Geneva, Switzerland Real School Experiences

Personal Experiences from Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva, Switzerland 10/17/13

College du Leman

School Website

http://cdl.ch


Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?

Parent.

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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

7, 10, IB2.

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3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?

2011-2014.

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4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

Government.

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5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

Quality of education; US-type diploma program available; Extra-curricular sports and other afterschool activities; All kids on one campus; Administration is small and approachable.

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

PFA greets new families at Orientation. With CDL's Direction, it throws a free BBQ at the start of the year to bring the whole school together as one community -- students, parents, teachers, and staff. Admissions staff and parents greet new families at a special meeting point. PFA also hosts Welcome Coffees and a seminar on Swiss Traffic Rules for newcomers. New families are encouraged to attend PFA meetings, which are open to all. PFA also runs Parent Time, which provides a wide range of clubs and activities for parents (hiking, skiing, tours & outings, stay-at-home dads, book clubs, etc.), and these activities are a great way for parents to get to know each other. For the kids, CDL plans Discovery Days and field trips (usually into the mountains) at the start of the year to help them get to know their classmates. For some parents, these trips happen too soon, and some kids are not comfortable leaving home so soon after arriving. Others think the trips are a great way for the kids to quickly get to know each other.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:

A: CDL has new direction, under the leadership of Yves Theze. In my opinion, the Direction is willing to listen to, and share information with, parents, even if we don't always agree. The new Direction has proved to be a good and fair partner to CDL's very active Parent-Faculty Assoc. Teachers have been fair to my children.

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2. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

I have not had any problem communicating with teachers, either by email or in person. Truly, it's been as easy as if I were in an American school, and I was surprised to see the previous poster's comments to the contrary. It is true that some teachers did not alert parents about poor performance in advance of report cards a couple of years ago, and CDL has addressed that. We come from a big US school, and I have been very impressed by how well the teachers seem to know my kids. The teachers submit extensive, individualized comments with the report cards and meet with parents on conference days held 2-3 times/year. They are also happy to meet with parents at other times of the year, if parents would like. CDL is rolling out a new online "parent portal," which will allow parents to view their child's grades as the teacher records them, to track homework, to easily access teacher emails, etc. It should be up and running by some time this year, so it is still early to tell how well it will work.



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3. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

CDL started a Special Needs program last year.

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4. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

CDL has a very wide and varied after school line-up and it keeps expanding -- soccer, basketball, rugby, gymnastics, cheerleading, archery, running club (for Primary), pony club (for Primary), arts, orchestra, rock band, the "non" rock band, chorus, private music lessons, charities, drama, Model UN, etc. This year, certain activities that were traditionally for boarding students were made available to day students, as well (e.g. golf, sailing.) Most team sports for MS and HS are free, which is amazing for this area. Others are offered at additional cost, which can sometimes be very high and, for us, prohibitively high.

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5. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

I've been particularly impressed with the IB teachers. The standards are very high. They know each child well and work with them as individuals to reach the high standards that they set.

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6. Administration-parent communication:

It is true, as the other poster suggested, that CDL used to do a poor job communicating with parents about what was happening at the school -- test dates, meeting times, sporting events, etc. A little over a year ago, the Parent-Faculty Association asked CDL to create a biweekly newsletter. They worked with us to create CDL News, and it has improved communications tremendously. You can see some past editions on the website.

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7. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:

No.

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8. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:

IB music and/or drama.

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9. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

Yes. There are trips at the start of the year for all of the kids, which are designed to help them get to know each other and engage in out-of-classroom learning. They are considered mandatory and can be quite expensive. There are also non-mandatory trips offered, many of which are excellent. My daughter has had opportunities to go on other non-required trips -- to see Shakespeare at Stratford-on-Avon with her IB English class and to go to Paris with her IB French class.

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10. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:

Yes. They actually have had more opportunity to try different sports at CDL than they would have had in the US, where try-outs are required to play on most teams. They've had the chance to get involved in some very exciting and rewarding charity activities, as well. Two of my children are involved in private music lessons, which meet at the school. CDL offers late buses for kids who take afterschool activities, and these can be very convenient.

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11. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:

The school is always looking for ways to strengthen relationships between the English-speaking and French-speaking families, as well as between the day students and boarding students.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

CDL has 3.5 college counselors. The current counselors are knowledgeable and work hard. But the school is so diverse -- with children receiving 4 different types of diplomas and going to school in numerous countries around the world -- that more counseling resources are needed.

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2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

There is one library for the Primary School and one for the MS/HS. Neither is huge. My kids use them mainly to find English books to read for fun. They tend to use the computer for research.

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3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

They're rolling out Ipads grade-by-grade. They also teach computer skills during computer classes or "CSL" (College, Study and Life Skills) classes.

