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  #21  
Old 05.09.2011, 23:23
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

[QUOTE=biff;1328174]THe inquiry based, investigative problem solving education that the poster said her son had received, is hardly the same as "play as you learn." ALthough I see nothing wrong with that approach either.


Perhaps it was because you had gone through a system of rote learning, that you found it difficult to swap to a system that places more personal responsibility for learning, on the individual.


As an employer, (I am not, but if I was) I would rather give a job to someone who was used to working independently, than to someone who was easily occupied with other things, just because they could, and therefore need to be supervised closely.


I can understand the idea of thinking that homeschooling is bad for social development, simply because a child is probably having less contact with peers. HOwever, from what I have observed in reality over the years, homeschoolers tend to have a very active social group, with families interacting very positively. The HS children I have met, have all been perfectly well adjusted, confident children - and generally ahead of their age group in both academic and vocational subjects.[/QUOTE]


1. I wouldnt want to get to university with knowing only that approach....might have a tough time.
and at that age; it would be play as you learn imo

2.luckily none of those effects so far.....again, uni prepares you, not highschool (unless trades people and yes yes their are exceptions)

agree to disagree

Last edited by MusicChick; 05.09.2011 at 23:50. Reason: trying to fix the quote, but somehow it's not happening..
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  #22  
Old 05.09.2011, 23:28
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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I could make some comments, which, obviously I cannot due to my position in the system, but...
See, this is interesting. My impression is that many, many teachers loathe the way the system is set up, are trying to work around it the best they can, but feel that ultimately nothing can be done to change it.

When my son went into 5th grade, he went from one teacher to different teachers for different subjects. With one exception (more below), they have all been fantastic. I've met most of them, and they are dedicated professionals with a clear vocation.

My son pretty much had a crush on his (male) French and History teacher. Most weeks, he would come home with some interesting fact about the space station, or start discussing something from the world news (which he doesn't watch here at all), or tell me the recipe for fudge. Every time, it would be (imagine a breathy starstruck sigh at this point): 'Monsieur B said...' and then some great information. Mr B is in his early 30s, very cool with eclectic interests and from what I could gather, Mr B's lessons consisted of him arriving in class bursting with fascinating information to share and discuss, doing his best to work it into the lesson planning (I think the fudge was probably to do with use of verbs in the imperative), and then having to push it all aside in order to fill in the missing word in the 3rd person conditional on badly-photocopied worksheets.

(And that's another issue - French (and German) are so darn complicated as languages that kids have to spend years learning the rules before they can begin to actually use them to form sentences. Whereas in English in the UK, my son and his classmates were writing their own spoof versions of Spike Milligan's 'Ning Nang Nong' poem in when they were 6, only 2 years into their schooling - http://www.poetryarchive.org/childre...do?poemId=7515).

And then there's my son's form teacher, who taught him for Maths and Science, and good as applauded when I told her we were moving to the US. 'Oh great, we'll be sorry to see him go but that'll be such a good move for X and his education', she told me. (And it's not like he was a trouble in class and she was glad to see the back of him; she'd mentioned just a month or two before how self-motivated he was, with very little teacher input needed.)

The only let-down among his teachers was his German one. She was a nice enough woman, but older and very old-school in the way she taught the language. I had to go into her class one day, to take my son home as he'd been hit in the head by an ice ball (see thread above about head injuries!). The kids were doing a test; they'd had some little basic dialogues to prepare and practise for homework, 'my name is, I am x years old, I like Maths' etc. The test consisted of each child standing next to the teacher's desk whilst she role played the other part of the dialogue, whilst 18 other kids all sat silently at their desks - doing absolutely nothing whatsoever, just sitting there and staring! Massively intimidating for the child being tested, and a pointless waste of an hour for the others. They could at least have been colouring in the German flag.
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Old 05.09.2011, 23:43
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

[QUOTE=Anthony1406;1328224]
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THe inquiry based, investigative problem solving education that the poster said her son had received, is hardly the same as "play as you learn." ALthough I see nothing wrong with that approach either.
.[/QUOTE]


1. I wouldnt want to get to university with knowing only that approach....might have a tough time.
and at that age; it would be play as you learn imo

2.luckily none of those effects so far.....again, uni prepares you, not highschool (unless trades people and yes yes their are exceptions)
1. Not sure what part of my post you are referring to. Can you clarify please?

2. "Those effects" refers to what?
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Old 06.09.2011, 00:22
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

[QUOTE=biff;1328244]
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1. Not sure what part of my post you are referring to. Can you clarify please?

2. "Those effects" refers to what?

1. I meant to say that I love learning by doing but the truth is that in Uni there is very little of that. so I was happy I was prepared from age 16 to sit , watch and learn as that is the only thing I did afterwards.

