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A finishing school (or charm school) is a school for young people, mostly women, that focuses on teaching social skills and cultural norms as a preparation for entry into adult society. The name reflects that it follows on from ordinary school and is intended to complete the educational experience, with classes primarily on etiquette. It may consist of an intensive course, or a one-year programme. In Tsarist Russia it was known as the Institute for Noblewomen.
Switzerland was known for its private finishing schools, such as Institut Alpin Videmanette (now closed), which Diana, Princess of Wales attended; Mon Fertile, where the Duchess of Cornwall was partly educated; Institut Le Mesnil, which Queen Anne-Marie of Greece attended; and Institut Château Beau-Cedre, which closed in 2002. The finishing school that made Switzerland renowned for such institutions was Château Mont-Choisi, founded in 1885, which closed in 1995 or 1996. The only traditional Swiss finishing school that remains open is Institut Villa Pierrefeu, in Glion which was founded in 1954.
The term finishing school is occasionally used in American parlance to refer to certain small women's colleges, primarily on the East Coast, that were known for serving to prepare their female students for marriage. Since the 1960s, many of these schools have become defunct as a result of financial difficulties stemming from parents' decreased interest in paying for such an education for their daughters, and changing societal norms making it easier for daughters to pursue academic and professional paths not open to previous generations.
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