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I am Belgian but have been living in Australia for over 20 years. I am planning on coming back with my family for at least a year next year (2018). I would love your advice re: schools. My children 8.5 and 5.5 are currently attending a Steiner School in Sydney. They don't speak French at all. We would be living in Wallonia, Bierges to be exact. What would you do re:schools?
1) send them to an international school - they are super $$$$ it seems
2) homeschool for the year
3) send them to the local school and hope they pick French up quickly.
I am a French speaker so could help my kids.


If you know that you'll only be here for a year, then personally my advice would be to put them in an English speaking environment. As you're living in Bierges, the obvious choice would be Le Verseau School, It is a French language school, but English is used as a teaching language in a number of subjects for a minimum of 4 hours per week. There are fees, but they are extremely modest relative to say St. John's in Waterloo, or the International School in Boitsford.

If you wanted to try with French, then again, my view would be only to try it with the 5 year old. They are young enough to probably adapt. The 8 year old will have a tough time as they are already in school.

In my experience, it generally takes a good year for a child to learn a language, and then after that they can adapt and catch up, but the first six months at least will be very tough on the children. So I'm not sure that they would actually gain anything by being "dumped in the deep end". They will probably have basic French, but could well lose a year of "education" and have to be held back the following year.

Of course, if you were going to be here 2 years, or even longer my advice without hesitation would be to place them in local schools. The opportunity to learn a language at a young age is a gift and something that will stay with them for life.

Aug 13, 2017 11:04

Stop speaking to them in English (Now - only use French from now on)
Go local.

Aug 13, 2017 15:55

Le verseau won't just create 2 places for you. You d be veryvlucky to get any places in fondamentale whereaa the secondaire is under subscribed. 5k a year is the equivalent of over 40 euro per hour for the 4 hours of English per week. There are free from fees public schools on that area with many English speakers, up to you if you want to spend 10k to guarantee wealthier friends and more anglophones.

Aug 13, 2017 18:23

Le Verseau could even be counter-productive. With around 40% anglophones your children would naturally gravitate towards them and speak little French outside of the classroom lessons making picking up the language more arduous for them. They do provide extra tuition to help children improve their French (at least they do in secondary).
Having said that it's not just the language that is different with the school, it is also the ethos. Take a look at the website. My daughter is extremely happy there and I would never consider switching her back to her previous school. I would suggest you at least contact them to discuss especially as it is difficult to get a place in primary.

Aug 14, 2017 08:26

If your children already have a basic understanding of French you should maybe try a French speaking school so start teaching them now in play and reading simple books to them.Don't limit them children are very fast at adapting to languages the fact that you are francophonic will be enomourmois help to them. What ever school you place them in after Steiner it will be completely different due the focus on academic not social development even le verseau. The big international school are expensive but you get what you pay for and in my experience ISB is excellent in early years very child focused and have lots of children from al over the world if there is anyway to look at funding them a year there I think you'd be happy with the school. However it does cost a lot, try approaching them and asking what the fees would be for self funding it maybe a little less than corporate rates I don't know. Otherwise people can and do home educate as much as any depends how long you're here if definitely short term that might be simpler but if unclear the sooner they start into French speaking system the better good luck

Aug 14, 2017 09:51

Isb fees are no different for self unders unless you have previously attended the school and employer has cut funding, so paying 25k per year upwards is cost of isb, exact fees on website. Quite controversial to say you pay for what you he. Local schools can have 30 40 odd nationalities too, just children on average with less privilege from parents' jobs. Local public school is also never more than a walk away in bierges whereas all the international private schools involve long journeys. Isb is nowhere near Bierges.

Aug 14, 2017 13:43

hi I having friend with kids in local schools I am well aware of how they are funded and the expectations to pass exams to stay on the stream. I assure you many wealthy Belgian are opting for schools like ISB and the resources at school like this and other big international schools are very advanced comapired to local schooling. There is no way a public ally funded school can compete just as they can't in other countries with big private schools.
Class size is tiny by comparison my children were lucky the company paid but they were well supported and if I had any issue it was easily resolved by speaking to school. The staff tend to be very highly trained and on the whole in my experience excellent teachers odd one of course as in all things.. I have friends who tell me horror stories about their children who have a teacher who doesn't like them and picks on them and they can't get it resolved plus one who removed her children and actually moved house because so many "none Belgians" joined the school she said it's common and many Belgians at that school did this because they don't want their children "slowed down" by none natives speakers. However that in BXL not Bierges and I don't know about local schools out that way

Aug 16, 2017 01:24

I have 100s of contacts in local schools and international ones. Not all locally schooled children take exams.

I have close connections with many schools. A bright child will make into the world s top universities whether at isb or a decent local secondary.

Aug 16, 2017 08:34


You are basing your ignorance on hearsay from friends. You don't have children in local system.

Bsb has class sizes bigger than many local schools, so does isb sometimes, especially at primary level.

Aug 16, 2017 08:37

1. If you're staying here one or a few years, keep them in English.
2. If you're staying long, put them in local schools. Don't worry about them learning French:
Experience with two children: one aged 6 who went into first grade, the other aged 10 and went into 5th grade. Neither they nor we knew any French, and they never received any external help. They never failed a year and went through bacchelor

Aug 16, 2017 23:44