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Zurich to fund schools for foreigners

Demand for international schools far outstrips the availability of places

(Keystone)

Foreign businesspeople should find it easier to educate their children in Zurich, following a government decision to help fund new international schools.

Zurich's cantonal government has agreed to subsidise the construction of extra schools to cater for the needs of its large international community.

Three international schools in the canton look after the educational needs of around 1,400 children, but demand far outstrips the availability of places and new schools are currently in the pipeline.

The Radical Party, one of the three major political parties to back the move, said international schools were essential if the canton was to retain its distinctive cosmopolitan flavour. "You can't have an international Zurich without international schools," a party spokesman commented.

Indeed, according to Karin Sarbach who runs one of Zurich's three international schools, companies wanting to set up shop in Switzerland often choose their location based on access to international schools to ensure they can attract top-quality employees from abroad.

Key attraction for companies

"We have heard from several companies, which want to know the situation with international schools," she told swissinfo. "They usually contact us before deciding in which canton they will open a new headquarters."

International schools cater mainly for the children of business managers who come to Zurich for a period of two or three years and then move on. The cantonal government said it would be a waste of time for these children to be integrated into the state school system.

According to the Swiss People's Party, integration would also cost the state SFr24 million.

One school which stands to benefit from the scheme is Sarbach's Wallisellen International School, which is planning to expand (see "Swiss give English lessons to English speakers" below).

Her husband and business partner, Daniel Sarbach, says more parents - including the Swiss - want to give their children the benefit of an English-language education in an international environment.

"There is enough demand to set up a new campus to cater for 600 students," Sarbach told swissinfo.

The local government's decision brings Zurich into line with several other Swiss cantons, which subsidise international schools.

swissinfo


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