Bilingual or International School in Brussels

Hello All,
we are a family of 4 moving to Brussels in August 2018. I am currently looking for a school for my two children, 7 and 11 years old (they will be 8 and 12 next September). We have currently got offers from EIM, BIS, ACE and ISF, all those are within our financial limits (the other schools as BSB etc. are not:). The kids are bilingual English/Czech (we are a Czech family speaking Czech at home but have lived for 5 years in the US and henceforth their English is on a mother-tongue level). We would like to keep their English on this high quality level and since we don´t speak English at home (we need and want to keep their Czech as well:) we have to enroll them to an English speaking school. On the other hand, the biggest advantage for them of coming to Brussels is to learn another language, i.e. French. I know it won´t be mother-tongue level but I still want them to speak fluently. We will be in Belgium for 4 years and then will return to Prague where we want them to do their IBs in English eventually. I am sure the easiest way for them would be to go into a local school but I know how quickly the kids might loose the fluency in a language they do not speak on everyday basis (I have already an experience from the States with Czech and we did speak Czech at home and our girl even had a Skype teacher every week but still her Czech did decline) - and that would for sure happen with the little one. As for the bigger one - she is already enrolled in a bilingual school in Prague, it was very difficult for  her to get there, she must have gone through really hard testing so she must stay in "an IB path" because she is going to do every summer an assesment test back home at that school and we want her to continue there after we will return to Prague. Anyway, back to the initial question - please, do you have any experiences with the above mentioned schools - EIM, BIS, ISF and ACE? I am for example not sure if BIS is really bilingual as - at least according to what they say - EIM is. And I know that the ACE is relatively new - do you think that the quality of the academics is good there? They do not have either the IB programme or the A levels...
Thanks a lot for all answers!*

While we wait for insights from experienced members, there are some threads in the forum that discussed this or similar topics in the past that you can read through (there is useful information spread in those discussions) if you haven't done so yet.

Here are the links:

EIM, BIS - both have from my sources a higher source of locals than other international schools and claim 50/50 French/ English. However, your children may still struggle to become fluent, ie be able to have a conversation thinking in French and for that conversation to be free flowing.

ISF and ACE - well they are neither French immersion or French bilingual, they are just English only schools with a tiny bit of French, so nope, no chance whatsoever of more than perhaps A2 level French, unless they spend every spare moment in French outside school.

If you wish your children to be fluent in French, you have realistically one option and that is a public French school.

English is not that hard to keep up in Brussels and the money you'll save on school fees (at least 25k for 2 children at above mentioned schools) you can spend on a private tutor who can keep up the high level of English - you could do this on a Wednesday afternoon or 2 evenings after school or Saturday morning.

There are 1000s of children living in Brussels and going to French and Dutch public schools who don't have English as first language at home, they manage perfectly well. I know quite a few personally, children who've been before in English but now schooled in French and Dutch, they have not lost any English, because they do after school activities and socialize in English. All done FREEEEEEE no international school.

PS EIM, ACE and Bogaerts have all been going -5 years. Only ISF is a long standing school and can provide you with any evidence of more than a handful of IB results. None of the other 3 schools has had enough 16-18 year olds leave yet.

I think you need to do a bit more research.

I think you should really look at Le Verseau and place the children on a TEC bus, there are 2 routes which leave from Brussels and go the 25k, down the road to the school. Many children do that route.  It will set you back  2 X 5k per year in fees, despite being a public school, but gives you a student population which is balanced around 50% French at home and 50% English at home. Here you do have a realistic chance of attaining near to fluency in French. It's 26-8 out of 30-32 hours in French but 4-6 hours in English mother tongue level (that's what your children would be assessed as, others get place as English 2nd learners). It's not so much the English part that makes the difference there than the proportion of English and French speakers.

It's very easy to get places in the secondary of Le Verseau,  so no problem for the 12 year old, whereas you might have to wait for a place for the 8 year old who should be prioritized because of the 12 year old.

My son goes to ACE. The school is a great fit for him. I feel lucky to have him there. He's 13. It is an English school, so French is more of a subject but the French teacher is good. (My real only complaint is not enough French, but if your child can work for it, they can go as far as they want) PM me if you have specific questions.

I would suggest it is also not necessary to do MYP of IB in order to be able to do the final 2 years IB. Around half of the students of ISB and BSB arrive age 16 having never been anywhere near MYP program yet come out with outstanding 40+ IB results.

You'll find students at Le Verseau go on to universities in USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Belgium. Their academic standards are not questionable, it's a sound academic school but it's also the public one most likely to enable English to be kept to standard and fluency in French.

EIM aged 12-16 is not IBMYP, doesn't say what it is, 16-18 is IBDP though don't know if anyone has actually completed the diploma yet.

ISF aged 12-16 is Cambridge Checkpoint and GCSE, 16-18 is A levels

ACE - no children older than 14 yet, 12-14 only a handful (less than 10) looks like it will be GCSEs for 15-16

BIS is IBMYP 12-16 and IBDP 16-18

All these secondary sections have less than 100 in them, so no more than 20 per age group, they are all very small so cannot offer a full range of subjects.

