An international school

where skiing is king

Text Laurent Grabet / Photo Verbier International School
Date of publication Winter 2019-2020

One of Valais’ two international schools can be found in Verbier. Its team of teachers provide 130 young students with a British-style education in which sport plays a prominent part.

Question: What do the Canadian racing driver Jacques Villeneuve, the French actor Charlotte Gainsbourg, and North Korean president Kim Jong-Un all have in common? Answer: They all studied at international schools in Switzerland. While our country is known for its mountains, cheese, chocolate and banks, the same is also true for these private schools and the high-quality education they dispense.

Training the citizens of the world
Founded in 2010, the Lemania-Verbier International School (LVIS) falls squarely into that category. Some 130 students aged between three and 15 and hailing from around

20 countries receive their schooling there, in uniform. With fees ranging between CHF 25,000 and 35,000 – around the average for schools of this type in Switzerland – the LVIS mainly welcomes children from privileged backgrounds, among them the offspring of aristocrats, who are particularly appreciative of the discretion for which the Bagnes region is known. More than anywhere else in Switzerland, Verbier is the kind of place where locals pass the likes of Richard Branson and ex-Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck in the street, skis over their shoulders, and pretend not to know who they are.

The Verbier International School takes pride in “educating citizens of the world”. It takes a holistic approach to teaching and its lessons are in English, with French courses running in parallel. The values underpinning the curriculum, which leads to an IGCSI qualification recognised throughout the world, are also very British in spirit. “Our specific aim is to encourage our students to be open-minded, bold, morally upstanding, communicative, curious and critically minded,” said the school’s director Thibaut Descoeudres. To achieve that goal, this 44-year-old former elite paraglider and the 20 teachers on his staff carefully deliver “bespoke teaching” in small groups of five to 15 students, “avoiding the vertical transmission of knowledge, which is somewhat outdated”.

 An impressive backdrop for learning
They are all of the mind that their students learn just as much in the two chalets housing the classrooms as they do when tackling the mountains facing them. Sport in general, and skiing in particular, are central to this atypical, high-education schooling. Many are the people who have moved to Verbier and sent their children to school there because of what it has to offer. The school’s youngsters ski at least twice a week during the winter, and some strive for excellence by taking part in ski races and freeride competitions. The school has even entered into a partnership with the Freeride World Tour Academy run by the Swiss Ski School in Verbier. It is a formula that is working very well indeed: the LVIS’s waiting list is growing, with around 20 youngsters having put in applications, and a boarding school will open shortly.