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Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Swiss boarding schools are different

TRADITIONAL QUALITIES The private school is a well known and important part of Switzerland's education system, but for prospective students from overseas, they offer quality teaching

By TOSI, based on material from the Brillant mont International

Along with glistening white peaks, chalets overloaded with flowers, succulent cheeses and cool, inviting lakes, "Switzerland", for most people evokes quality, security and tradition. These are qualities of which Swiss boarding schools are proud and which play an essential role in Swiss private education.

Private schools have a long tradition in Switzerland and play an important part in the overall educational system. The first private schools were opened at the end of the 19th century. Many of them are a direct reflection of the foremost efforts of educationalists such as Pestalozzi, Father Girard, Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner and their successors such as Bovet, Feriere and Piaget -- figures whose impact on the pedagogic of education has extended far beyond Switzerland's border.

It was actually through the country's historical development that Switzerland acquired a reputation as a center of education. It was a reputation that spread rapidly throughout Europe and beyond. Any good family wishing to round off their children's education would tend to look to Switzerland to do so -- especially if the offsprings were expected to obtain a grounding in French, too as in those days the social status was of immense importance and would determine the kind of education the child would receive.

Today, there are many boarding schools throughout Switzerland, each with their own identity and their own particular strengths. Every school is different, whether it be in terms of the programs they offer, their location or their student body. Yet, what they all share is a commitment to quality and to developing the potential of the students entrusted to them.

But why would a student choose a school in Switzerland as opposed to one in another country? Firstly, the location, Switzerland itself. Switzerland is a country known for its high standards. Aside from the breath-taking natural beauty, visitors are always impressed by the efficiency, the hospitality, the courtesy and the law-abiding citizens they meet. In a country where over 20% of the population are immigrants, they feel safe and at ease with the various cultures they encounter every day.

Furthermore, the proximity of Switzerland to other European countries enhances the feeling of "internationalism", whilst stimulating the learning of other languages. Secondly, the tradition of education is such that Swiss schools have for many years been considered the best. The "finishing schools" of yesteryear have evolved, many into regular high schools, whilst those which remain have adapted their programmes to the fast-moving, technological world in which we live. In short, the foundations remain but the buildings have been renovated.

Thirdly, the wide choice of schools and the flexibility offered means that Switzerland has a school for everyone. Some offer British or American programmes, some bilingual programmes. Some of the schools start with students at the age of 9, whilst others begin at 12 and go up to 18. Some are in the mountainous areas, others in city suburbs; some are small and family owned, others may be a bit larger.

Fourthly, a Swiss boarding school offers a global perspective on education blending with quality of life and Swiss hospitality for a positive learning experience. Classrooms become global villages. A typical Swiss boarding school of some 300 students may have as many as 30 different nationalities under one roof.

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