Why Switzerland provides the perfect Boarding school experience

 Why-Switzerland Why Switzerland provides the perfect Boarding school experience | World Schools

A boarding school principal in Switzerland, originally from the UK, where the culture around boarding is renowned globally, has shared her views on why Switzerland is the perfect setting for boarding school students. She explained to us the reasons behind her belief.

I came to Switzerland in September 2016 after more than 30 years of working in the British boarding system, where I also spent more than a decade as headmistress at two all-girls schools.

This past year has been an exciting and steep learning curve for me as I have come to embrace the boarding tradition in Switzerland and see quite how uniquely placed we are as a country and a system.

I have been surprised at how different it is from my previous experiences to be a principal of a genuinely international full-boarding school.

I have met families with educational roots in the British boarding tradition, and it has been interesting learning about their perspectives and why those who have chosen the Swiss route have done so.

We all recognize the importance of the British boarding tradition and its impact worldwide: at its core, the emphasis on values. However, I have spoken with international families this year who are turning their backs on the UK as they consider their options for their daughters’ education. Amongst their observations is a perception that some of these core values are becoming somewhat diluted.

In defense of the institutions that I have been proud to serve, I point out that perhaps it is more a case of different priorities being foisted on boarding schools in the UK, notably the strictures of an increasing box-ticking mentality over-burdened by regulations and the emphasis on paper rather than the person.

This has put increasing challenges on these independent British boarding schools, which have also been faced with an enforced emphasis on fundraising and development initiatives for bursaries as they are expected to make themselves increasingly accessible to families who cannot afford this education.

In addition, the heart of the British boarding system has been dealt a blow by the changing economic situation for the squeezed middle class who have been fundamental to these schools.

In Switzerland, I have been heartened and encouraged by the number of boarding schools I have visited and their emphasis on family. These schools are owned for generations by the same family or those for whom a family ethos lies at the heart of what we offer. This ethos is grounded in courage, curiosity, openness, and honesty, and it is as crucial to a nuclear family as it is to our school.

Although we are a small family, the fact that we are an international one means there is nothing small-minded about our outlook. We want students to engage in social responsibility, understand the tremendous opportunities they each have to make a difference in the world and develop global perspectives that will serve them in the future and help them get to where they want to be.

Our setting helps in many ways.

Every day, we wake to a view of the mountains and the lake. Ours is a beautiful, inspirational, and enriching environment. It provides the best of so many worlds. The natural world provides both a palette and a playground. Our location gives us easy access to European cities, where our students can benefit from cultural enrichment opportunities. The world is our oyster, just three hours from Milan and a little over an hour from Geneva airport.

Geneva offers unparalleled institutions leading the world in diplomacy, hospitality, and business. We have fostered strong relationships with many of them, who can help our students develop their future math and global perspectives.

If the wider world is easily accessible, Switzerland also offers families a location that provides safety and stability in this increasingly uncertain world. Our girls can walk down to town with their friends, enjoy a delightful dinner, or spend time shopping and exploring the highlights of this lakeside haven.

I have been the head of a school of 450 pupils that could not offer such enrichment as we can here. This is a tiny country, but the opportunities are significant. This allows us to provide all our students with education and enrichment that suits their particular needs, helping them get where they want to be.

If the emphasis in the UK has become more about academic hot-housing, where four-year-olds are being coached, this differs from what we are about. We have Ivy League parents whose educational roots lie in the British boarding model now opting to send their kids to Switzerland.

Our emphasis is on something other than achieving the best result for the school. It is about every student reaching her best.

Enlightened parents want to place girls in a different atmosphere to prepare them for making a difference in the world, so they choose Switzerland.