Relocating to Switzerland with school-aged children?
In this case, you have probably already extensively browsed the internet for information on schooling options. With school-aged children, chances are that international school is your preferred option.
BUT – before you start packing and giving notice, you better check the availability of places at the international school of your choice!
Trying to get into international school…
The bad news is that many international schools are oversubscribed. Long waiting lists are common, especially in upper primary and middle school (ages 10-16). If you end up on the waiting list at your preferred international school, you will want an update as soon as possible so that you can start planning your move. If a school is oversubscribed you have to wait until a current family at that school has moved before a place becomes available. While some international schools send out the yearly re-enrollment forms as early as December, others wait until late spring. It may also be the case that some parents do not inform school of their child’s departure until the very end of the school year. In other words, depending on the school, you will be left wondering until June whether there is a place available for your child.
If you are far down the waiting list, this is a quite worrying prospect!
Or going local?
What happens if you do not manage to get a place at any of the international schools in your area?
In this case you are left with the choice of either putting your move on hold until you know for certain that places are available or to give the local system a try.
If your children are younger, you might wish to consider local school as alternative. Enrolling older children into local school can, however be tricky, especially if they do not speak the national language. This is because, unlike many other school systems, secondary schools in Switzerland stream their students based on academic ability. The lack of proficiency in the language of instruction can be a disadvantage here! Your child may end up in a lower academic stream simply because of their lack of language proficiency.
That being said, much depends on your child and the school in question. Outgoing children with a knack for languages can thrive in the local school system whatever their age. Also approaches between different schools and regions regarding language learning and academic streaming can vary significantly. In other words, your choice of location matters!
If you want to give the local system a try, be sure to get as much information as possible about schools in your area. An experienced education consultant can make all the difference if you are relocating with school-aged children!
For more information on schooling options in Switzerland, book an online or face-to-face consultation with your local school expert. Stefanie, an independent school consultant in operating in Switzerland, is a former school teacher with extensive knowledge of local schools as well as private and international school options. I have helped many families relocating with school-aged children to find the right schooling option!
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