2. effects of being absent, constantly being watched over to see what I am doing etc etc (refers to what you were saying if you were an employer) I guess it had an adverse effect if you wish
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Old 06.09.2011, 00:37
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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See, this is interesting. My impression is that many, many teachers loathe the way the system is set up, are trying to work around it the best they can, but feel that ultimately nothing can be done to change it.
The system does not force people to teach poorly, though, none of the early streaming does, really, if it is done well. So, you have teachers who are fab, and work well and kids are streamed according to their potential (I do not actually favor this system if it is not flexible enough later on to reinsert or reevaluate or retutor), and you have those who all they do is to keep the kids calm and have a class quiet and just working like a well oiled thing, measurable in its understimulated processes and with questionable outcomes, that nobody actually questions, since that's rude.

But in my opinion, you don't have to teach from poorly made copies. You don't have to even not have books, there is so much liberty. It's up to the teacher, and if they do not do it, they probably just don't want to go over board and think a couple of simplistic things are alright for kids. It's not the system that prescribes this, though. It's lack of imagination in terms of what kids can do with certain topics, the fact when they prepared at uni they might have been asked to do just that: not going overboard. You would teach photosynthesis, I would too, you are a home schooler, I am a teacher who works on delivering things efficiently and boosting kids independence by providing explanations and in various modes. But the system totally supports me. As long as I know what I am doing. It lets me expect a lot from my students, as long as I a have framework. It's individual teachers who are left to fend for themselves, really, and who, without guidance, super specific curriculums with textbooks chosen for them, who when they do not have to go for formation continue might be at a loss (what, the curriculum said I am supposed to cover "leaves", rigth? So....we have been drawing them for a couple of weeks, what's wrong with that?!). If people are not expected to go beyond what is essential, in other spheres here too, it's automatic some teachers will be the same way, even though some will be exceptional, too, sure.

I am with you. You know I am. On the other hand I also know how critical teachers can be towards their own profession, because they have that insight. Super invested parents do, as well. Just don't travel across of the world in order to pick the best of best. (I know...jaysus, the shopping! I am so envious). You have to let him learn, on his own, too, it's not only about how the knowledge is presented anymore. It's not about not handicapping him, making things easier, but giving him enough hardship so he overcomes it. You won't get overly round education anywhere, you will have to supplement, too. No matter where. Where things focus on creativity, you will think back about CH and try to feed him facts and have him learn by route a tiny bit. Where there are classes overly focused on "everyone is entitled to be a winner" or "let's have a creative mess" so much that one cannot soak up any info in the chaos, one recalls old school call for discipline. I know, I am exaggerating. I also feel, as a parent, and a teacher, that kids should adjust a bit to what entire family needs. I am not so sure if it is healthy to base the entire logistics of family on kids school and where it is. Maybe they should know there are other important things. Like your life, etc. That you have also other program than focusing on their education. They might rebel heavy duty later.

So, take the new system your kids will be in with a grain of salt, and don't think that one crappy German teacher represents Swiss edu. I had so many poor teachers....ugh. But I do think that basing exams on languages solely, and a bit of advanced math isn't really ideal for all kids. Though, mind you, this system is for local kids, so it is expected to have humanities covered by French (they mix French and history in our place). The sole reason I decided our kiddo will be in parascolaire is for that. Immerse her as much as we can because we are not natives. Just a few hours in school and a bit of playdates will not immerse, since parascolaires are also teacher authority set up and it does force my child to perform, under stress, that makes her learn. If it is healthy, who knows. But she is making progress. It may have been that the fact you stayed home with them to make the transition easier sheltered them a bit, even though you did have to, since you were also homeschooling, and logistically, I know. I home school, according to a program back home too, it is lovely. Nice books, fun exercises, and since it is very visual, it is not so language based, she is over all stimulated in logic, dexterosity, etc. No drill, no rigid today we do this, etc etc. She picks, and she wants to learn.

The thing is, I get my kids, since day one, they have written assignments, and every class. It's really nice, I can tell they are not used to it. But being a foreign language teacher allows me to use techniques that are not done much, elicit critical thinking, make them creative, we have group work, peer tutoring, I have appointed my TAs, we compete and cooperate, etc etc. I am not only allowed, but any really good material and aids I need are at my disposition. You can order books if you want, obviously some teachers think it is better to give out copies. Easier. They do not have to change program, they just follow the last year one. They do not have to keep tracks of books, and the fact kids don't draw in the books. They make a cheap copy and that's that. There is not much system loathing, though, they might say it to you since it blames somebody else, there is not much partizan teaching, since everything is at our disposal and you certainly can do all sorts of creative stuff.

Just musing. I like your long posts, so here, gave you some overly wordy stuff.
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  #26  
Old 06.09.2011, 00:38
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Ugh. This is scaring me a bit. One of our biggest concerns about moving to CH is taking my son out of the Montessori school we LOVE and putting him in another system. We're not sure if we can afford private school with the cost of living change. :-/
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Old 06.09.2011, 01:46
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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Just musing. I like your long posts, so here, gave you some overly wordy stuff.
Thank you - love a good 'chat', me, since I can touch type. And since I'm currently not getting to talk to grown-ups much!

