EXPLAINED: What every parent needs to know about the Swiss school system
If you’re an academic professional with a family in Switzerland, the range of options in education can seem bewildering.
Together with Robin Hull of Hull’s School, Zürich, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of some of the curricula on offer to international parents. We also introduce his new book, that acts as a useful ‘road map’ to education in Switzerland.
As parents, we all want the best for our children, and central to their success is the right choice of school. In the previous two decades, an increasing number of parents have moved to Switzerland with their children. In response, many educational institutions have emerged to educate these students.
We also want to give our children access to the widest range of opportunities in regards to further education. Unfortunately, this is where Switzerland has not managed to catch up in terms of range and flexibility. Therefore, it's important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the different curricula.
The Maturitätszeugnis is perhaps the broadest university entrance examination in Europe with mandatory advanced Algebra, three languages, all sciences, history, geography, music art and physical education. However, there is very little room for specialisation in the final two years, given the number of subjects that students have to take until the very end. While it may be an excellent route to studying in Switzerland, it may be less ideal for the rest of Europe and particularly the leading Russell Group universities of the UK.
The International Baccalaureate is one of the most high profile options for ‘international’ high school students. It has a widely recognized curriculum, with the mandatory Theory of Knowledge subject seen as an excellent preparation for tertiary students. The ‘IB’ is well recognized by European and English universities, but is seen as tougher on youngsters who are not natural ‘all-rounders’, especially when it comes to mathematical knowledge. Like the Maturitätszeugnis, it is considered to have impressive breadth, but less flexibility and depth than A-levels.
The IGCSE / A-levels may not have the local profile of the Maturitätszeugnis or the International Baccalaureate. However, it is a very strong tool for entry into UK Russell Group universities, who expect a high level of depth and specialisation, and is consistently accepted throughout Switzerland, Europe and the USA. Together with the IB, it is widely understood to be the world’s best established university entrance qualification.
While this is only the broadest of overviews, a new book, ‘A guide to the Swiss educational system’ by Robin Hull, is the first comprehensive, detailed guide to the school curricula available within Switzerland. It is ideal for those parents and students who want to understand where their schooling choices will take them.
Robin Hull is the Principal of Hull’s School in Zurich, Switzerland’s first English-language sixth form college offering IGCSE A-Levels. Under the guidance and experience of Hull, the school has become a centre of excellence in education, sending students to universities all over the world.
If you have children approaching their secondary schooling, it’s important that you take the time to understand how the choices you and your children make will dictate their academic future. ‘A guide to the Swiss educational system’ by Robin Hull is a powerful tool of intervention, to ensure that your children are placed on the right track for their future studies.
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