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Zurich cuts access to international schools

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Zurich cuts access to international schools
Harry the dirty dog (File)
09:57 CEST+02:00

Education officials in Zurich have issued a new directive restricting access to international schools, effectively removing the alternative for children who live in Switzerland on a permanent basis. 

Starting in the school year 2012-2013, the make-up of the student body at international schools in Zurich will likely change, newspaper NZZ reports.

The only children permitted to attend English-speaking schools will be those living in Switzerland for a short period of time, or whose parents can show they have plans to move to a non-German speaking country or canton.

The reform plans were presented by Zurich education councillor Regine Aeppli from the Social Democratic Party. Aeppli's goal is for all children living in Zurich canton to follow the same syllabus and to have a good command of German. The new rules will not apply to children who are already enrolled in international schools, said NZZ.

The newspaper slammed the move in an unsigned editorial, calling it "a return to the Stone Age of educational policy".

The Zurich education department has not yet specified what kind of sanctions parents who send their children to international schools will face if they fail to fulfil the new enrolment requirements. It is also unclear which documents parents will have to produce to prove they have plans to move to a canton or country with an official language other than German.

In the last ten years, the number of students attending international schools has doubled. In 2001, 0.9 percent of all children attended one of the English-language institutions. This year the rate has risen to 1.9 percent. The largest provider is Zürich International School (ZIS), with 1,500 pupils in five locations, NZZ reports.

Though the schools are mainly attended by the children of foreigners working in Switzerland, Swiss families are also having an impact on international school attendance figures.

Swiss families often send their children to international schools if they want them to be part of a multicultural environment with bilingual lessons. The schools also offer the opportunity of studying 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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