Verbier International School

Verbier International School

A first-class education

Claude Hervé-Bazin
Verbier International School
Winter 2020-2021

Since the Belle Epoque, Switzerland’s private schools have had a reputation for being some of the best in the world. Most are located along Lake Geneva, but a few favour the mountains instead, notably in Villars-sur-Ollon (VD), Hasliberg (BE), Zugerberg (ZG), and more recently in Valais, with the 2010 opening of Verbier International School. Keeping a close eye on Mont Gelé and Mont Fort, this institution offers students a first-class education high on Alpine sports and the arts.

All Swiss private international schools capitalize on the country’s reputation for being serene and safe, and all seem to share a common belief that high-quality education is the first step towards creating a better world — a world without borders, in stark contrast to currently rising demagogic and populist trends around the globe.

Teaching global perspectives
The mission of Verbier International School is ambitious, with an education that aims to go "beyond the curriculum" to shape students into principled critical thinkers and socially conscious global citizens. What exactly does that mean? "Going beyond simple knowledge to develop attitudes and skills that will help them throughout their whole lives" asserts the school’s Headmaster, Thibault Descoeudres. And how does a school do that? "Through the satisfaction of a job well done. Through sport. Through diversity (20-some nationalities are represented in the student body). And by proposing activities that include the arts, debates, and conferences. We teach students how to think by and for themselves and express their opinions, all while taking into account fellow pupils’ feelings and ideas." In short, the school aims to prepare the next generation for a future driven by open exchange and multilateralism.

The added value of sport
Thibault Descoeudres is an avid sports fan who’s a highly-experienced skier, mountain biker and paraglider. "Competitive sports taught me a lot of things: hard work, resilience, how to lose, how to pick yourself back up… I try to pass that on to our students," he explains. All of the school’s student families and collaborators share those values. And the school’s location in the Val de Bagnes makes it the perfect playing field for that kind of education. No less than a dozen physical activities are on offer for students, including the excellent sports training offered by the Ski Academy and the Freeride Academy. "These programs are open to any child who wants to practice their sport while also getting a high-quality education. Selection criteria are not solely based on athletic ability," specifies the Headmaster. Training sessions are held two to four times a week, alternating between Zermatt (in fall) and Verbier (during the ski season).

 Art etc.
In addition to its gorgeous mountains, Verbier boasts an exceptional cultural offering. In the context of the Verbier Festival, and in collaboration with violinist Justin Lamy, music and arts education are also central pillars in the school’s curriculum. Vocal training, pottery, painting, sculpture, photography, and theatre are all part of schooling here, in addition to partnerships with the Verbier 3-D Foundation’s sculpture park and its artists in residence. Professors also arrange activities and training programs that range from cooking classes with a renowned chef to field trips to Geneva’s CERN’s large particle accelerator. The student body’s diversity and rich family histories also play a role. And at the end of the day, at Verbier International School, it all comes down to one thing: the kids love going to school here!