Le Verseau has I think about 100 children per age group in secondary.

I'm surprised not to see International Montessori on your list, at least it is a well established school and has reduced fees for self funders. … oolGender=

Is it hard attending international school? Are the subjects very difficult?

Hello All,
Thank you for all the answers! I know I need to do more research, it is is quite difficult to do such an important decision from abroad:(.
We did try to enroll the kids to Le Verseau but so far are both only on the wait list and the answer we got is that they do not have a big chance to get there...
As for the International Montessori this is unfortunately beyond our financial limits. I have contacted them and even with the reduced fees we can´t afford it.
I know none of the possibilities we have is ideal but I still think it is a huge advantage for the whole family to go to live for some years to Brussels (we have tried it already in DC and it was altogether perfect) so I am trying to find some kind of a compromise. I just know I can´t enroll them into a French public school, the little one would lose either English or his Czech... He just turned six when we were going back to Prague from the US and was completely bilingual in that moment but (knowing the experiences of some friends) three months before we have left we had started to speak English at home just to be sure he will keep it in a monolingual Prague (and we needed to enroll him in a Czech public school) - anyway, after three months, on our arrival home, he had difficulties to speak Czech, so quickly it went... Of course he attained it back in few weeks in Prague and I am sure he wouldn´t really lose his English but he´ll never be bilingual any more (and his written English and stylisticks would decline a lot). Even here it is really hard to keep it on this level, we are both not native speakers, so it is a bit funny but we have already got used to that. He has twice a week whole afternoons of English activities with bilingual kids and native speakers, we work on his written English at home, he reads in English at home but believe me, it is hard to keep it. And since he must keep his perfect (written) Czech, in Belgium we must immediately switch back to Czech and do exactly the same with his Czech as we now did with English. Speak, write, read, have a Skype teacher, attend once per week Czech school in Brussels (I guess it is on Saturdays). Linda (the older one), had all this comfort in the States, she has returned more than a year ago to the 5th grade and still struggles with her written Czech and stylistics. On the other hand, she is since this September on a bilingual school in Prague so she must follow a similar (English) track...
I understand the problems with the fact that EIM, B.I.S. and ACE are "young schools" and I think even ISF has chenged the owner (a trust?) recently so it is really difficult to decide. As for the number of subjects - I think that for the (IB) MYP it doesn´t matter that much? I have checked the schedules and it seems quite similar to a standard programmes in what we know from some good schools in the States or at Linda´s bilingual school in Prague (which is supposedly the best secondary school in Prague though as well pretty new, since 2004).
Well, it seems that those are our only options if we want to relocate to Brussels and I am just not sure which one would work the best for the kids... (I would prefer bilingual approach but as well an academic quality:)).
Thank you again for all your help and shared experiences.*

Your 12 year old will 100% get a place at le verseau because the secondary has never filled its places.

So take the place. You need to apply now for 1st secondary. You must contact the school and ask for the application form. It s centralized enrolments for 1st secondary.

You ll receive the place after Easter 2018. That will increase priority for younger child

Isf became a trust almost a decade ago, not recently.

Concerning ACE school: What languages do they teach other than English and French? Is German an option?

I am currently posted in Africa with 2 kids,  11 and 15 years going to German school. I know that there is a German school in Brussels but according to my experience, they are slightly better than public schools but not really up to the standard of British Curriculum private schools. I saw that St. John´s teaches German up to IB, but wonder if there are any other schools also teaching German? My eldest is only used to small schools with 200-300 kids and really needs teachers who care, my younger one is dyslexic and has dyscalculia, so also needs a bit of special help. Thanks for any advice.

ACE school, as it say on its website is ONLY an English school. It teaches in English.

As a foreign language, it does a few hours of French per week.  As written on the website. It teaches French va English therefore NOT in French.

The school does not teach any other foreign languages.

There are only about 40 children in the school aged 3 to 14 right now, so it cannot offer any more than this.

I have no idea where you get your ideas about iDSB but you should consider the school on its own merits, not on pre-conceptions.

If you look at the websites of the private schools, you can look up yourself if German is taught, but other than iDSB, German will be taught as a foreign language not as language of instruction, so will be completely useless for German speaking children.

I'd either decide 1) iDSB and accept it or 2) go for an English school. Whichever is the case,  either you need to be exceptionally wealthy or have employers willing to pay up to 35k in fees.

Thanks Currylover, I appreciate your advice and agree with your view on ACE, won´t fit us.

Will get in touch with the German School to check with them. No I am neither preconceived nor super rich  - or else I would not have to seek advice. But I get the impression that there are two categories of private schools - the real private schools and the half-public private schools. And it appears to me that a child with special needs could potentially get better support in the real private schools, particularly for the final 3 years - and same kids might struggle at a half-public private school as they tend to be  more demanding - but I may be wrong.

There are no half-private-public schools in Belgium.

Schools are either public or private.

If your children cannot speak French or Dutch, they are going to struggle at that age in the public system.

Private schools start at 10k and go up to 35k.

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