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But in my opinion, you don't have to teach from poorly made copies. You don't have to even not have books, there is so much liberty. It's up to the teacher, and if they do not do it, they probably just don't want to go over board and think a couple of simplistic things are alright for kids. It's not the system that prescribes this, though. It's lack of imagination in terms of what kids can do with certain topics, the fact when they prepared at uni they might have been asked to do just that: not going overboard. You would teach photosynthesis, I would too, you are a home schooler, I am a teacher who works on delivering things efficiently and boosting kids independence by providing explanations and in various modes. But the system totally supports me. As long as I know what I am doing. It lets me expect a lot from my students, as long as have framework.
I expect you're a super, creative teacher - lucky kids in your class, with you giving it so much thought.

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I am with you. You know I am. On the other hand I also know how critical teachers can be towards their own profession, because they have that insight. Super invested parents do, as well. Just don't travel across of the world in order to pick the best of best. (I know...jaysus, the shopping! I am so envious). You have to let him learn, on his own, too, it's not only about how the knowledge is presented anymore. It's not about not handicapping him, making things easier, but giving him enough hardship so he overcomes it. You won't get overly round education anywhere, you will have to supplement, too. No matter where. Where things focus on creativity, you will think back about CH and try to feed him facts and have him learn by route a tiny bit. Where there are classes overly focused on "everyone is entitled to be a winner" or "let's have a creative mess" so much that one cannot soak up any info in the chaos, one recalls old school call for discipline. I know, I am exaggerating. I also feel, as a parent, and a teacher, that kids should adjust a bit to what entire family needs. I am not so sure if it is healthy to base the entire logistics of family on kids school and where it is. Maybe they should know there are other important things. Like your life, etc. That you have also other program than focusing on their education. They might rebel heavy duty later.
Oh don't worry, although it's the main reason, it's not the only one by any means. Hubby's double-shift time zone hours are killing us as a family. He's in the office before 8am every day, then not coming home until after 8pm in the evening, Blackberry still clamped to his ear, and then often taking calls into the night (because it's daytime for the US-ers). He's never seeing the kids, barely spending any time with me, and will end up burning out.

And meanwhile I'm stuck in a life rut too. Look how many book group meetings I couldn't make, because hubby was travelling/ got stuck in meetings and couldn't get home in time. I had to drop out of my evening Tae Kwon Do club after a year or so, because I lost several babysitters (teens, who got too busy with school or just generally bored of being reliable after a few months) and it was causing me too much stress for the pleasure I got from it. And I can barely manage to do things like shopping and errands during the daytime with the lunch break, let alone think about working or studying (we have a parascolaire with places for about 30 kids, in a school that has nearly 1300 students and is adding another 950 next year).

So these are other major reasons for the move. Hubby will start early to catch up with Europe, but he likes early starts. And then he can drift off around 5-6pm like a normal person, come home, dip in the pool, we can all eat together, he can catch up with the kids' lives, help with their homework, take a child for a stroll and a chat, etc. And finally, after 11 years, I'll be able to think about what I want to do (I didn't stay at home to ease their transition when we moved here; I haven't worked at all since my son was born as hubby's frequent job moves make me having a career impractical). I haven't had a whole day for working, studying or volunteering without one or more child since February 2000! I am desperate to form some other identity than 'Mummy', both for my sake and the kids', but if I tried to do that here, the barriers of school hours/ language/ hubby's schedule would make it almost impossible - it'd be like trying to do it as a single parent, which must be unimaginably hard here.

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The thing is, I get my kids, since day one, they have written assignments, and every class. It's really nice, I can tell they are not used to it. But being a foreign language teacher allows me to use techniques that are not done much, elicit critical thinking, make them creative, we have group work, peer tutoring, I have appointed my TAs, we compete and cooperate, etc etc.
This sounds lovely for them. I know just what you mean about the written assignments. I still can't take it seriously that kids my son's age have been in formal schooling for 5 years and have NEVER had a written assignment, NEVER been given a blank sheet of paper and asked to produce something from their heads.

He was starting to do such great stuff in 3rd and 4th grade. He had to prepare these little exposés where he had to research, do a display board, give a little presentation on his findings. I remember him coming home the first time and telling me he'd chosen to do one on dinosaurs. 'That's nice, what aspect of dinosaurs particularly?' 'Just dinosaurs generally, everything about them, really.' 'I see... and how long is your talk for?' 'Oh, for a few minutes, maybe 5'.

We had a good chat about how 'dinosaurs' was quite a big topic for 5 mins. I explained brain storming and mind mapping and we did these, and we went to the library to see what reference materials we could find. In the end he did 5 mins on how fossils are made, and how what we know about dinosaurs is based on their remains.

We wrote the presentation together (his French wasn't strong enough then; it was demanding enough that he planned it out in English, and had to read it out in public in French), and practised presenting so he wasn't just droning to the sheet, would make eye contact, would indicate relevant images on his display board.

