Beyond Multilingual and Towards Multicultural Education

By Christophe-Xavier Clivaz

Welcome to the latest edition of our newsletter!

Today I would like to share my thoughts on one of the special characteristics of our country: multilingual education and its promise of what lies beyond – multicultural education. With its four national languages for a population of 8.6 million, Switzerland is the ideal setting for children’s multilingual education. Learning a new language increases brain elasticity, while understanding a new grammar system enhances logical as well as mathematical skills. Yet, a multilingual education means more than learning to communicate in another language: it leads us to analyse everything from a different angle, from tackling the issues of everyday life to finding innovative solutions to the challenges posed by our constantly changing world. This is where I believe Switzerland goes so much further and that the multilingual component of the education we offer is a key element of its excellence.

My professional activities allow me to travel the world and I can’t help smiling and remembering my teenage years when I hear “A garota de Ipanema” on the car radio as I drive out of the Leme tunnel in Rio, or when I get into a taxi in Istanbul and ask the driver whether he supports Galatasaray, Besiktas or Fenerbahçe. Those are moments where I feel at home and deeply connected to the local culture.  Let me backtrack a couple of years …

During my years at boarding school I had the good fortune to take the high school diploma with a special focus on modern languages. Learning languages allowed me to develop the skills mentioned above. However, I should also underline all the other skills, which my years of boarding allowed me to develop.

I went to school with pupils who came from over 100 different nationalities and 100 different cultural backgrounds. To hear from those pupils, who became my friends all about their home countries over a hot chocolate on the top of a skiing slope, during a walk along the lake or a stroll in the school grounds count among the most impactful experiences of my life. During these conversations I was made aware of what constitutes the singularity of each nation and their people and what defines, as I like to call it, a “national ecosystem”.

During the evenings at boarding school I discovered other societal structures and tasted other culinary traditions. I was initiated into Brazilian Bossa Nova, to the Turkish passion for football, while sharing my own origins. I learned to respect that the values, which my parents had taught me were not necessarily the same as the values other parents taught their children. These insights have allowed me to meet people from other backgrounds without passing judgment ever since.

Without this experience of boarding I would never have been able to develop my modest understanding of human behavior nor to interact with others in the same way. I would never have been able to develop what I call, without being pretentious, a certain “social intelligence”, which I believe is crucial for the future of our youth.

My years in boarding school allowed me to discover countries before actually visiting them and to discover cultures before meeting them face-to-face. Thirty years later these amazing memories of those happy days are still with me on each of my trips around the world.

We at Swiss Learning look forward to meeting you in 2022 and to telling you more about why we believe in multicultural education, and how multilingual education, boarding schools, the network of schools and families and representations all contribute to making this world a better place.

Christophe-Xavier Clivaz

Founder & Director of Swiss Learning

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