Changing from international to local Swiss school? What you need to know

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Thinking of switching from from private international to local school?
Don’t leave it too long!

So you put your child into an 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 international school for the next ten years or so. If you contemplate switching from international school to the local Swiss school system, don’t wait too long! Here is why:

•          High academic level in local schools

The academic requirements in core subjects tend to be higher in local schools than in international schools. The curriculum at International schools differs substantially from curriculum different from that of local Swiss 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 local 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 will have 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 she understand a complicated maths problem in German?

            School values and norms

There is a considerable difference between the cosy inclusive atmosphere at an International school and that at the local Swiss school where parental involvement usually stops at the school gates. In private schools, students often see their teachers as mentors. By contrast, 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 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. This does not apply to schools that follow the Zürich curriculum (as most bilingual and Swiss private schools do). The only children permitted to attend schools teaching an international curriculum (e.g. IB schools) are those living in Switzerland for a short period of time.  Children who started their schooling in a non-German speaking canton or country, or whose parents can show they have firm plans to move to a non-German speaking country or canton are also exempt from this rule.

Do you need more guidance? Book an online or face-to-face consulting session to find the best schooling option for your child and your family! More information can be found here: Contact us

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