He did several more of these over the two years, finishing off with one about the Moon in 4th grade which he mostly did all by himself. He was learning so much from these projects, and was given lots of freedom to choose his own subjects to use to develop these beginning skills in research, planning and presentation. I was looking forward to the curriculum moving forward, to him being given pieces of work that would stretch over longer periods of time to start him off with time management and workload planning, to seeing how his public speaking really came on (he found it a real struggle at first, but was just getting to the stage where he could feel confident about it, could make a little joke for audience interest, etc).

And then it all stopped. And he spent the whole of the next year copying facts from the board one day, learning them for that night's homework, doing a test later in the week, then moving onto the next set of facts. Every single piece of homework he got in 5th grade - and there was a lot, sometimes up to a couple of hours a night - was memorising something, filling in blanks on a worksheet or completing a sheet of sums for maths. Dull and uninspiring, with nothing lasting longer than a few days or a week, with no sense or narrative to it (in science, they jumped one week from leaves to levers - maybe they're doing it alphabetically).

I get that there's a core body of factual knowledge that kids should learn. And I know that in the UK, for example, teachers can go a bit overboard on fluffiness about 'and now design a poster of how they would have advertised that in Medieval times if they'd had clip art available then'. But there has to be some middle ground, some way of getting across essential facts AND essential skills.

I hope the US school we end up in is at least somewhere vaguely central on those issues. At least I now know the right questions to ask and things to look for during my school tours!

Right, must get to bed. Good job that Ecole Kodokan doesn't start until 10am.
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Old 06.09.2011, 01:52
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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[...]where are all the Swiss scientists and engineers going to come from? Sure, languages are important, at least when you're a tiny country in central Europe, but seems an unbalanced way to decide on the future graduate cohort.
[...]
Many future engineers (or other specialists like teachers, architects, etc.) will do a vocational matura (apprenticeship with an additional day of schooling) which entitles you to study at an applied universities (Fachhochschule). With a Bachelor degree from an applied university you can apply to a university's Master degree program, too.

If you have a vocational matura you can do a further year of schooling to get permission to study at an university (this can be done besides working, too, but takes longer in this case.

The vocational matura track has the advantage over the matura track that the student upon finishing his study has already had several years (3-4) of work experience in his field. An architecture student for example has done an apprenticeship as technical drawer or builder, an economics student has done an apprenticeship as a merchant. Thus they have practical experience gained while working, that they would not have if they did take the matura track.

The matura track is the option of choice if you want to study pure science, medicine, history, philosophy or social science or literature (the subjects "translating" and "interpreting" are however only taught at applied universities). However with an additional year of study holders of a vocatioal matura can study at a university, too. (Many people actually chose the vocational matura track over the matura track, because it allows them to gain practical experience. Depending on canton and the apprenticeship chosen (a 3-year one, e.g. merchant) they do not even lose time in respect to the ones taking the matura track).

Further there exists the "Höhere Fachshule" (maybe: higher specialist school). It does lead to qualifications that would be issued by universities in other countries (actually most (maybe all) of the applied universities with a technical profile have been Höhere Fachschulen until recently, they have been called "Tech" in everyday language.
The requirement to study at a Höhere Fachschule is that one has a apprenticeship in a related subject to the area of study one wants to take.

To become a Krankenschwester (or Krankenpfleger) (RN nurse (?)) for example one would go to a Höhere Fachschule after having done a aprenticeship as "Fachangestellte(r) Gesundheit" (specialist for health(?))

The problem with this kind of education is, that it is often not recognised outside of Europe, as it is expected that people employed in this positions generally have a university degree.

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  #29  
Old 06.09.2011, 06:49
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

The vocational matura (Maturité professionnelle in Romandie) is certainly a relatively new option that does offer the possibility to go to an Haute Ecole and obtain a Bachelors.
And thank goodness it now exists because it does offer hope.
But.... what I dislike about it and really do consider it as second fiddle to the Maturité, is the fact that it only teaches the subjects strictly related to the apprenticeship. This means that education in regards to many other subjects stops in 9 th grade.
One could argue that it's not necessary to continue to study Geography and History (for instance) and that learning a trade is better, I suppose, but in my opinion 9 th grade is way too early to stop school.
Also the surrounding European countries push quite hard for all of their students to get at least the Bac.
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Old 06.09.2011, 07:28
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

I was a teacher in the Phoenix, AZ area before we moved here a month ago. Depending on where you live, you may want to look at a charter school since they usually have lower class sizes and more flexibility in the curriculum.
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Old 06.09.2011, 07:49
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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1. I meant to say that I love learning by doing but the truth is that in Uni there is very little of that. so I was happy I was prepared from age 16 to sit , watch and learn as that is the only thing I did afterwards.

2. effects of being absent, constantly being watched over to see what I am doing etc etc (refers to what you were saying if you were an employer) I guess it had an adverse effect if you wish
Okay. UNderstood.
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  #32  
Old 06.09.2011, 08:01
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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I have my concerns, and Arizona especially doesn't have a good reputation for schooling.
Arizona ranks 46th in the US according to this: http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/20...essRelease.pdf

I respect your decision, but, honestly, I do have a hard time believing that public schooling in AZ could be better than in Switzerland....
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Old 06.09.2011, 08:28
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Hello there,

Wow what big changes you are going through and have planned, I hope you and your family all thoroughly enjoy you life in the US of A.

