So you put your child into international school, thinking that you would only be in Switzerland for a couple of years? And now you that you have accepted a local work contract you actually realise that you might be here for the long-term and that you will have to finance private school for the next ten years or so. If you contemplate switching from international school to the local system, don’t wait too long! Here is why:
• High academic level in state schools. The academic requirements in core subjects tend to be higher in local schools than in international schools following a curriculum different from that of Swiss state schools. This is particularly true for maths and languages. The later your child transfers the greater the chance that there will be significant subject gaps.
• Demanding selection process in state schools. Around the age of 12, children in local schools are streamed into different ability levels. Very bright children from private schools, who would expect to enter the high ability academic stream might find themselves placed in a lower ability stream because of a language deficit.
• Proficiency in the local language (plus another language in secondary). While international schools teach the local language, the level of proficiency is quite low, particularly regarding writing and reading skills. If your child is planning to sit the Gymnasium entrance test, he or she will be required to write a 60 min essay in German! Also bear in mind that all lessons are taught in the local language and marks are deducted for poor grammar in all subjects. Your child might be a maths whizz but will he or she understand a complicated maths problem in German?
• School values and norms. Every school system has its own cultural norms. There is a considerable difference between the cosy inclusive atmosphere at an International school and that at the local school where parental involvement usually stops at the school gates. In private schools, teachers are viewed as partners by the students whereas in Swiss school teachers are still regarded as an authority (who will make no attempt to sugar-coat your child’s perceived limitations). The local school system also places a greater emphasis on independence, self-sufficiency and responsibility.
• Five year limit (Zürich). If you are planning to live in canton Zurich on a permanent basis, note that your children will not be able to attend international school for longer than 5 years, unless you choose a school that follows the Zürich curriculum (as most bi-lingual and Swiss private schools do). The only children permitted to attend international schools teaching an international curriculum (e.g. IB schools) are those living in Switzerland for a short period of time, or children completing their schooling begun in a non-German speaking canton or country, or whose parents can show they have plans to move to a non-German speaking country or canton within five years.
Do you need more guidance? Book a private consulting session to find the best schooling option for your child and your family! More information can be found in the services&fees section.
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