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4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

CDL requires PE, all the way into the HS. It also offers a wide range of extra-curr sports, more so than most other international schools here. This is one reason we chose CDL over Ecole Int. But don't expect an American type school. Each sport meets just once or twice per week with only a handful of competitions throughout the season. Kids who want to compete at a higher,more serious level tend to participate in sports programs in the surrounding communities. CDL provides shuttle buses to some of these and others are within walking distance. Because there are so many anglophone expats in the area, many of the programs operate in English and French, but not all. (The running club mentioned in the previous review does, in fact, operate in both languages, with Swedish coaches and a mix of English-speaking and French-speaking kids. The PE Dept can advise on good community clubs. The coaches at CDL are well-known and are a big part of the school spirit at CDL.

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5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

In the older grades (11 and 12), classes can be quite small, less than 10. Most classes seem to have 15-20 kids.

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6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

No AP in Grades 9 or 10. AP and IB for Grades 11 and 12.

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7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

Yes.

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8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

Art, music and drama are required in MS. There is an IB art program, but no IB music yet. There are plans to start a strings program in the Primary School, where every child takes violin during the school day. There are also a variety of options afterschool: a great rock band for the HS kids, a string orchestra, a traditional band, a drama club, after-school art classes, and a pretty extensive private music program. These all cost money and you will find that the prices in Geneva, and in every private school in this area, are high!

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9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

My children are in the English-speaking section of the school. They personally haven't had any teachers who were not fluent. I'm not sure what the requirement is.

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10. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?

Yes, see above.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

They tend to socialize with other CDL kids outside of class.

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2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.

Not that I'm aware of. There are many more expat kids at the school than local kids.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

It is truly an "international" school, with more than 100 nationalities represented in English-speaking and French-speaking programs. It has the feel of a small school, where the administration and teachers know the children well, tailor their teaching, and care about them as individuals. It is lucky to have many teachers, who are talented, creative and dedicated, and go well beyond the classroom to contribute to the school. It has an administration that is approachable and willing to listen.

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2. Greatest challenge?

Continuing to create a single school community, rather than separate anglo, franco and boarding communities. Dealing with the high costs of books, trips, cafeteria, etc.

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3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Yes.

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Geneva, Switzerland 09/04/12

College du Leman

School Website

http://www.cdl.ch


Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?

Parent

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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

8-9 and 10-11

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3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?

2011-2012 (a bit over a year now)

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4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

Government

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?

It seems okay, but I'm not really sure.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

D Almost nothing. One "welcome" meeting at the start of the year that feels canned and impersonal.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:

It's cold, strict, and unfriendly. Very unwelcoming and detached.

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2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:

A as far as I can tell.

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3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

F: I cannot stress strongly enough how awful this aspect of the school is. It has happened with us on several occasions that it is almost unbelievable that a teacher did not write to tell us something in advance and then, when asked, said "Oh, I assumed you knew." This came up when my son was adjusting poorly at the start of our time at the school and he got a D and an F but I didn't know there was any problem at all till I got the report card. Then of course it was too late. And courses are cumulative throughout the year, so he had to learn all of that material or it came back to bite him again at the end of the year (and it did), like teh abd gift that just keeps giving. A simple two line email would have alerted me to the need for parental involvement or a tutor being hired. I could have helped. But not if I didn't know about it. Which I did not. So I could not. Now the college applications go out with a bad grade that totally could have been avoided. When I asked the teacher how I could help him in future, at that meeting it became clear the teacher did not know that my son was a new student to the school and she was so out of touch with the range of curricula at the different international schools, that she could not believe that a course CDL required in 9th grade was not required by all schools worldwide. She didn't even know that my son could not possibly have done well in her course because it was a "part II" course for which he'd never received the "part I". Awful.

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4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

I don't know.

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5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

F: the worst! they tell you to join the clubs in your canton (like a "state" in America), but those are in French and cost money and paretns have to get their kids to and from them, so impossible for working parents. They have a few sports at school, but really just a very, very few, and they only compete locally, not at all like most international schools with travelling teams. They advertised golf, but when my son wanted to sign up, they said it was only being offered to boarding students, not day students (like him). He tried to sign up for archery, and they cancelled it because the teacher who was going to run it said he was going to offer a different activity for the boarding kids instead. My kids gave up quickly, as did we. They build up your hopes, only to let you down time and time again. They advertise things, even on their websites, that never happen. Total false advertising.

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6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

C: Very unevent. Sometimes yes, sometimes absolutely not.

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7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

B: Levels are fine but uneven from grade to grade.

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8. Administration-parent communication:

D: None. Zero. Unless you count the rare newsletters. Becuase of the newsletter, I give them a D. Otherwise, it would be an F.

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9. Teacher-student communication:

D: If the student is motivated, he or she can reach a teacher. Teachers do not make any effort at all, even when there are clear problems with understanding.

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10. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?

Yes. Computer class was silly. Art is uninspired. No theater class, so any student who wants a challenge int aht area will not get one. But otherwise it's okay, I think.

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11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:

No.

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12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:

I think it is not, from what other parents say. But I do not have personal experience.

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13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:

N/A

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14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?