Thank you so much for taking the time over this thread and also for all the invaluable help and advise you willingly offered before and after we first moved here, especially with regard to schooling.

As you are 'ahead' of us in the schooling system it is very interesting to hear your experience here in Vaud, and the move to 5e next year for my son is something I have been pondering already. I had been wondering how things were going for you as I remember the major changes and the vast increase in homework you wrote about when your son first moved up to 5e.

Twelve months ago, the decision to put my children (then age 7 & 8) into local school was certainly the best thing we could have done and I have no regrets over doing so. They have had a ball at school, really enjoyed the slower pace of learning, the extra time at home during the day and have made great friends locally. In some respects the work has not been academically challenging but this have given them the chance to get to grips with french, which they certainly have. I am in awe at how they have progressed with the language, how they have matured and how responsible they have become. All a product of the move and the school system I think. I had always viewed the first couple of years here to be about language and cultural immersion for the kids and the 1y system is great for that. If we had to move back to the UK system now, I think the only area they would be significantly behind in would be maths but as we know true 'forumnite' children are bright and true 'indigo' kids and would no doubt catch up very quickly. NOT that we have any plans to move to the UK anytime soon as we all love family life here en Suisse.

I have little knowledge or experience of the 2y sector here in CH but will see how things progress next year when DS moves to 5e. I know many people involved with the international school in this area and this is something we have considered for future years but who knows. In many respects I find the international schools extremely disappointing on the academic front (the primary sectors were very poor and behind compared to the UK state school we came from), But they do produce kids with great IB results who progress to UK and USA universities with ease, which I suppose would be the ultimate goal/ambition for the children.
My kids (& myself) seem to like the fact and rote learning to tests, and hated with a passion the 'creative' 'free writing' that was a major part of the UK primary system. DS loves to learn his verb tables but is not so keen to speak french! So the CH system may actually suit them.

Ooops, sorry for the rambling post of my reflections on the Swiss educations system but your thread has certainly got me thinking........

I hope you settle easily into USA life and find a great school and community to settle into. One word of warning, I wouldn't hold your breath on your DH finishing work at 5pm. The experience of friends working in the USA and the many US people here is that the culture of long work hours still reigns. You are not so much judged on your work or output but on the hours you do and how late you stay in the office (or how many airmiles you can clock up on business trips).

take care and good luck to you all

xxxx
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Old 06.09.2011, 08:33
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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The vocational matura (Maturité professionnelle in Romandie) is certainly a relatively new option that does offer the possibility to go to an Haute Ecole and obtain a Bachelors.
And thank goodness it now exists because it does offer hope.
But.... what I dislike about it and really do consider it as second fiddle to the Maturité, is the fact that it only teaches the subjects strictly related to the apprenticeship. This means that education in regards to many other subjects stops in 9 th grade.
One could argue that it's not necessary to continue to study Geography and History (for instance) and that learning a trade is better, I suppose, but in my opinion 9 th grade is way too early to stop school.
Also the surrounding European countries push quite hard for all of their students to get at least the Bac.
In vocational matura training students spent to days a week at school. While at one day they are taught the subjects that are related to the their aprenticeship, on the other day things like general math, history and science, etc. are taught.
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Old 06.09.2011, 08:49
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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Arizona ranks 46th in the US according to this: http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/20...essRelease.pdf

I respect your decision, but, honestly, I do have a hard time believing that public schooling in AZ could be better than in Switzerland....
Statistics and rankings regarding US schools have a way of painting a much bleaker picture when the findings are presented for the state as a whole. Large areas of poverty and economic disadvantage relegate states to the bottom of ranking lists, however there are still school districts to be found (especially in a large metropolitan area like Phoenix) where the schools and teachers are very good. It sounds like kokodan will have the ability and advantage of being selective in where her family lives in Phoenix and can base her decision on the quality of the district.

Kokodan, I wish you all the best as you relocate and I applaud you for picking up the slack by schooling your kids at home during the interim! I can closely identify with your husband's work schedule interfering at home as just a few months ago, when we were still in the US, mine was getting up to do European conference calls at 2 a.m. (thus our relocation to CH). I would advise you to be very persistent and pesky, if need be, as you obtain information about your local Phoenix school districts. You cannot ask too many questions of the schools, the administrators, the potential neighbors, etc.

Bonne chance!
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Old 06.09.2011, 09:08
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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Arizona ranks 46th in the US according to this: http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/20...essRelease.pdf

I respect your decision, but, honestly, I do have a hard time believing that public schooling in AZ could be better than in Switzerland....
If you have a look at that chart the rankings sound worse than the reality of the scores: the bulk of U.S. schools are pretty close to each other; 38 states score a "C" or lower. Vermont ranks 12th with a score of 79.7, Arizona is 42nd with 71.5. Not that big of a difference.

