The Magic of a Swiss School
Horse-riding, yachting, spa treatments, yoga, photography, meditation, expeditions, gastronomic cooking and private performances from the Berlin Philharmonic and Phil Collins. No, this isn’t a five-star holiday but some of the extra-curricular activities available at Swiss boarding schools.
Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t come cheap. Of the 10 most expensive boarding schools in the world, eight are in Switzerland with tuition fees starting at around £65,000 per year. Institut Le Rosey, the most expensive school in the world, charges an eye-watering £100,000 for tuition fees alone, which is before school equipment, living costs, travel and other essentials. To put it into perspective, this is around three times the cost of Eton or Harrow.
The headline-grabbing perks aren’t the only attraction to a Swiss schooling. Voted as the best education system in the world by the World Economic Forum 2016, Switzerland has a reputation for excellent state and private schools at all levels.
Its location in the centre of Europe with three national languages – French, German and Italian – means the education system is multi-lingual. Children from the age of six are taught in the language of the school’s region and learn a second language as well as English. Many secondary schools have a bilingual curriculum, and some, such as the Swedish School of Geneva, are trilingual with lessons in English, Swedish and French.
Attracting pupils and teachers from all over the world guarantees a culturally rich education. An international school in Geneva boasts 120 nationalities and Le Rosey selects from 60 countries with a quota policy from each in order to create a mixture of backgrounds and languages with none dominant. Walk down the hall of any Swiss school and you’ll hear children switching from one language to another to talk to their classmates. Top schools can teach in 20 languages and pupils study up to four.
Swiss schools teach the International Baccalaureate, which is recognised all over the world. Class sizes are smaller with around 18 pupils. More exclusive schools have around nine. At Le Rosey there are 120 teachers for just 420 pupils, which means one teacher per 3.5 pupils.
Schools make the most of their spectacular Alpine landscape. Weeks are filled with skiing, ice hockey and snowboarding, providing a sporting curriculum that you can’t possibly get in Britain. Nothing seems too grand or luxurious for the very best Swiss schools. Le Rosey even has two different bases. From January to March the entire school, students and teachers alike, leave the 14th century chateau at Rolle, 30 Km north of Geneva to the ski resort of Gstaad.
The Swiss focus is on producing well-rounded individuals. Days are rich, full and varied and fuelled with regular hot chocolate breaks. Art and music are often compulsory and considered as important as academic subjects. Pupils at The American School in Switzerland showcase their artwork alongside famous artists at the Spring Arts Festival.
Many schools also run summer camps allowing parents to keep their children in education all year round.
Study at a Swiss school and you receive automatic entry to a lucrative and exclusive club. It’s the stepping stone to the world’s best universities. Leavers from Surval Montreux Girls’ School continue their education all round the globe, not just the US and UK but Italy, Canada and Peru. At Le Rosey, 18% go on to Ivy League and Oxbridge and a further 40% go to the top 40 institutions in the world, such as the Russell Group universities and New York University.
Leaving school with multiple languages and friends from all over the world enhances global job prospects. Swiss banks and other top employers partner with schools and offer programmes in post-graduate education and recruit from the classroom. Schools have extensive networks and pupils are offered summer job opportunities with global firms that can lead to careers worldwide. Switzerland offers high salaries and low taxes and is attractive for pupils who want to return to a familiar country to forge a career later on.
Many schools have waiting lists although it may be possible to enter midyear as the student population in international schools can be transient. Le Rosey, known as the School of Kings for its royal alumni (such as Prince Rainer of Monaco and King Farouk of Egypt) is also a favourite with the children of the rich and famous (Sean Lennon studied there). However, beware if you’ve brought up a little prince or princess, Rosey’s website says ‘spoiled children used to always getting their own way’ are not welcome.
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