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Posted on: January 26th 2024

Educators on Exchange - Ms Broder and Ms Elsensohn

Ms Broder and Ms Elsensohn had this to say about their exchange at Invicta:

We are currently studying at the PHZH in Zurich for a degree in lower secondary school teaching. Secondary education teachers are qualified to teach a specific number of subjects, currently four. For Lea it is Mathematics, English, Geography, History and Politics as well as cooking classes. Laura’s subjects are German, English, Geography, History and Politics and PE. The main focus in our studies is on Class 7 to 9, in England, this is equal to Year 8 to 10. 

Just for general information, compulsory education in Switzerland spans 11 years and usually begins at the age of four. Primary education lasts eight years and includes the first two years of pre-school. The next level is known as lower secondary education; this lasts three years everywhere in Switzerland except Ticino, where it lasts four years. 

The individual cantons are responsible for how compulsory schooling is structured. They set the curricula and timetables and determine what teaching materials are used. Curricula specific to the language regions are used throughout the country as part of this: the Lehrplan 21 curriculum project (Curriculum 21 ZH) in German-speaking Switzerland, the Plan d'études romand (PER) project in French-speaking Switzerland and the Piano di studio in the canton of Ticino. The municipalities are responsible for organising how the schools are run.

In the standard programme, we study for nine semesters, and require 270 ECTS. Those four and a half years qualify us to work in this field and combine theory, practice, teaching, and research. The courses follow the two-tier model with bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes, and graduates receive teaching and professional diplomas upon completion that are recognized throughout Switzerland, no matter which canton. Right now, we are in year 3 (6th semester). 

Our stay here in Maidstone is due to our studies in English and it is called assistant teachership (AT). We are required to work in a school abroad to experience teaching in an authentic environment in an English-speaking country. The PHZH has many partner schools all around the world (AT Information for Schools). We signed up for Europe (England, Scotland, Ireland) because we did not want to travel too far. Other possible options could have been, for example, Tanzania or USA. Prior to the AT, we needed to decide if we want to organize the stay by ourselves or get placed by the PHZH’s AT department. We have chosen to get placed by the PHZH and we got randomly assigned to the Invicta Grammar School (lucky us). We were asked to specify our subjects and say how comfortable we are in teaching those in English.

The main objective of our stay is to give us the chance to experience classroom life and language in an English-speaking context by assisting local teachers in the host school classroom. By doing so, not only should our classroom language skills be improved, but we will also gain valuable practice of subject-specific language. There are detailed objectives:

  • to be fully immersed in an English-speaking school and home environment
  • to gain in-depth on-the-job experience with native-speaker children and teachers in an authentic school context
  • to learn the language for classroom routines in English
  • to obtain the relevant language to cover activities in different subjects
  • to develop professional and personal contacts in the English-speaking world useful for the specific task of teaching English in the Canton of Zurich

Schools in Switzerland are a bit different. We have smaller but more schools and also different subjects and rooms. In order to illustrate, we attached here a picture of a sports hall (we normally have at least two per school) and a classroom. Our sports halls are mostly well-equipped, in the example shown, we just set up a Ninja Warrior course. Also, we do not have school uniforms and dress codes for teachers. Every student and teacher are allowed to wear whatever they like as long as it is appropriate. This includes sneakers, hoodies, and jeans.

We are looking forward to staying here for another three weeks and get an interesting inside into your school and system. A big thanks already for making us feel welcome and for helping us every day – very appreciated! 

If you ever want to know more about Switzerland and us, just come by for a chat.

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