Within any decent sized city in the U.S. you will have exceptional public schools and far worse ones. Kodokan is clearly aware of this and will make sure to live in a good school district.

To Kodokan- good luck with your move! I lived just down the road in Tucson for several years and loved it. Still miss it. The weather can be brutal but you acclimate quickly and the scenery makes up for it. I made it though without AC at home or in my cars (yeah, even po folks can have multiple cars in the U.S ) and I am more of a cold weather dude.

A nice thing about public schools in the U.S. is they have so many programs to accommodate children whether they are especially gifted or need extra help. I remember one of my classmates was in both a special class for kids with learning disabilities (he was dyslexic) and a program for gifted kids.
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Old 06.09.2011, 10:14
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Kodokan, I really do not want to discourage or upset, yet I feel that there are a few things completely unrealistic in your vision of life US (especially Phoenix). Below are the first ones that come to mind ;-)

1. "take a child for a stroll and a chat"

In Phoenix, Arizona? You can drive to a hike, but a stroll just getting out of the house will most likely end 200 yards away at the gate of your development, if you do not run home earlier because of the heat.

2. "dip in the pool"
Pool will be around 80-85F for major part of the year.

3. All southern schools that I've seen (not many, I can admit, but a few that I did were in Phoenix, Flagstaff and a few in Texas) are windowless compounds with one metal gate to let the kids in and out and the guard next to the entrance. In some schools parents has to sign that they've received their kids "whole" in the end of the day. In others parents have 10-15 minutes slot to pick up their kids, no one allows the kids to walk more that 10 yards from school gate. Well, after coming home from school here himself -- big change...

One thing that really scared me in a newly built school in Phoenix was a primary school classroom w/out a single window, and the teacher was proudly describing the plan of the room, that does not allow to shoot the kids or the teacher through the door. BTW, they also have drills in the schools about an armed assault on the school and what to do then...

Again, I am not a teacher, I am sure people who are & came from US know better and perhaps I was particularly unlucky and other schools in the area are different.

4. My husband is an academic and I work in research. The skills Kodokan described as lacking in the 5th grade is mostly public communications. Well, yes, it's important and almost sure this area is weaker here than in US. Just watch the news and other public media, and it's kind of clear :-)) Yet that could be also the reason that there are so few American graduates in sciences and other disciplines that require a lot of academic rigour. I am not even mentioning engineering departments -- never seen a single American there. I feel that in US they spend too much time in "presentantion" area, and would really benefit from moving more into some "boring" fact learning/drilling routines.

Do not take me wrong, for long time I was a huge proponent of "creative" learning. But then I found out that even for creative learning one needs a lot of effort of "dull" nature (collecting facts, sorting them out, prioritizing, thinking about subjects deeply, at length, i.e. analyzing them - even knowing which facts could be out there). Some of this thinking is "boring" in a way -- nothing changes, no progress for quite some time, etc. And people should learn to do it too, and to do it mostly alone. I feel it's the skill most lacking in many students nowadays, and in US especially.

It is very tricky to combine these skills -- "dry" knowledge and creativity. From what I see Swiss are going a bit towards the first component, but my impression that US is much more, too much on the second.

Sorry for writing very long post. I do wish Kodokan an easy transition -- and do hope that grass will be greener there, although in Phoenix it will bring also a very hefty water bill ;-)

KTZV
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Old 06.09.2011, 12:00
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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Kodokan, I really do not want to discourage or upset, yet I feel that there are a few things completely unrealistic in your vision of life US (especially Phoenix). Below are the first ones that come to mind ;-)

1. "take a child for a stroll and a chat"

In Phoenix, Arizona? You can drive to a hike, but a stroll just getting out of the house will most likely end 200 yards away at the gate of your development, if you do not run home earlier because of the heat.

2. "dip in the pool"
Pool will be around 80-85F for major part of the year.

3. All southern schools that I've seen (not many, I can admit, but a few that I did were in Phoenix, Flagstaff and a few in Texas) are windowless compounds with one metal gate to let the kids in and out and the guard next to the entrance. In some schools parents has to sign that they've received their kids "whole" in the end of the day. In others parents have 10-15 minutes slot to pick up their kids, no one allows the kids to walk more that 10 yards from school gate. Well, after coming home from school here himself -- big change...

One thing that really scared me in a newly built school in Phoenix was a primary school classroom w/out a single window, and the teacher was proudly describing the plan of the room, that does not allow to shoot the kids or the teacher through the door. BTW, they also have drills in the schools about an armed assault on the school and what to do then...

Again, I am not a teacher, I am sure people who are & came from US know better and perhaps I was particularly unlucky and other schools in the area are different.

4. My husband is an academic and I work in research. The skills Kodokan described as lacking in the 5th grade is mostly public communications. Well, yes, it's important and almost sure this area is weaker here than in US. Just watch the news and other public media, and it's kind of clear :-)) Yet that could be also the reason that there are so few American graduates in sciences and other disciplines that require a lot of academic rigour. I am not even mentioning engineering departments -- never seen a single American there. I feel that in US they spend too much time in "presentantion" area, and would really benefit from moving more into some "boring" fact learning/drilling routines.

