For students in their last year of their Swiss local primary school, the end of January marks the beginning of the transition process to one of the secondary schools.
In the second semester of grade 5 or early in year 6, the teacher will begin to have conversations with the parents about the move to Secondary. He will discuss your child’s progress, explain the different performance streams and give you a first indication where he sees you child.
At the end of January students receive a detailed school report with grades and an overall assessment of the student’s attitude towards school and learning.
Following the school reports in January, the teacher then issues a formal placement recommendation for one of the streams in secondary school.
In most schools, students receive a placement recommendation together with the report card. In some cantons, this will be done separately during a second meeting with the teacher. Parents may contest this recommendation. If not contested, the recommendation becomes a placement decision.
What matters for placement decisions?
The teacher will look not just at the academic performance but assess a student according to his social and emotional development, attitude towards school and learning , self-organisation and overall motivation.
The assessment of these non-academic ‘soft-skills’, as well as academic performance is the basis for placement decisions into one of the different performance-based secondary school streams. So, while grades in core subjects, including Maths, German, Science of Nature, Humans and Society and Languages do matter, assessment criteria for placement includes both academic and non-academic performance.
Parents trying to get information about grade thresholds for placement into one of the different streams often feel like they are searching for the holy grail.
While a few cantons do publish grade thresholds, others, like Zürich are less forthcoming and teachers often avoid discussions around grade thresholds during the orientation meeting with parents.
One of the main reasons for this is that grades are not the only decisive factor when it comes to placement into ability streams, as explained above.
Depending on the school and the overall assessment, a student with an average grade of 4.6 could end up in the upper performance stream (Sek A.) in one school and in the intermediate stream (Sek B) in an different school.
And while theoretically, there is not grade threshold nor binding teacher recommendation for Gymnasium in some cantons, including Zürich, it is almost impossible for students to succeed without top grades and the right work attitude.
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