As Giggles and Cuddles are about to turn five, we were recently invited to attend the kindergarten information session in our local area. This really brought the message home that they are no longer my little babies and that we are about to enter a totally new and quite significant phase. Taking the first step in their formal education got me thinking about their future with hopes, aspirations and naturally, as a mother, with some fear as well.
Switzerland, in my opinion, is one of the best places to bring up children. While listening to the public school presentation about the goals and values they want to instill in children and the skills they seek to equip them with, my mind was constantly shifting focus to the quality of education in public schools in the developing world, where many children, especially girls, are forced out of education to work and help support the family. The lucky educated few end up barely able to read or write due to outdated school curricula, poor facilities, and limited teacher training. Although the Swiss educational system is tough, there is something for everyone. And if children decide to pursue the path that leads to university, Switzerland has some of the top universities in Europe.
There are several aspects that I like about what the system tries to achieve. There is a strong focus from the start on building children’s independence and teaching them practical life skills, which is great. Furthermore, formal education in literacy and math begins in primary school: in kindergarten, children learn entirely through play, which has been proven to nurture imagination and creativity while teaching children important social skills.
What I like in particular about attending the local school is the sense of community. As children learn early on to walk to school, not with their parents, but with their neighbouring friends and colleagues, friendships start to form outside the school borders. Going to the local playground or the Badi (lake beach or swimming pool) in your area, you meet the same friends and their parents, and those friendships are strengthened further. Coming from what is called a “collectivist culture,” where kinship, family and community are extremely important and play a part in shaping a person’s identity, I am hoping that this sense of community will also be a significant part of my daughters’ lives.
As someone who immigrated to Switzerland, I am concerned with how well my daughters will integrate. I worry about their experience as children growing up with the awareness that they may be somewhat different, especially in the world we are living in today, and what they may have to deal with when some people do not appreciate those differences. I know that we parents have an important role to play here, but it is no easy task. We need to equip our daughters with the tools to be capable and resourceful in order to achieve what they set out for themselves and to also be resilient in the face of setbacks. Raising strong, confident, perseverant girls who are proud of who they are and who know that being different is enriching rather than a hindrance is imperative in our particular situation and in general nowadays.
By Didi in Zurich
Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.
Illustration by Laura Munteanu
Laura studied journalism and advertising, and has worked as a journalist and an illustrator. She has illustrated for magazines, websites, charities and diverse campaigns. She lives in Zurich with her husband and nine-year-old daughter.