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International schools see demand soar

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12:42 CEST+02:00
International schools in Switzerland have seen their pupil numbers explode in recent years, mainly driven by demand from expatriate employees of multinational firms and international organisations.

Around 12,500 pupils are currently registered with the Association of Private Schools (AGEP) in Geneva, with enrolment rates running around 50 percent higher than they were a decade ago.

International schools are “two-thirds to three-quarters” responsible for this strong growth, AGEP president Norbert Foerster told Tages Anzeiger newspaper. He added that attendance at the Institut International de Lancy in Geneva, which he heads, “has exploded from 285 pupils in 1998 to 1,460 today.”

The biggest international school is the Geneva International School (Ecolint), which teaches 4,260 pupils at three complexes.

The strongest demand for international education comes from families of staff of multinational firms and international organisations, the modern nomads of our increasingly globalised society, according to Ecolint head of development Michaelene Stack.

Philip Morris spokesman Julian Pidou estimates that 10 percent of the 1,500 employees at its Lausanne headquarters are affected: “It has become more difficult for our employees to find a place for their children at the international schools of their choice in recent years.”

In Canton Zürich, international schools are also booming with almost double the amount of pupils since 2000. The largest is Zürich International School (ZIS) with 1,500 pupils in five locations.

ZIS spokeswoman Urte Sabelus confirmed that the increase was due to a growing number of international firms setting up their headquarters in the area, creating more demand than they can cater for: “We have waiting lists at every level.”

Exclusive private schools that target foreign pupils have a long tradition in Switzerland. Now Canton Wallis also wants a piece of this lucrative and growing market.

Last week a project was announced to build an English-speaking international school called “Le Regent” in the exclusive resort of Crans-Montana. The 50 million franc ($64m) complex will cater for 150 boarders and 100 day-pupils. Unknown foreign investors brought in a fifth of the start-up capital.

Swiss families are also having an impact on international school attendance statistics. They send their children to an international school to be part of a multicultural environment with bilingual lessons and the opportunity to study for the International Baccalaureate, a rigorous school-leaving course recognised worldwide and with a reputation for providing access to the world’s leading universities.

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