later: My son continued to suddenly stand up at his school desk to do his work. Because he wasn't disruptive and still concentrating, the subsequent teachers allowed him to do this. His 6th grade teacher told him he needs to get rid of this "standing" complex completely before reaching secondary school, which he now has.

Hope this helps.
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Old 27.03.2010, 17:18
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Teacher speaking: There is no such thing as a difference between an anglo-american pedagogy vs continental european. Montessori was Italian, Vygotsky was Russian, Steiner was Austrian, Dolto and Freinet were French. The opposition group vs individual can not be understood as a black and white situation: the only way of having children follow their own path of learning as individual is to settle the relationship between the group and the individual so that that latter sees himself as part of a collective identity in order to define himself as an individual. One is one because there are others, like a country is a country because there are others around it defining limits (purely pedagogical metaphore about limits, please disregard other aspect of the metaphore not applying to humans, thanks).

That means in real life, that the training in lower age aims at defining the limits between oneself and the others so that the individual can emerge as such and still function as a social being. One needs both at the same time, so teachers will not oppose group and individuality.

The difference from school to school is the method used to achieve that. That is what pedagogy is about.

From grade 6 upwards, it is the teacher's duty to make sure that the teenager does not christalize behaviour patters that will become an obstacle to secondary studies. That means that teachers have to show students that there are different behaviour expectations in different situations in life. For example, in the case of your standing son: he will not be allowed to write high school exams standing. The goal is to let him sit an exam, even if he still works standing at home if it helps him. Keeping in mind that he is expected to sit before the day of the exam in school and after the exam in working life. Usually, each child has many of those little habits, and every body keep some of them as adult. The question is for the teacher to create a learning environment where social behaviour is part of the learning situation. Some little "childish" habits are totally cute even as an adult (a 17 y.o. student of mine writes essays in class facing the wall, an other one draws when reflecting...).
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Old 28.03.2010, 13:14
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Yes, I agree that a child cannot learn if he/she cannot control his or her body and/impulses. I guess I am talking about degrees.

I believe that Swiss school requires a degree of self-control for young children that perhaps is more difficult for kids who are not raised in a Swiss family. Again, this is not a judgement but I think AngloSaxons value independence of thought over harmonious, concensus building. While I like my children to share and "play nice" I also tell them all the time to think for themselves and dont believe everything you hear or follow the crowd.

It is this conflict that I think may make it difficult for children to conform to the needs of the teacher and indeed, the system.

Am I way off?
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Old 28.03.2010, 13:37
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Our children went to school here, then in the UK and then here again. In spite of all the difficulties it caused, I think they had the best of both worlds. They learned to think for themselves more in UK and learned to toe the line more here.

As adults, they can do both.
However, how they got on in school depended in both places on the teachers they had.

One UK teacher 'had problems' with the 'lively' nature of child X in UK and one Swiss teacher had similar problems with same child here. Most others said that the youngster made life and the lessons interesting and they missed her a lot when she left. Child Y got on pretty well with all her teachers and fitted in with the 'toe the line' theory better.

Had child X had child Y's teachers, I think we would have been in for trouble BIG-TIME. We just struck lucky.
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Old 28.03.2010, 13:41
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

So given your experience, would you agree that children require a greater amount of self-control here in CH, or is it really just down to different teachers?
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Old 28.03.2010, 13:57
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

If the question is aimed at me - well my 'kids' are adults so I cannot talk about 'now', though it will probably depend on the character of the teacher to a certain extent no matter what the 'rules' say.
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Old 28.03.2010, 14:20
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

All my children have been educated in the Swiss school system and all have caused us a hard time with their teachers despite being well-behaved and reasonably good at their school work (or better).

Nevertheless, the two older ones have done very well indeed at university in England, and I think that overall it is worth trying to survive the Swiss school system if you can take the endless implied criticism of your parenting skills.
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Old 28.03.2010, 15:49
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Looking back, I was also perhaps fortunate in that I had the time and the opportunity to 'help out' when parents were asked to assist at events in Kindergarten. Having met me, those in authority were less surprised at the character of my children.

I don't think I was ever 'on the defense' with the teachers either. I simply pointed out at various times to various teachers that -
A. I had never wanted children who were 'Waschlappen' (dishcloths!)
B. if one changes the rules with one child in the group, it is no good telling me or my child that one is consequent in one's treatment of the children. My child will know chapter and verse and try it out too!
C. I would be prepared, as requested, to ask my child to wait quietly while another child took five minutes to answer the question 'does this note sound higher or lower than this one' but it would be a dead waste of time - and I wouldn't have waited either!

