A POSITIVE START
Early years are crucial in achieving bilingualism, which is why Double Decker Bilingual PreSchool immerses its children in an equal English-German curriculum. Its mixed-language approach helps develop language skills from a young age, in an environment that encourages each child to explore their individual personality and identity.
The original Double Decker Bilingual PreSchool opened in Kilchberg, Zürich, in 2001. It expanded to include a kindergarten in 2004 and has since catered for children from three- to six-years-old. In 2005, a second preschool opened across Lake Zürich in Küsnacht for two- to four-year-olds.
“The bilingual aspect is core to the school’s provision,” says Nava Bader, Double Decker’s School Director. “All staff are either native English or German speakers, and speak only their native language with the children. Each class has one of each present at all times, so there is an equal emphasis on the teaching of both languages.”
As well as expats looking to integrate their children into the Swiss school system, Double Decker also attracts Swiss families who want to provide their children with a multilingual, multicultural education. “We attract a mix of families, which is one of the major benefits for the children,” says Bader. “It means they’re exposed to all cultures and backgrounds from a young age.”
Alongside developing language skills there is a strong emphasis on encouraging social interaction. This is done in a supportive and safe environment, which allows each child to blossom. “We create a space for them to develop their identities and personalities,” says Bader.
Children take part in a range of creative activities, such as art, music and dance, and also spend time outdoors during “forest school”. These al fresco sessions make use of the natural green spaces that surround both of the schools’ locations. “You can deliver all kinds of learning in the outdoors, from understanding what kinds of animals live there, to colours and numbers,” says Bader. “It’s about discovery, providing space to explore, and learning how to take and manage risks.”
reputation for quality
Double Decker’s approach has won it a strong reputation for quality. However, Bader says the school measures its success by the well-being of each child who passes through its doors and the developmental steps taken during their time there.
The school’s dynamic staff is crucial to this. Double Decker has a policy of employing independent thinkers who want to make a difference. And the school is keen to support its staff in their development, encouraging them to express and develop their own individual skills. The school also works hard to build strong relationships with parents – “without which we wouldn’t be able to support any child fully,” says Bader.
With year-on-year waiting lists for places at Double Decker, there is a high demand for its impressive, innovative offering. There is the possibility of opening a third school in the future, but, says Bader, “only if we are absolutely certain we can continue to provide the same high-quality care and learning environment.”
The vision behind Double Decker is twofold: to enable children to develop their language skills within a nurturing environment that allows their personalities to flourish. This means its pupils are optimally supported and encouraged, at one of the most important stages of their lives.