Upper schools for bilingual children in Frankfurt

8 posts in this topic

Hi Everyone,

 

We will eventually be looking into Upper schools when our eldest enters 6th or 7th grade. Does anyone have experience with any of the following for Upper School only: FIS or ISF? I'd love a list of pros and cons or other options as well.

 

Also, does anyone have an opinion about "international school" versus "German gymnasium" for upper school? Our eldest is a studious bilingual child, and we are looking for a school with academic excellence but also a nurturing and welcoming environment. Any helpful thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

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I don't know anything abuot FIS or ISF, and I know it's very early to be thinking about college, but you might consider where you see your child applying to university (US vs. UK vs. Germany, etc.). Has your child been in German schools so far?

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Well, it's never too early to start thinking about college. Since I have no idea where my children would like to attend university in the future, I would like to keep as many options available to them as possible. I studied in the US and my husband studied in England. We both met in Germany doing post-grad/PhD work. The children have been rasied bilingually since birth and currently attend a bilingual school which also follows the Hessen school plan. Because we would like to keep the option open for the children to attend universities in the US or UK, the international schools are attractive because they offer the IB diploma. However, both schools, while having some wonderful advantages, also seem to have quite a few disadvantages as well.

 

In a nutshell, I love the spirit of the FIS and the arts and music program it offers, but my sense is that the academics is quite lacking, especially in math and german. Their test scores are nothing to rave about and while they do send a few students each year to top universities in England, they rarely send anyone to top universities in the US.

 

The ISF seems more academically oriented yet I wonder about the spirit and sense of community of the school. I know from families who have been to both FIS and ISF (in the elementary years at least) that the German and Math programs at ISF are first rate. They do complain however that writing classes are not as good and there is a lot of emphasis on testing. Not sure what that means as we also had many tests and exams in elementary and secondary school.

 

It seems like neither school has it all. In the US (and perhaps in the UK though I am not familiar with their system), there are excellent high schools which both have a great spirit and sense of community, top academics, strong arts, music and drama programs and track records of sending kids to the top US universities (i.e. often called feeder schools). I know the international schools here serve a different niche and I am trying to get a better sense of what both upper schools are like.

 

In the US, the international schools are rarely the top schools. Therefore, we've also started considering German schools (gymasium) as we know it has a reputation for excellent academics and it has a somewhat selective student pool. However, the Abitur is not as well recognized as the IB and I'm not sure how easy it is to apply to university in the US or UK with only the Abitur. I know German students do study in the US and UK, but also know that it is extremely difficult for them to get spots at the top universities in either country. Moreover, I've heard so many horrible stories about the teachers at German schools which make it seem like such a cold and unfriendly place. Again, I'm not sure what that really means. The Germans I've asked seem to think it is no big deal. And, well, I've gotten used to the grumpiness of sales clerks, so are German gymasiums like that or even worse? How bad can it really be? I'd like to hear expat opinions on that.

 

Anyway, I am looking for any been there, done that advice or opinions as we don't know many families with children in high school.

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Anyone? Anyone? ... Bueller?

 

Just bumping this up hoping someone may have even 2nd or 3rd hand opinions.

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Well, my German niece is now 18 and finishing off school at a private German boarding school. There are German and international students enrolled, and kids have a choice of doing either the Abi or the Baccalaureate. In addition to a very good academic program, there is also a very strong music and arts emphasis with students being able to play in an orchestra, big band, sing in a choir, or do theatre. Private music lessons can also be arranged through the school. My niece is now taking piano lessons, cello lessons, and is in the choir. Soon the choir will be travelling to Venice to take part in an international singing festival. The only area where the school is perhaps a little weak as compared to North American high schools is sport, although phys ed is a part of the curriculum.

 

The school is quite different from the regular German high schools. Some local kids live at home, other kids live at the school Mon-Fri and go home on weekends. Although connected with the Evangelical Church, students can easily opt out of religion classes and instead take an ethics class as a substitute. Thus you do have different religions within the student body. And the school isn't "preachy" imo.