I don't think I was exactly popular as a Mum but I'm sure that the powers occasionally had a bit of food for thought.
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Old 28.03.2010, 16:04
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

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Teacher speaking: There is no such thing as a difference between an anglo-american pedagogy vs continental european.
I think what the OP had in mind was the difference between a system prioritizing discipline over different ways to learn with a bit of noise and a system supporting independence and critical thinking as opposed to mere obedience. I understand the reasons why OP used the geographical referrence, I taught back home as well for many years and eventhough it is not an anglo-pedagogy, we also prefer the children to work in their own pace on their independence, social skills and academic results and not only on discipline, formal complience and good grades.

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...Am I way off?
Nope, good perception skills.

I absolutely agree with you. There are very different teaching styles here as well, though, there are very good teachers, too. Over all, I think the focus is (also) on the rule following. I think the whole shebang on discipline is not because one needs to sheepishly follow rules to the letter but the real reason is to provide easy teaching environment for teachers who are not so used to teaching kids with different levels of self control, different levels of skills and talents, academic performance, etc.

However, knowing what you have mentioned, should not make you afraid. If you raise your kids free, smart, assertive and independent at home, they can easily adapt at school if you facilitate the process. And you have that power.

I believe, you can teach your kids = at home, I value your individual input, creativity, etc..And I understand your wild nature. But at school, there are rules in terms of behaviour that need to be respected, otherwise the teacher has a hard time, since there are many kids in the class.

Most kids will understand this very well, and it will serve them well to learn how to put their behavior under control (despite their untaimed spirit). I would not put my kid into an international system just because some teachers could potentially cause troubles in the public school, btw, international system has some bad teachers, too. You do, as a parent, feel in control more in the int. environment, since it is cash oriented and you pay, but in reality you do not have so much control since the school does not need your kid to attend in order for the school to survive.

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...I think that overall it is worth trying to survive the Swiss school system if you can take the endless implied criticism of your parenting skills.
So true. It is sad to say "survive" the system since I am a teacher here and really want my students to see education as a two way process..The advice on parenting seems to be the favorite national pastime, it is absolutely everywhere, I got lovely unsolicited advice even sitting in a park rocking my kid gently in a stroller . I learned how to deal with implied criticism of parenting skill. Those who dish it, have hard time taking implied criticism of whatever skills they possess, haha. So, a subtle very incospicuous poke goes a long way.

Back to school. It is healthy, I think, to make your kid belive, that his-her individual input is valued in the CH system as well, one only has to accept the mode of conveying it. Nobody will care of the child's input if the behaviour is seen as improper, unruly, disruptive, etc. That is not so hard to teach a kid, though, and that should not be a life challenging task for the kid either, since it will prep him/her for what comes later and the kid might excell later thanks to the self control he/she learns. Kids will have a hard time, though, if they know that deep down you disrespect the system, it will make them not co-operate with the teacher and they might end up with more troubles, than if you adjusted your attitude, first (I am not saying it is wrong and I agree with you). I just think that the case of kids being brainwashed into sheeplike characters only really happens when parents hand their responsibility completely over to school and do not influence at all.

God luck, OP, I am not there yet, our kiddo is too young, but I have fretted over the same thing as well. I believe, if a kid can overcome a situation we are discussing, it will at the end not break the kid (having sufficient support at home) but make him/her stronger and more successful in life, more flexible and aware of the differences of authority/independence/co-operation, etc.
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Old 28.03.2010, 16:35
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

I am interested in reading the answers here too. My daughter is in kindie 2 and is a lively girl with a confident personality. So far we haven't had any negative feedback but then we aren't at the formal schooling bit yet. We have had comments like
" she knows her own mind well"
" She comes into kindie knowing exactly what she wants to do and will express her wishes"
" she often suggests things for the whole class to do and the others want to join her"
I take them as compliments but trying to be objective can see that this may not "fit" a formal classroom and a strict regimented teacher.
I look forward to reading more replies on this thread.

Caz
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Old 28.03.2010, 16:38
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

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I am interested in reading the answers here too. My daughter is in kindie 2 and is a lively girl with a confident personality. So far we haven't had any negative feedback but then we aren't at the formal schooling bit yet. We have had comments like
" she knows her own mind well"
" She comes into kindie knowing exactly what she wants to do and will express her wishes"
" she often suggests things for the whole class to do and the others want to join her"
I take them as compliments but trying to be objective can see that this may not "fit" a formal classroom and a strict regimented teacher.
I look forward to reading more replies on this thread.

Caz
I am not sure if you are aware of it yet, but she will become a teacher.

