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by Katie Harwood, Haut-Lac International Bilingual School

Sometimes parents hesitate when faced with choosing between English or bilingual streams. Which will be best for their children?

This article is here to demystify that decision, as neither option is right or wrong. Both can suit any family. It just depends on what is best for their lifestyle and expectations of the future.

Why English?

  • English is currently the world’s most connected language.
  • It’s a language used for worldwide communication, so achieving competency or mastery is an incredible asset for anyone.
  • English will open up a student’s future.
  • Young students who are still early in their international school career will find that knowing English will be a boon when creating friendships. Older students who demonstrate a good level of English will most likely be more appealing to employers worldwide.
  • International students whose families are often on the move may also benefit from focusing on learning solely in English, rather than beginning to learn French before moving on again. English will be the constant language in the lives of international school kids, so it is best for them to develop their skills in this language as fully as possible.
  • Following the English programme may also benefit local and Swiss families, who wish to give their children a deep English immersion, so as to raise their level more quickly than would happen in public school. It will also benefit students who arrive with neither English nor French. Rather than learn two new languages right away, English will be the easier language to take on first. When they feel ready, students may always try the bilingual programme later.

A gentle introduction to bilingualism: If learning French feels like a very large task, the English stream can be an easier way to get started. Students will get a period of French a day in the primary and infant sections, and can take beginner French classes in secondary. By building their confidence slowly, they will know in time whether they’re ready and willing to transition into the bilingual stream or not.

Why bilingual?

  • An incredible asset: As much as English is almost a necessity on a resume nowadays, demonstrating bilingualism is a big bonus! Being able to speak more than one language says a lot about a person.
  • Smoother integration: The bilingual programme is also ideal for families who wish to further their integration in Switzerland. Getting a good grasp of French will enable students to make the most of this beautiful country they’re in and really feel at home.

A truly balanced approach to bilingualism
Local, Swiss families who would like their children to have a balanced, in-depth English and French education would benefit greatly from our programme, given that students can maintain their French education whilst doing much more English than in public school. Studying at Haut-Lac will also allow them to keep their options open. Thanks to our Swiss Bilingual Cycle, students will still be able to sit the Cantonal Maturité exam should they wish to.

Gaining new perspectives
The same topics are covered in both English and French in primary, and secondary students can tailor their timetables to choose which subjects to study in which language. Given that different cultures approach the same subjects in different ways, being able to observe how they are broached in English and French will widen a student’s understanding of what they’re studying.

Encourages tolerance through cultural understanding: Understanding different languages also means gaining a better understanding of cultural differences. The bilingual stream will increase students’ sensitivity and cultural awareness through the work they do in class and the people they interact with daily.

All in all, there are benefits to both language streams available at Haut-Lac, and that is why we allow our students to decide which suits them best. No matter the path they choose, the integral values and education we give our students at Haut-Lac will help them become well-rounded young adults with great potential.

Through the Learning Means the World and International Baccalaureate programmes at Haut-Lac International Bilingual School in Switzerland, academic offerings are tailored so that students can be taught bilingually, in English only and, as of September 2020, in French only too.

Local schools that offer bilingual English/French options are:

Photo credit: Neonbrand Unsplash

Author bio

Katie HarwoodKatie Harwood is a member of the communications team at Haut-Lac International Bilingual School in Switzerland, as well as oversees the school's blog which covers all things education and child development. She is always on the lookout for interesting, new angles and future trends in the sector.

Not only is Katie now working at Haut-Lac, but thanks the school for her bilingualism where she loved growing up amongst a thriving and lively international community as a student. She is herself is a half Swiss and half Irish.

She followed this by undertaking an English and Creative Writing BA at the University of Warwick in England, before returning to make the best use of her skills in the school where she grew up, given her strong advocacy of international education.