Slight trend noticed for expat parents to send their children to state schools

An article published in the Zuger Zeitung yesterday mentioned that more expats were opting to have their children educated in local state schools rather than private ones.
Zug is well known for the high proportion of private schools in the canton, though statistics for the year 2016 (those for 2017 are not yet available) showed that the proportion of children attending private schools had fallen to 9.5%, a fall of 0.1% when compared with 2014. The average figure for Switzerland (in 2012) was 9.1%.
When asked about this, the cantonal director of education, Stephan Schleiss, said that such statistics were very much related to international schools catering primarily for the education of children of expats who were only in Zug for a limited period of time. Any fluctuation in school numbers depended, of course, on the number of expats with school-age children, and how long they stayed here. Schleiss also commented on the fact that more eastern European children were attending such schools and fewer from north America, adding that there was no great tradition of private schools in eastern Europe, and indicating, too, that local state schools here had improved the way they integrated children from different cultures over recent years. “We have also noticed from information evenings and such like that there is great interest in state schools on the part of expats,” he confirmed.
One further possible explanation to a fall in numbers attending private schools is because the canton reduced its financial contribution to them as part of a cost-cutting policy, meaning, of course, that parents had to pay more, though Schleiss himself had not heard of any cases of parents removing children from private schools on this account.
Another reason which may be contributing to the trend is that some companies may not be prepared to pay for the education of their employees’ children to the extent they were before; at least this is what Schleiss had heard from some private schools and indeed, this was confirmed by a spokeswoman from the International School of Zug and Lucerne (ISZL), who mentioned that this was a global trend, too. However, she also confirmed that pupil numbers at the school had remained constant since 2014.
When the journalist enquired at two large companies with employees of many different nationalities, a spokesman at Johnson & Johnson said it paid the fees for the children of employees on international assignments on a temporary basis to attend private schools but denied that the company had cut back on such payments. However, it would not pay school fees for employees who had subsequently opted to stay in Switzerland on a more permanent basis.
Amira Hamami, a spokeswoman for Roche Diagnostics International AG, incidentally the canton’s largest employer, said that the company continued to pay school fees for their employees’ children in certain cases, namely for those who were not German-speaking and only expected to stay in Switzerland for a limited period. “We have been implementing this policy for some time and there are no plans to change it,” she added. Neither was there any set number of employees’ children for whom school fees would be paid.
While the number of pupils attending private schools may be falling by a slight percentage in most of the canton’s municipalities, what is striking is that, in Walchwil, where there is a campus of the ISZL (photograph), the percentage of pupils attending private schools has fallen from 26.8% in 2012 to 19.1% in 2016. When asked about this, the councillor responsible for education there, Stefan Hermann, said that the fall in numbers related predominantly to the reduction in financial contribution to private schools by the canton and the increasing good reputation of local state schools. “What is more, it has been noticed that there is a trend for expats wanting their children to integrate better in the local community, rather than have them educated privately,” he said.

What Hermann had also noticed was an increasing wish on the part of parents to ensure their children benefited from integration through learning German at these state schools, too.

Meanwhile, over in Unterägeri, the councillor responsible for education there, Beat Iten, informed locals in a meeting that pupil numbers in state schools there would be increasing there as those previously taught in private schools would be moving to them, expat parents having heard of their good reputation. Echoing Hermann’s comments, he said, “It appears there is much greater interest on the part of expat parents for their children to integrate into Swiss society in a better way. After all, it is they (the children) who often get more involved (than their parents) in local events connected, for example, with sport and music.”     

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