Absolutely not. There is almost nothing. Their web site is misleading. For instance, the web site says they offer golf, so my son tried to sign up only to be told that it's only being offered for boarding students. He had been so excited to learn they had golf that he'd bought himself golf clubs in advance of school out of his own savings. He was deeply disappointed, as were we. He signed up for archery, but it never met. He was told the teacher who was going to teach archery decided to offer a different activity to boarding students instead. No middle school theater, and my daughter loved being in plays in her other schools. I could go on. But you get the idea. No sports are competed at other international schools. They compete locally with some schools in Switzerland. If you don't speak French or German, you'll feel left out. My daughter wanted to sign up for Cross Country and was told to join the runnning club in her town (whcih operates entirely in French). She doesn't speak French. She gave up.

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15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:

Sports, after school activities, languages at all levels for the different grades. The school told my daughter shoudl could take Italian, German or Spanish. She signed up for Italian. They put her in intermediate Italian, but she doesn't speak any Italian. They never bothered to ask her. She dropped it and gave up. They told my son he could take German and French (French is required for all grade levels) so he signed up for German. He was put in Intermediate German also, though he spoke no German. Same problem. So he dropped it and took only French. So when they say "all kids can take two languages" what they really mean is "all kids can take French, and maybe one other language if the level your child is suits what we're offering at that moment." Another case of false advertising.

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16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

Yes! They charge outrageous amounts for everythign! Even by Swiss standards. The PE uniform cost us $180 per child! Lunch, we did the math, costs $19.00 per DAY, and is not that good. I pay half of that at work for a lunch that's very nice and provided by a private contractor, just like they have at their school, so this is absolutely not necessary. it's a for profit school and you will never forget that it is. Most schools provide books. Not this school. You have to buy them all. Since I am with the US Government, I get that cost reimbursed, but if you don't get it reimbursed, it's incredibly expensive and absolutely unheard of to not just have class sets and loan them to kids for the year, take them back, then loan them to the next year's kids, charging only if a kid loses a book.

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17. What activities do you feel are missing?

All of them. Every single one is missing.

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18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:

Nope. There are almost none. And those they thought they'd like to take were all cancelled even though they had been offered.

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19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?

None. No. It's unwelcoming. Just show up, go to class, sit down, and learn. No welcoming atmosphere. No introductions. Nothing.

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20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:

There is no social interaction at the school. That's the problem.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

F on Family support. C on college applications (better if you plan to go to the UK, worse if you plan to go to college in North America). D on career advising (they did one small activity that both of my kids said was "lame" and they already knew "all of that".

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2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

C: Average library. Almost no one uses it. Eery time I've walked into it or by it, it's all but utterly empty.

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3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

C This year they are trying out i-Pads for some grades. If it works, they will use them in more grades, I think. Not sure. Other than that, tech is almost non-existent. There is a computer class for 9th and 10th grades, but the teacher screams all the time and is extremely unpleasant. I'm also told the kids ask her questions all the time that she simply can't answer and never bothers to find the answer to. Also, computer classes are now out of fashion in schools. Most good schools do not offer a class in computers but, rather, give tech support as needed in classrooms in other subjects. This school is way behind the times on that.

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4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

C-: Both of my children say it's incredibly boring and uninspired.

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5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

A: about 18 kids in a class at most. good size.

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6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

Both are offered at the 11th and 12th grade levels. Below that, there is no IB.

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7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

It's fine.

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8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

C-: There is art, but not all year. There is music if you want to pay for lessons, or a very thin program at school. No theater productions in middle school.

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9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

Yes, sort of. Not all do. Most do. I got one email from a core subject teacher that was written like a 8th grade non-native speaker struggling with English. It was shocking actually. Most are okay though. Though it should be noted that most teachers are not native speakers.

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10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

No.

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11. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?

No. Absolutely not.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

Not mine. Everyone lives far from school in the countryside. The school offers nothing. So if your child has a few friends, that's about all they'll see on weekends.

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2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.

I don't think so. The worst of it is that they experience utter indifference.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

Honestly, I can't think of one worth mentioning.

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2. Greatest challenge?

Everything.

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3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

We are so unhappy with this school, and have been told in no uncertain terms by many, many parents that the other schools in the area we might choose if we wanted to switch, all have their own equal but different problems (and some problems that are just the same), so it's not worth trading the devil you know, as they say. So we have decided to curtail out of Switzerland. Such a gorgeous, gorgeous country, in a fantastic location, and the Swiss and French people have been great, and we love our jobs here, but it's a horrible school situation. So though we've never curtailed from anywhere before, we will curtail from Geneva for one reason only: the schools are awful. CDL, which is the only one I can say from personal experience, is far and away the worst school my children have ever attended, and this is our 6th expat experience. I am not normally a complainer. We've enjoyed the other places we've lived and schools my kids have gone to. I have been a teacher at some of those schools, in fact. Really, this is the only place I would say this about. Do not come to Switzerland for the great schools. In fact, better to bid on this post after your kids go to college or if you have none.

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