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Zurich cuts access to international schools

Meritxell Mir · 14 Oct 2011, 09:55

Published: 14 Oct 2011 09:57 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Oct 2011 09:55 GMT+02:00

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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.

Meritxell Mir (news@thelocal.ch)

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Your comments about this article

2011-11-01 12:13:54 by Long-standing expat
Considering this Canton is one of the most International in Switzerland this decision is ridiculous. Many International children are "disadvantaged" in the Swiss education system and it is a parental right to chose the right education for their children. This initiative will simply push people more to living in surrounding Cantons of Zug and Schwyz. As long as the Swiss system does not accommodate the growing influence of other cultures, parents should have the right to opt for whatever education suits their child and is in the long-term interests of their child. Currently compared to systems in the UK and elsewhere International children in the Swiss system have much lower chances of ever having the opportunity to study at University.
2011-10-16 21:54:50 by SwissDentist
If they are not in any fashion responsible educators then why "In the last ten years, the number of students attending international schools has doubled." Are you now going to claim that the parents are not in any fashion responsible? I have an idea... let them choose: your own words... "I have experienced both sides of the coin and I would never choose international school again." The key is you had a choice. Have you ever considered that many would disagree with you and perhaps your experience (sounds like an expulsion) left you biased? The IB is an excellent program and denying families the choice, in a free democracy, is a disgrace.
2011-10-16 12:28:30 by Swissamerican2thfairy
Although this action will certainly make "businesses" like Zurich International School less profitable, and enrage a few locals, it is rightly done. The countries which promote private over public education, often result in a two tiered society. Not only is it a disadvantage to the locals who cannot afford such a luxury, but a disadvantage to the international school students who do not fit the desired profile of their registrants. Children and parents who do not choose public education, must understand there is no guarantee for placement at the international schools. At any moment, they can be expelled or denied entrance. If they are young and able, the switch to German, Italian or French, may be easy. However, many teenagers, whose parents have paid a small fortune to these schools, find themselves without a school. The switch to public school, and German, French or Italian, at 15, can definitely be a challenge. For some, this is insurmountable and they end up without a place in society. So, the initial interest of the parents to "give" their children an advantage, ends up a HUGE disadvantage. Without a diploma, or the local language, these children do not even qualify for an apprenticeship. Believe me, I have experienced both sides of the coin and I would never choose international school again. They are simply businesses looking for a profit, and not, in any fashion, responsible educators.
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