For entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, top managers and other professionals, trotting around the globe is all in a day’s work, and the families just have to adapt. Most hubs boast any number of good international schools, but language can be a barrier to completing a high school education. So many schools offer a special programme for travelling kids.
“A rolling stone gathers no moss,” says the famous old proverb. Nomads in the past – people who had a mobile existence by social principle – were considered to be with no roots in one place and hence devoid of responsibilities and cares. Today’s nomads, however, are in an entirely different situation. Their lifestyle is often determined by the professional necessities of the main breadwinner. Increasingly, throughout the world, schools are emerging that offer curricula oriented especially towards the children of moving families, allowing them to grow roots while integrating to culture and societies other than their own.
In Switzerland, many private schools, some of which are of venerable age, have transformed their services to include an array of specially tailored programmes geared towards meeting the needs of schoolchildren and youths of the new nomads. These programmes are given in English, French, or even German in some cases. Beyond multilingual education, many of these schools also offer a programme known as the International Baccalaureate, or IB, which is recognised all over the world. The IB allows students in their last two years of secondary education to choose subjects at a higher level that they are interested in pursuing generally at university later on.
Something old, something new
Collège Champittet is one of the institutions that has adapted its offerings to the needs of the 21st century. It was founded in 1903 by French Dominican monks in a beautiful site just east of Lausanne facing Lake Geneva and the Alps beyond. The college remained in the hands of Catholic canons until 1998, when it became secular. Over the years, the school always maintained its high standards and it also cultivated openness to the world at large and innovative pedagogical ideas. Respect for other cultures and nurturing social skills are fundamental aspects of the curriculum. The idea is to give graduates as many tools as possible for to come to grips with their continuing academic careers. To know oneself is vital in finding the right path in life.
In 2006, Champittet decided to institute a bilingual programme (French/ English) that allows non-French speaking students to completely integrate into the system while at the same time learning French. The idea was to prepare students early on for the demands of the 21st century and the globalising planet. While the change was just meant to give a more modern orientation to the existing programme, it did result in a surge of international students, who now comprise 50 percent of the school body. Lately, too, the boarding section has also been experiencing some change in its linguistic composition.
A customised exam
Another logical consequence of the growth in the international student body was the introduction of the International Baccalaureate in 2009. Increasingly, expatriate families in the Lake Geneva region have been gravitating towards this highly effective programme. The IB was in fact born in Geneva in the late 1960s in response to a clear need. It was quickly accepted by educational authorities world-wide thanks to its rather stringent requirements. Essentially, students study three subjects at higher level and three at standard level. The programme is designed to ensure a good mix of science (applied), maths, social sciences and languages. Someone heading for a more humanities-oriented career, might study history, English and, say, biology at a higher level, and maths, chemistry and French at standard level. Students are required to write a so-called extended essay on a subject of their choice and do independent research. This will be defended at an oral exam later on. It was the French, apparently, who insisted on having some form of philosophy taught in a mandatory course called Theory of Knowledge, emphasising the acquisition of knowledge and critical thinking skills. “Philosophy is modern, it helps in integrating and getting the best from the mass of information we have today,” says Roland Lomenech, Collège Champittet’s general director. “Our society is bombarded with too much information and we either lack time or we don’t take time to process or reflect on this info. Integrating philosophy in education helps in taking some distance, in cultivating ethics and critical spirit on our students.” Students must also include experiential learning outside the classroom in the surrounding community and abroad, a segment referred to as CAS (Creativity, Action, Service).
The IB can be highly personalised as well, Lomenech points out. One language exam can be in the student’s mother tongue, while the other subjects can be learned and examined in English, French and Spanish. “For non-French speaking foreigners who come and settle in the region only for some years, this is ideal because it gives them more flexibility in their future career choice without having to necessarily follow the Swiss Maturity programme, which requires a deeper knowledge and competence of French,” Lomenech points out. At the same time, the IB offers a great opportunity for foreign students to learn French in a few years’ time.
With an IB diploma, students can apply for a university-level education anywhere in the world. Since it does cap a thirteen- year course of studies, they may also get a year off the usual four-year Bachelors programme at American universities. “This programme is really a plus, and it is adapted to the needs of a rapidly changing, globalised world,” Brigitte Morrison, Dean Bilingual Section and IB Coordinator of Collège Champittet, affirms.
All bases covered
School life at Collège Champittet follows a rigorous academic beat that is mellowed by the rhythm of various extra-curricular activities ranging from sports, arts and culture, to summer retreats in the mountains – the list is long. For some, the boarding school becomes the home away from home and a place they will remember for the rest of their lives. In boarding schools, strong bonds are forged. “It’s an ideal place where students develop the capacity to collaborate, respect others’ cultures and learn tolerance,” says Morrison. Compared with the English or Anglo-Saxon boarding system, Swiss boarding schools give the advantage of having French and English. Lomenech says: “We have a good bilingual programme, security and the opportunity for our students – including their families – to integrate with local communities because they learn and speak the local language. They also learn about Swiss culture, which is quite different from the Anglo-Saxon culture.”
The local community also offers a variety of activities – sports, theatre, arts, skiing, and clubs that encourage expats to get integrated and allow them to live beyond the expat world. “It’s like à la carte, they can choose from many options,” Lomenech points out. The world is evolving. Today, it is normal at some social levels to simply move. Schools must offer various academic options to meet the demands of our brave mobile world. And besides educational pursuits, they must instil certain human values, such as tolerance, generosity, curiosity and respect, in their wards, to help them meet the challenges of a mobile world and perhaps gather some moss too…
Collège Champittet has 1040 students in its several campuses in Pully (main), EPFL-Lausanne and Nyon. It offers classes from pre-school, elementary to secondary school level, with three world recognised diplomas: Swiss Maturity, French Baccalaureate and International Baccalaureate that allows application to a university-level education anywhere in the world. Collège Champittet is part of the Nord Anglia Education network of schools – the leader in the international provision of high-quality education. Nord Anglia operates international schools in Bratislava, Budapest, Lausanne, Prague, Warsaw, Beijing, Shanghai and Abu Dhabi. For more Serious study, two languages, and an idyllic location for today’s generation mobile information, visit www.champittet.ch
Article by Jane Demaurex