Who We Are
- What community does ZIS Serve?
- You are a private school, right? So are you a prep school or a boarding school?
- Why doesn't ZIS have an admissions test?
- Does ZIS cater for students of all abilities and learning needs?
Our students come from more than 50 nations, and we serve three main constituencies. The largest group is comprised of expatriate international families, posted to Zurich on a temporary basis, and who often come to us as part of the corporate agreements we hold with a select group of international companies. We also serve a smaller group of longer-term international families and a very small number of Swiss families who are either planning to move abroad or are returning from abroad.
To find out more about admission requirements, make an appointment with the admissions team to discuss your individual situation .
ZIS educates students from around the world, in service of the international community.
We are not a ‘private’, ‘prep’ nor a boarding school. Rather, in common with many other international schools, we are a ‘not-for-profit’ school, governed by a board of trustees and ultimately owned by a non-profit charitable foundation.
Indeed, we are proud to be a day school with nearly 60 years’ experience of providing a ‘home away from home’ for our many students who come from a public school system.
ZIS is an academically robust, non-selective school. We welcome students who will thrive in our challenging, international and English-speaking environment.
Our IB and AP scores are consistently some of the highest in the world; however, we do not ask potential students to sit a competitive admissions exam. Rather, our admissions criteria takes into account the regulations for international schools in the Canton of Zurich, our availability of places and our assessment of whether we can serve a student’s needs. Our mission is to serve a transient international community in the Greater Zurich Area.
For more information on admission requirements, please visit.
We are an academically robust but non-selective school and as such, support a model of managed inclusion that enables us to serve a small number of students with mild, moderate or intensive special needs.
However, all additional needs must be assessed with reference to our school’s resources; ultimately, parents remain responsible for the costs of additional support. Unfortunately, we are not able to support all special needs.
- What will you be teaching my child?
- What are the "Three Cs" and why do they matter?
- Does your curriculum match that of my home country, and if not, why not?
- Do you have a bilingual program?
- How do your vision and mission translate into what happens in the classroom?
Our curriculum is dynamic and responsive – it evolves, responds and develops in accordance with the needs of our students and contemporary research into learning and teaching, while maintaining the highest international standards demanded by international accreditation agencies. As our students move through the different campuses, there is continuity and coherence of programs to ensure a sustainable learning experience for all students.
Our Pre-School to Grade 12 curriculum is shaped and guided by our Learning Principles. Learning outcomes build logically through each grade, preparing students for the next academic challenge.
We follow the internationally recognized Math Standards (derived from the US Common Core Standards) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) across all campuses. We also follow the Common Core Arts, Common Core English, SHAPE PE Standards, the Common European Framework for World Languages and the C3 Social Studies Standards. We are members of the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC), which has brought together leading international IB schools to develop a curriculum framework built on the “Three Cs” – conceptual understanding, competency and character.
The IB Diploma Program is offered in Grades 11 and 12, together with Advanced Placement courses. Our IB and AP scores are some of the highest in the world. To achieve this, we follow an international curriculum based on decades of experience, current research and aligned to the IB and AP requirements.
We know that sometimes parents feel uncomfortable when they don't recognize the teaching they were exposed to in their own educational systems. But the world is changing quickly, and teaching methods along with it. Our educators are fully aware that things may seem unfamiliar. But you can be confident that ZIS's excellent educators are aligning with tested research and always have the best interests of your child and their learning at heart.
Our curriculum is designed to equip students with the key skills they will need to thrive in education and careers in the twenty-first century. Our emphasis is on the “Three Cs” – conceptual understanding, competency and character.
We ask our students to examine content analytically, to look not only at what they are learning, but why. For example, students studying the Roman Empire are asked to immerse themselves in the content (the history of the Roman Empire) so that they can then engage with the conceptual (what can the Roman Empire tell us about government, democracy, nationhood and political power). This approach ensures that the next time they encounter content that engages with political and power structures – whether at school, at university or in their careers – they have the analytical sophistication to quickly assimilate and understand.
Once our students are literate and numerate we ask them to go further: to analyze, interpret and to use their higher order thinking skills. For example, in Mathematics, we place great emphasis on mental math and times tables while students are achieving mastery; once they are numerate we do not teach long division (students have little use for working out division on paper) but instead focus on deepening and broadening their conceptual understanding so that they are able to access the full range of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics), subjects at IB, AP and beyond.
No matter how bright the student, success only comes to those who have the character to apply themselves. We support and stretch our students as they become resilient and open-minded, and gain the integrity and confidence to ask questions and develop their honesty. We do this because we believe these character dispositions create the best learners. We know that employers want people who can work in teams, think outside the box and lead.
Our students are not passive learners: presented with a problem, they can work with their peers to find the resources they need, research and then solve the problem. This has long been our approach at ZIS, and is fundamental to our success at IB and AP.
If you would like to find out more about our curriculum, please visit.
Parents should note that we follow an international curriculum, and we are not aligned to the curriculum of any one nation. We do not offer the Swiss Matura nor the US high school curriculum pre-AP, nor the British GCSEs. Students will generally require some preparation to transition into a new national school system; however, our “Three C” curriculum means that most students find transition back into a national curriculum straightforward.
Our language of instruction is English. While ZIS encourages multilingualism, we are not a bilingual school, and the primary goal of our language program is language acquisition. We also encourage every student to acquire an additional language.
We do motivate students to develop language skills and conceptual understanding in their mother tongue, however we do not offer mother tongue programs.