Do not take me wrong, for long time I was a huge proponent of "creative" learning. But then I found out that even for creative learning one needs a lot of effort of "dull" nature (collecting facts, sorting them out, prioritizing, thinking about subjects deeply, at length, i.e. analyzing them - even knowing which facts could be out there). Some of this thinking is "boring" in a way -- nothing changes, no progress for quite some time, etc. And people should learn to do it too, and to do it mostly alone. I feel it's the skill most lacking in many students nowadays, and in US especially.

It is very tricky to combine these skills -- "dry" knowledge and creativity. From what I see Swiss are going a bit towards the first component, but my impression that US is much more, too much on the second.

Sorry for writing very long post. I do wish Kodokan an easy transition -- and do hope that grass will be greener there, although in Phoenix it will bring also a very hefty water bill ;-)

KTZV
Kokodan has clearly already made the decision to move to the US. This thread is about her reasons for that decision and how they relate to Swiss schooling concerns (particularly for her son), not whether CH is safer for schoolchildren than the US, whether housing developments in the US are bad or restrictive, or whether pools in the US are cool enough for her taste.

I attended school in the public system in Texas, and my three children attended for many years as well prior to our relocation to CH. I have seen many schools there, and can attest that there are likely more security procedures in place compared to Swiss schools. However, I think it is not being helpful to OP to speak in such sweeping generalities about "southern schools" in the US when you admit you have only seen a handful.
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  #39  
Old 06.09.2011, 12:01
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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My kids (& myself) seem to like the fact and rote learning to tests, and hated with a passion the 'creative' 'free writing' that was a major part of the UK primary system. DS loves to learn his verb tables but is not so keen to speak french! So the CH system may actually suit them.
My son loves rote learning and fact drills too. One of his favourite tests was when his French teacher had them learn conjugation chants, perhaps 20 in a week, then test them individually by holding up a stopwatch, picking a verb at random and saying 'vouloir, conditional - go!' If they couldn't do all 6 forms (je voudrais, tu voudrais, etc) in under 5 seconds then they failed.

He's good at memorising, which is why his grades are better than they should be with his standard of French. And he likes the finiteness of 'studied it, did a practise test, can chant it all - great, finished for the day!' It's never going to be a problem to get him to drill stuff - he even has great systems like chanting along with jumps on the trampoline, or hitting the Swingball tennis. But he needs to be encouraged to develop softer skills, to learn to do more open-ended tasks and self-define the limits.

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If we had to move back to the UK system now, I think the only area they would be significantly behind in would be maths but as we know true 'forumnite' children are bright and true 'indigo' kids and would no doubt catch up very quickly. NOT that we have any plans to move to the UK anytime soon as we all love family life here en Suisse.
Main areas I've noticed where my son is noticeably behind an Anglophone (US Arizona) curriculum:

Reading: he’s not behind in reading level, as he’s one of those ‘pry the night-time under-the-duvet torch out of my cold, dead hands’ kids. But he’s never had to apply any critical thought to the process – write a book report, explain why he liked a certain book, consider how it would have ended differently if the characters had done X instead of Y, etc. This is a very minor gap that I’m covering off in general conversation - he's at the age now where we recommend books to each other that we've enjoyed, so it's an extension of that.

Writing: we had to start back at the level of ‘this is a sentence, it should have a subject and a verb, you can add clauses to make longer, more interesting ones. This is a paragraph; it has a main idea, often spelled out in the first sentence, and then several more sentences giving supportive detail. Here’s how to arrange paragraphs in a coherent order, so your writing has an introduction, main points, conclusion. Here’s how to a basic story – introduce characters, introduce problem/conflict, characters overcome problem, everybody happy. See these words? They’re adjectives and adverbs. Use them. They make your writing more interesting, you have to choose ones that fit (he knew what adjectives were, but only in the sense of agreement for gender exercises – he’d never had to actually select them for himself). Go through your story and swap every use of the verb ‘said’ and the word ‘nice’ for punchier ones. Here’s how to use dialogue to make your story more interesting – the speech marks go here, the comma goes here, etc (he’s never done punctuation, as you don’t need it to fill in words in an already written sentence).’

You get the idea. But he’s enjoying it – yesterday showed me a story he’d typed out in his own time ‘for fun’ based on his beloved Star Wars characters. He’s done nothing like this in 3 years. (And also keyboarding skills, yay! He's doing the BBC's free online kids' touch typing course, as US kids his age have been doing keyboarding classes for 2 years.)

Maths: he was about a grade behind the US curriculum in most areas. He’d done the 4 operations, co-ordinates, symmetry/ translation and decimals. He needed to catch up with geometry (area, perimeter, volume), fractions (up to being able to divide them into each other), percentages, pre-algebra (order of operations, exponents/ powers), data and statistics (all types of charts and graphs, calculating the mean, mode, median, range, probability).

