Tuesday May 8th, 2012
Guest post by Marilyn Stelzner (also cross-posted in various Yahoo! Groups)
International Link, part of the CVCI (Vaud Chamber of Commerce) sponsored a talk last night by Anne-Catherine Lyon, the head of Vaud public schools, and I found her to be amazingly open and positive. Did anyone else on this list go? If so, I’d love to hear your reactions. Or please correct me if I am misquoting her.
Ms. Lyon is apparently willing to change things in some situations and go to bat for families with their local school in other situations. Her formal presentation was fairly standard, with the diagrams showing the type of schooling by age group, but she took questions during the talk. I wish I had taken better notes, but some things I wrote down:
- 33% of the 82,000 students in Canton Vaud public schools do not speak French when they enter the system.
- Communes own the buildings, offer lunch programs, provide transportation. Teachers work for the canton, which also provides all the equipment in the classrooms. The confederation sets standards. Every change to how things are done needs to be negotiated.
- 20% of schools in the canton have lunch programs, which she said is high compared to other cantons.
- Lots of changes as of August ’13 as part of harmonization with the rest of CH
- English classes starting at grade 5
- Compulsory education will start at age 4, and the cut-off birth date is changing a bit (sorry, I missed the date.) Someone asked a question about the possibility of making an exception if a child has a late birthday and might do better waiting but she said that after August ’15, there will be no exceptions.
- Primary school will end at age 12 at the end of the CYT (Cycle of Transition)
- After the CYT, there will then be 2 tracks in upper secondary school -VSB and VSG. She said that the advantage of this plan is that students will be able to change between the tracks each of the years. She also noted that in Canton Valais, which has one of the best rankings for their education system, secondary school is “totally open” and that is what she had been aiming for. However, 2/3 of the parliament would not go along with that.
- There were several questions about the best time to integrate and she said that for non-French speakers it was easiest for students if they start before age 8 when they start taking German. Otherwise they have to catch up German at the same time they are still learning French, though German can be postponed a bit for adjustment.
- The cities, and she specifically sited Lausanne, Morges, and Vevey, are better organized in terms of ecole enfantine and day care than the villages.
- Someone from a relocation company said that she was never able to make arrangements to take parents who were relocating on visits of schools, and that a lot of expat parents are really uncomfortable with not being able to visit schools before deciding to send their children there. Ms. Lyon clarified that students have to attend the school that is where they live, but she also said she agreed that it should be possible for parents to visit one or two schools ahead of time. She said this is a change that could be made quickly.
- Students who complete the Ecole de maturité receive two pieces of paper: a Baccalaureat from the canton and a Federal Maturité, which however, she clarified is not the same as the federal maturité awarded to private school students who take the federal exam. I am especially interested in issues with the recognition of the cantonal maturité outside of Switzerland and followed up with two points related to that:
- I told her that from my research I had learned that some universities in the UK do not recognize the maturite awarded by the canton. She said that they had been told that and were going to do some investigation of the situation.
- I said that several of the German speaking cantons offered the possibility of getting both a matura and an International Baccalaureate diploma specifically to help with the issues of recognition of their diplomas outside of Switzerland, and asked if canton Vaud had or would consider offering such a program. She conferred with one of her staff members who also attended and said they were not aware of this but would look into it.
Although there were very few changes that she actually committed to, her openness to the possibility was certainly refreshing.