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Old 28.03.2010, 16:45
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

lol it does read a bit like that doesn't it
I imagine she is either great to have in class or a royal pain in the butt depending on the teacher. She is only 5 though so her thoughts for the future and either

A princess
a mummy (yuck at that - I keep pushing the fact that i did work for 13 years pre kids and moving to Switzerland)
or she does say School teacher (mostly I think because she loves her teacher so much)

Caz with one in kindie and one starting in August
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Old 28.03.2010, 16:48
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

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I take them as compliments but trying to be objective can see that this may not "fit" a formal classroom and a strict regimented teacher. Caz
I agree, this was exactly my point too. I think MusikChick has quite a few good ideas in her Post. If I had youngsters now I would print it out so that I could check it out again from time to time.
Work in as many positives for the child as you can. Ours scored because they were physically fit and used to walking so they took school hikes very much in their stride (UGH) instead of joining the mass moaning which occasionally broke out. They didn't complain about the chilly water at the open-air pool at 9 o'clock on a misty morning in autumn. They were good at music. They were helpful when another child was in trouble. Tiny things can influence a teacher in favour of a child or, unfortunately, work against it.
None of us is as impartial as we would like to be.

Good luck to you all.
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Old 28.03.2010, 16:50
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Gee Musicdear, yet again, really well said. Your students are lucky to have you !
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Old 28.03.2010, 18:06
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

My experience does not match yours. Sorry. Is it perhaps because I am thinking of students older than you have in mind?
What you call disciplin is not related to the content of the teaching nor to the level of critical thinking as such. In High school, students are asked to learn contend AND build up a critical thinking using their knowledge on the top of it. I would think the same apply in lower classes, where discipline is just learning the correct way of communicating your creativity and individuallity. The one does not go without the other. From outside, perhaps the first part is more visible. I don't know, I am just trying to understand your perspective.
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Old 28.03.2010, 18:13
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

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In High school, students are asked to learn contend AND build up a critical thinking using their knowledge on the top of it.
We found this too. But the child has to get that far first. An intelligent child who, at kindergarten and primary school level, tends to be, shall we say, not very amenable to discipline, may have a bit of trouble getting to the school which will allow them to use their critical thinking.



I think Faltrad may have edited his post while I was writing mine. Seems we agree a lot more than it seemed. Or maybe I just didn't read his correctly.
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Old 28.03.2010, 19:03
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Yes, sorry, I was trying express myself as clearly as possible... I didn't manage that so well in one go. Edition just added explaining phrases.

We do not desagree at all. You said somewhere that it is a question of degree (focus on discipline, how much freedom to children...) I can't disagree with that.

I however do not think it is fair to the Swiss system (or the other continental ones for that matter) to say that there is more critical thinking in UK/US system. The highest level of critical thinking I know of is in France and Italy. I know, that is a shocking news. It's a question of definitions: critical thinking is notonly having an opinion of one's own, but building up an argumentation as an abstract construct that makes it possible to justify the validity of one's opinion. The criterias for argumentation structures and depth of argumentation are definitelly stricter in southern Europe than in the north. One can see that as a discipline of thinking skills, but it definitely brings thoughts further. I am now talking about high school, of course. The IB (international Baccalaureate) even took over the French philosophy's curriculum because there is nothing equivalent in UK/US.

In lower grades, the critical thinking is linked to creativity and discovery as learning tools. Please stopp me if I am wrong here. The question there is how they use this pedagogical tool even if Swiss school do not build up a whole system on it. Different learning styles is more than introduced all over the european world, and frankly, balancing listening/looking/doing was new in the 50ies, not nowadays, even the wording and the packaging is different in different school systems. The only difference I see now is, that students are not encouraged to keep their minority learning styles open, making it harder to work on their weaknesses and reinforcing good and bad habits in early age. What looks like a disciplinarian pedagogy may well be the step forward... after reflection on experiences with so called modern pedagogic ideas.

Disclaimer: I am only saying that teachers are professionals in constant training and reflection on their profession, nothing else. Parents experience that from the outside, like we all do with medicine and health, so that reflection from inside the profession is hard to understand. Nobody is right or wrong, I am just trying to say that there is a hell of lot of thinking in what can be experieced as cripting from the ouside. And there are plain stupid teachers like there are plain stupid doctors or anything else...
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Old 28.03.2010, 21:34
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Thank you all for your input. Am hoping his first-year teacher will be understanding and not interested in changing the fundamental core of who he is. I think deep down, children understand when they are not accepted and in that environment, it is very difficult to learn. The main reason why I am sending them to local school is for my children to have a sense that they belong -- that they have a place in this community. And if they feel like they are merely being tolerated at the school, then I dont really see the point. I remain, however, hopeful...
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Old 28.03.2010, 22:24
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Re: Group vs. individual in the swiss primary school system

Dear OP
We are more or less in the same space...I agree with musicchick and longbyt (so what's new!?) my greatest eye opener was visiting the class for 2 hours and participating - not even the swiss kids behave in the way they want mine to behave...so I have concluded that kids will be kids no matter which weird pedagogical profile systems try to force onto them. work on self confidence - of you and your child - that's what we lost in the last year of kinkski 2 - and evaluate how you want to react to the comments you get - i've realised that i should sometimes take their words with a pile of salt and make up my own mind!
good luck - and congrats - i think what you've summarised will empower you to make the process work!
sd
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