 

For more info about my niece's particular school, you can take a look at their web site, which is available in English. My niece and the whole family are very happy with her time there, and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering a German school. (classes are in German) I'm sure there must be other similar schools out there.

 

Ev. Schulzentrum Michelbach / Bilz

 

 

The Protestant School Centre is situated in the village of Michelbach, near the town of Schwaebisch Hall, which lies between Stuttgart and Nuremberg in Southern Germany.

 

Our School Complex is comprised of 3 mixed pupil secondary schools:

1) A "Realschule" (intermediate school) for pupils aged 10 to 16 years, (2) an "Aufbaugymnasium" (grammar school) for ages 13 to 19, and (3) a "Gymnasium" (grammar school) for 10 to 19 year olds. Schools (2) and (3) conclude with the "Abitur" or Baccalaureate-examination. Students who pass this exam are qualified to enter all German universities.

 

Our schools are all-day schools (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and 180 of our more than 600 pupils are housed in our residential buildings. The school complex was expanded in the year 2000 with additional buildings. The boarding house is situated within the complex in a castle, built in 1620, but with a modern interior.

 

From year 9 to 13, in addition to the ordinary lessons of German, Mathematics, English and French etc., our pupils are required to study one of three additional subjects:

(1) Music. (2) Religious Studies and Social Works ("Diakonie"). (3) Natural Sciences/Technology/Religion. Each subject includes theory AND a lot of practical work.

 

Since all pupils are at school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., school days can be organized in a rhythmical change of lessons, common meals, free space and workshops. There are many occasions of informal encounters and conversation between all members of the school community.

 

One afternoon per week, all pupils of Years 5 to 10 are required to participate in one of our workshops. There are some 20 workshops to choose from (Music, sport, theatre, handicraft etc.).

 

Most of our teachers are also active in the boarding house or as educators in the all-day school: education is more than giving good lessons!

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I had my child at FIS for 3 years I had a few issues with them, particularly the lack of security, which was non-existent. At least now they have guards at the gate, however they go home as soon as the last bus leaves the parking lot. As if the children taking part in the after-school activities (a lot of them do) need no protection.

 

3 years ago, we switched our son to a German school (he should integrate the German society blah blah blah.) It was the worst mistake we could have made!! I honestly feel that we wasted one precious year in our son’s life. First of all the day, when complete, only goes from 7:55 AM to 1:05 PM. But, if a teacher doesn’t show up say, for the last 2 periods (which was the case with almost all of my son’s teachers) they simply send the kids home! they have no substitutes!! :angry:

 

Germany is the only so called "1st world country" where you see children of any age roaming the streets during the time when children in say, in the USA and Canada are at school.

 

We opted for Montessori, he still gets to be with German children and he is in school full time. They even have a very healthy and nutritious lunch to offer. For us, it was the best alternative.

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I think it's very difficult to find a (private) school that will meet all of your needs. For me personally, I'd rather my children get an IB since we do not know where we will end up in the future. And if it is recognized everywhere then that would make their lives a bit easier than having to see what countries accept which diplomas/Abschlüsse. The advantage I see to a private education compared to a public Gymnasium is definitely individual support. At my children's current school, quite a few parents have taken their children out of the public system and put them into the private because of bad grades and the need for smaller classes. My kids are currently in the private system and will be starting in the public in 3 mos. time. I'm very curious to see if there is a real difference, and if so, we'll have to go back to eating Ramen every day. GL

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On 9/15/2008, 6:55:35, Tigrita said:

... We opted for Montessori, he still gets to be with German children and he is in school full time. They even have a very healthy and nutritious lunch to offer. For us, it was the best alternative.

Can you share more of your experience with Montessori school in Germany? How did this work out for your son? Did you have any previous experience with Monstessori (so that's why you chose it in Germany) or did you choose it over other programs for some other reason (the problems you had at FIS or the German school notwithstanding)?

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