All language acquisition courses the World Languages Department offers are taught according to the European Framework of Languages. Students are required by the Canton of Zurich to take German through Grade 9.
At the Lower School German is taught in two tracks: foreign language track and fluent speaker track. In Kindergarten and Grade 1 students are exposed to an immersive environment. In the foreign language track from Grades 2 to 5 German is taught through targeted instruction by language ability levels. A fluent speaker track is offered from Grade 1 to 5.
At the Middle School, German is mandatory, and French and Spanish are offered as electives, an important starting point for those wishing to pursue another language in high school.
At the Upper School, ZIS organizes language learning in German, French and Spanish under two different tracks. A fluent speaker track is designed for those who are already fluent in the language. Students who are fluent speakers of German, Spanish or French should enroll in the Fluent Speaker courses. A foreign language track is designed for those with no ability in the language outside of academic study. Those learning a new language should enroll in the Language Acquisition courses. ZIS offers foreign language instruction up to level B2.
Students who are fluent in German or who, during their time at ZIS, become fluent can join our fluent speaker program, which encourages fluent speakers to take their language skills to the next level. However, parents should note that this is not a mother tongue program.
Some parents enroll students in language courses outside school. For example, many families organize after-school language programs, including French, and Swedish. Other parents enroll their children in intensive German instruction study outside ZIS to supplement our program. Parents are expected to cover any costs associated with these courses.
The ZIS Vision focuses on who we want our students to be when they leave our school: adaptable and independent thinkers, and caring individuals, determined to make a difference to the organizations and communities in which they work and live. We deliver this through our mission; our curriculum is a concrete expression of our mission to learn, care, challenge and lead.
Our learning principals develop students’ character (complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, cognitive flexibility, judgment and decision-making), learning dispositions (open-mindedness, resilience, playfulness and reflectiveness) and values (compassion, fairness and integrity). (Please refer to the explanation of the “Three Cs” above.) Outstanding teachers and careful attention to your child's needs mean that every student is supported to make continual progress.
The school mission comes to life in our classrooms. Learning is foremost, and all students are given opportunities to take risks, be challenged, and grow academically. We also know that the students' potential for learning is greater when it takes place in a caring and supportive environment. Teachers model behaviors and attitudes that promote learning in their classrooms and support students, for example, by teaching them how to give good feedback to their peers, by modeling inclusive behaviors, by appropriately structuring collaborative learning opportunities at different grade levels, and by teaching skills that empower students to be independent learners and leaders. The ZIS Mission frames expectations for all teachers and students, in every classroom or learning environment.
You can find out more about our vision and mission here.
- What does 'individual pathway' mean?
- Can you support my child's academic transition to their next school?
- Are you a modern school?
At ZIS, each campus curriculum offers students a broad range of academic, sports, music and arts opportunities, allowing students the possibility to design their own pathway. This pathway is defined by the combination of their choices throughout their time at ZIS. Faculty and staff are conscious of the fact that students will benefit most from their own individual journey and they will do their best to ensure that students have explored the options available at ZIS, and are supported in their search. Our school offers extensive possibilities both through academic and extra-curricular activities to support your child's academic, physical and social growth.
However, "individual pathways" does not infer that ZIS will provide everything to everybody, nor support choices which do not align with our programs on offer, nor which strain our available resources.
Coming to ZIS is a unique educational opportunity. Students leave us as independent, adaptable, creative and flexible thinkers, empowered to take charge of their own learning. As students get ready to start their next adventure, our counselors and staff bring their huge experience to bear in supporting their transition – emotionally, socially and personally. However, as a school, which serves more than 50 nationalities, we are unable to offer country-specific academic transition.
ZIS has been putting educational excellence at the heart of school life for more than five decades. Our teaching practice and pedagogy is informed by the latest research, and we remain committed to ensuring that our students are equipped for the challenges of the modern world. Here just a few examples:
We were the first 1:1 school in Switzerland– meaning that every child has their own device – and technology is both used and taught throughout the curriculum and at all ages. However, we use technology first and foremost as an amplifier for learning, creating, making, connecting, communicating, collaborating, and problem solving.
Students are solving engineering problems across the school. In Grade 6, students design cardboard space stations to protect an egg from a "meteor strike" from a softball fired from a pitching machine. Grade 9 students design padding for bicycle helmets and test their design using accelerators and logging software.
Grade 12 biology students have been able to participate in DNA projects at the ETH, and Grade 3 students were given the opportunity to visit the Google offices here in Zurich.
Our Grade 10 students participated in a hands on/ experiential refugee simulation in partnership with MEDAIR, to learn about the current refugee situation in Europe. The reflection activities aimed at reinforcing the knowledge acquired from this experience.
The ZIS Internship Program prepares Grade 11 students to enter the workforce, by supporting their preparation of CVs and organizing interview practice. Every year, ZIS organizes approximately 100 internships from one to six weeks at a myriad of companies and organizations around Switzerland.
All students in the Middle School attend curriculum related field trips within and outside of Switzerland that bring the curriculum to life, and provide opportunities for team building.
In the Middle School, STEAM is fully integrated in the co-curricular program. We are the only school in Switzerland taking part in the F1 program, where students learn to design and build small racing cars. Their work is judged in European competitions.
Teachers plan personalized learning experiences that empower student agency through a choice of content and voice in the nature of learning outcomes. Reading and writing workshops build literacy skills in an almost entirely choice-based learning environment.