And then of course there are areas like American history where he hasn't done a thing, or science where he's done leaves and they've done the human skeleton, but he'll pick this sort of stuff over the coming months and years. The 6th grade history curriculum there is Romans, Greeks, etc, and he's up to speed on them anyway.

Of course, there are only my initial impressions, based on the AZ curriculum plan online, 5th grade textbooks from the US, and the online homeschooling course we're using. I'll come back later, and let you all know how it worked out once we were there.

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One word of warning, I wouldn't hold your breath on your DH finishing work at 5pm. The experience of friends working in the USA and the many US people here is that the culture of long work hours still reigns. You are not so much judged on your work or output but on the hours you do and how late you stay in the office (or how many airmiles you can clock up on business trips).
Friends keep telling us that ‘moving to Phoenix’ isn’t quite the same as ‘moving to the US’ generally. Hubby’s been going out to Phoenix on a regular basis (every 2-3 months) for several years – the office really is pretty much deserted by 5pm, nearer 3pm on a Friday.
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Old 06.09.2011, 12:36
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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Kodokan, I really do not want to discourage or upset, yet I feel that there are a few things completely unrealistic in your vision of life US (especially Phoenix). Below are the first ones that come to mind ;-)

1. "take a child for a stroll and a chat"

In Phoenix, Arizona? You can drive to a hike, but a stroll just getting out of the house will most likely end 200 yards away at the gate of your development, if you do not run home earlier because of the heat.

......

3. All southern schools that I've seen (not many, I can admit, but a few that I did were in Phoenix, Flagstaff and a few in Texas) are windowless compounds with one metal gate to let the kids in and out and the guard next to the entrance. In some schools parents has to sign that they've received their kids "whole" in the end of the day. In others parents have 10-15 minutes slot to pick up their kids, no one allows the kids to walk more that 10 yards from school gate. Well, after coming home from school here himself -- big change...
We're being very careful about picking an area. Sure, there are vast upper-middle class ‘ghettos’, with nothing but street after endless street of identikit houses. But we’re not going to live there.

Most of the areas we're looking at are near what passes for a 'downtown' feel in Phoenix (note: none of them are near the actual central downtown, which is a hole). We like the more mature areas, with good infrastructure like local shops, a library, a community college all nearby. They're all the sort of areas where older kids can, and do, travel to school alone - I saw them doing it when we were out there in May.

I think the European view of what's possible without a car is different to the American one. I've exchanged emails with the guy who's going to be our relocation consultant, to outline our wish list for housing and schools. When I mentioned that walking/biking to school and shops were really important to us, he came back with 'You may get a house close to a school but very unlikely close enough to shops'. Come on, seriously? Given we're not going to be out in rural boondocks, we're not going to be further than half a mile from an elementary school. And I can't find a single place in metro Phoenix that's more than a mile or two from a supermarket, with most places having one just down on the block corner.

I haven't had a car here for 3.5 years, and have got about perfectly well with an electric bike and a trailer. Sure, I'll have a car there, and I know that from June-September we'll have to be in it for the aircon alone. But for the vast majority of the school year, I shall be walking/ biking/ scootering my then 8 yr old to school, and my then 12 year old will be going alone (we'll choose somewhere close enough to the middle school so he doesn't need to get the bus; we don't like the restrictions this'll put on his ability to just hang with his friends or go to someone's house spontaneously). And before we sign a house lease, I shall be hanging around the school to make sure I'm not the only one - I want a 'mums at the school gate' club!

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4. My husband is an academic and I work in research. The skills Kodokan described as lacking in the 5th grade is mostly public communications.
I probably harped on about the little presentations a bit. What I think is missing is yes, public communications, but also the ability to have his own thoughts, to process them, to assemble them, to 'publish' them by writing or speaking. To learn how to work as part of a group; to persuade others to his point of view and open his mind enough to listen to other people's arguments. To plan out a piece of work, define its scope, research it, assemble it, to get the balance between haphazardly chucking something together and obsessing over the nth detail.

And I think there's a sense of community missing in schools here, certainly in ours. The kids never have any contact with others outside of their class. There are no assemblies, no school concerts or plays, nothing for the parents or other family members to attend and applaud. I don't know to what degree this sort of thing happens in the US, but in the UK the school calendar for parents is very geared around 'Harvest Festival in autumn, then a Carol Service and Christmas Play, then perhaps an Easter Bonnet parade for the smaller kids, then the big end of year show in June'.

We'll see, we'll see... It's been a great 3-4 years here. The kids are very mature and responsible thanks to the schooling system. They'll always be able to look back on this time as a benchmark for intimidating situations: 'oh well, at least it can't be as bad as having to turn up in a strange school completely unable to speak to anyone!' And even after they lose their French, they'll retain the knowledge that they were once fluent and that languages are perfectly possible and therefore easy for them.

And apparently the Spanish taught in schools there is like 'easy' French with most of the irregularities stripped out, so that should be an advantage!
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