Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: Dispatches’ guide to international schools in Zurich

One of the bigger challenges for English-speaking expat families – even for well-paid corporate nomads – is finding a satisfactory, English-language international school.

Such schools cater to expat students, with curricula tied to the host nation in question, or an international education organization such as Edexcel, Cambridge International Examinations, and International Baccalaureate; if you’re curious about the International Baccalaureate program, by the by, Dispatches Europe has a primer for your convenience.

Wherever you’re headed, do not wait to get there before starting the application process with your preferred international school, which can be lengthy.

Zurich is the largest city in all of Switzerland, with more than 400,000 residents inside the city proper, and 1.83 million in the metro area. Located on the northern tip of Lake Zurich, the city’s history began as a permanent settlement some 2,000 years ago.

Back then, it was Turicum, an imperial Roman customs station for goods passing from/to Rome via Alpine rivers. The station was abandoned by Roman troops in 401 CE, but would continue to be occupied by Gallo-Romans and Alemanni thereafter, becoming Zurich in the 10th century.

Zurich would become a free imperial city in 1218, answering only to the Holy Roman Emperor. By 1351, it was the fifth city to join the Old Swiss Confederation, though it would be expelled briefly between 1440 and 1451 over disputes regarding the succession to the count of Toggenburg. Zurich then became a battlefield during the French Revolution during two separate conflicts in 1799, falling to Napoleonic rule with the rest of Switzerland through 1814, when it and the rest of the old confederation blazed a path toward the modern-day Swiss federal state.

Zurich is home to the SIX Swiss stock exchange, and is a leading financial center alongside its status as a global city. Credit Suisse, UBS and Zurich Financial Services are among the many banking and financial institutions which call Zurich home. Several art movements — Dadaism, Constructive Art — were born here; the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology are among the top 50 universities around the world; and several museums and other attractions dot the city and the canton of the same name.

As you’d expect of one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world,  where one-in-three people are internationals, Zurich has many great international schools from which to choose.

And as with our post on international schools in Geneva, it should be noted that tuitions here reflect the stratospheric prices of what is one of the world’s most expensive cities.

logo-topZurich International School: More than 1,500 students from 55 nations divided among four campuses attend Zurich International School, a school born from the merger of American International School of Zurich and International Primary School of Zurich in 2001.

For five decades (based on the history of AISZ, founded in 1963), ZIS has followed a four-pronged path for its student body, with the aim of providing “the structure for courageous leadership in order to challenge what others would have us take for granted amid times “which are turbulent and challenging, but which also afford significant opportunities for enduring change.”

ZIS’ curriculum is that of the International Baccalaureate, and is accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

  • Notable alumni included Class of 1977, Richard Morais, who wrote “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” and “Buddahland Brooklyn,” and Class of 1994, Eva Respini, chief curator, Boston Institute of Contemporary Art. Class of 2011
  • Fees (2016-17 academic year): 500 CHF one-time non-refundable initial application fee (plus 20 CHF credit card fee), also serves as registration fee for Early ZIS and preschool programmes; 4,000 CHF one-time non-refundable registration fee for pre-K forward; 500 CHF (plus 20 CHF credit card fee) re-application fee; 16,000 CHF – 61,000 CHF annual tuition, depending on programme/grade level
  • Requirements: Submit initial registration form with application fee; complete and submit online application; complete placement tests (if needed)
  • Application Deadline: N/A; must meet age requirement of given grade level by 31 August of the new academic year
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • Website: www.zis.ch

iszn-logoInternational School – Zurich North: International School – Zurich North is also an IB World school in Zurich, covering your little ones from the nursery to commencement.

Students and staff from more than 40 nations attend the young school (founded in 1999), with classes arranged in a 1:8 ratio between students and staff.

The small class sizes “ensure a caring and nurturing learning environment” for all students, allowing ISZN to fulfill its mission of developing lifelong learners who possess awareness of the world around them, capable of driving positive change in return.

ISZN is also approved to give examinations from Edexcel and the University of Cambridge.

  • Fees (2016-17 academic year): 3,000 CHF capital fund fee for the first child, 1,000 CHF for additional children; 14,000 CHF – 28,000 CHF annual tuition, depending on grade level
  • Requirements: Arrange a visit to the campus; complete and submit application with required documentation
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • Website: www.iszn.ch

sis-swiss-international-schoolSIS Swiss International School: SIS is not one, but 16 bilingual schools operating in Switzerland, Germany and Brazil, with a total of 3,400 students in attendance. Two of the schools are in Zurich and the former nearby farming village of Zurich-Wollischofen.

SIS takes an “independent and value-centred approach” to learning, striving to instill the values of “honesty, respect, appreciation, personal responsibility and integrity” into their student body. The network of schools offers an immersive bilingual education in both German and English, and presents graduating students with the opportunity to leave with the IB Diploma and the bilingual Swiss Matura.

  • Fees (2016-17 academic year): 400 CHF one-time non-refundable registration fee for the first child, 300 CHF for subsequent children, an additional 600 CHF for reservations made before 1 October of the previous academic year (Zurich and Zurich-Wollischofen), 600 CHF for first child in secondary and college levels (Zurich); 11,640 CHF annual tuition fee (Zurich-Wollischofen); 11,640 CHF – 13,660 CHF annual tuition (Zurich), depending on grade level
  • Requirements: N/A; contact school for information
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • Website: www.swissinternationalschool.ch

imgresInter-Community School Zurich: Inter-Community School Zurich began life in 1960 as a primary school “where English-speaking expatriates could send their children.” Today, 850 students from 55 countries at all grade levels attend ICS.

The school is the only IB World School in Zurich authorized to offer all three IB programmes, and is accredited by CIS and NEASC. ICS is “committed to providing a supportive and enabling learning environment in which all members of the community are challenged to achieve their individual potential, encouraged to pursue their passions, and expected to fulfill their responsibilities.”

  • Fees (2016-17 academic year): 200 CHF one-time non-refundable application fee; 1,000 CHF one-time non-refundable registration fee; 5,000 CHF – 6,000 CHF capital fund fee (the former is one-time, the latter spread out over three years); 24,000 CHF – 36,100 CHF annual tuition fee, depending on grade level
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application with fee and required documentation
  • Application Deadline: Rolling deadline; encouraged to apply early
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • Website: www.icsz.ch

logoTandem International Multilingual School: Tandem International Multilingual School is a new primary school, founded on the northern shore of Lake Zurich in 2004 in three locations: Uetikon am See, Zollikon and Zurich. More than 200 students from more than 25 countries attend the three schools, with over half speaking three or more languages.

Tandem’s curriculum pulls from several education programmes, including the IB Primary Programme, the Zürcher Lehrplan, the UK National Curriculum, and the Ontario Curriculum. Subjects are taught in English, German and French. Tandem’s mission is “to achieve a positive and dynamic learning climate within which diversity is celebrated and where language learning is key to encouraging open-mindedness, gaining international perspective, creative thinking and developing respect.”

  • Fees (2016-17 academic year): 850 CHF one-time enrollment fee (all schools); 150 CHF annual PTA Fund payment (all schools); 1,000 CHF one-time non-refundable capital fund fee (Uetikon am See and Zollikon), 3,000 CHF fee (Zurich Seefeld); full schedules of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application with fee and required documentation; sign and submit contract upon acceptance
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • Website: www.tandem-ims.ch
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Lifestyle journalist. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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