Swiss report reveals drop in overweight school students

A sixth of pupils attending school in three major Swiss cities are still overweight, even though figures have fallen by nearly three percent in the last ten years, according to a report.

Swiss report reveals drop in overweight school students
File Photo: Alan Cleaver

The foundation Swiss Health Promotion (GS) has studied the weight of 14,000 students in compulsory schooling in Bern, Basel and Zurich for the past ten years.

According to its latest report published on Monday, 17.3 percent of the students studied during the 2014/15 school year were overweight, and of those a quarter were considered obese.

That’s down from a peak of 20.1 percent overweight during the 2010/11 school year and 19.9 percent ten years ago.

The biggest reduction was among children of pre-school age (four percent down on a decade ago), and children from immigrant families (2.6 percent down).

But the report also revealed how obesity rates among school children rise as they get older.

While 12 percent of pre-school children in the last school year were overweight or obese – down from 16 percent ten years ago – that rose to 21 percent for primary school children and 23 percent at secondary schools.

The number of overweight students at secondary school fell for the first time this year after a constant rise over the past three years, said the report.

However, 4.4 percent of school children were considered obese across all schooling levels in 2014/15, a figure that hasn’t changed a great deal in the past few years.

In a statement, Lisa Guggenbühl, impact manager for GS, said overall the new figures were “a promising sign”.

“The fact remains that nearly one student in six is still overweight and there are significant differences between school grades and social groups.”

According to figures from Neuchâtel Hospital released in March, 11 percent of the Swiss population is considered obese.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Why teachers in Swiss schools are worried about falling education standards

Switzerland is seeing a drop in standards at its state schools, especially in German-speaking regions of the country, teacher's associations warn and it's all to do with staff, or the lack of them.

Why teachers in Swiss schools are worried about falling education standards

Switzerland’s teachers’ association has warned of worsening school education standards because of a lack of certified staff.

Association president Dagmar Rösler told a news conference that an increasing number of primary schools have had to bring in supply staff who are not qualified to be a teacher. “The quality of our education is in danger”, she said.

“The new school year starts with a further worsening of the shortage of qualified staff. This is hardly surprising and the schools are paying for what the politicians have failed to do for too long”, Rösler said.

READ ALSO: Geneva’s private universities charge high fees for unrecognised diplomas, probe reveals

She added there is a need to train new teachers, reduce overtime work, and provide new teachers with financial support. In addition, Switzerland needs to “make the profession more attractive”, according to the educator.

Where is the situation worse?

Rösler said the situation was worse in the German-speaking cantons in Switzerland and that schools were having trouble recruiting teachers to fill vacant positions ahead of the new term.

In Bern, for example, there were still 500 positions vacant in May 2022. The situation, which was already bad, was worsened by the Ukraine refugee crisis. As schools resorted to “emergency solutions”, they ended up hiring insufficiently qualified stern.

Rösler said: “In the canton of Bern, about 1,500 out of 15,000 teachers are insufficiently qualified. Moreover, two-thirds of the professionals working in education settings in the canton of Aargau do not have appropriate qualifications”.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

“Teaching is a demanding and complex task that requires basic training. Where this is lacking; the remaining experienced teachers have to provide support”.

“What is meant to be a relief turns into the opposite”, she said.

Rösler warned that the knock-on effect could see parents opt to place their children in private schools or homeschool.

What needs to be done?

David Rey, president of the teachers’ workers’ union SER, said that the emergency measures taken must become the norm and that recruited persons who are inadequately trained “must not be offered permanent employment”.

He added that “false solutions” such as having more kids in the same class just place an additional burden on the teachers.

READ ALSO: Zurich mandates organic food for hospitals, schools and cafeterias

For the professionals, the cantons need to recruit and hire more qualified people. They also ask governments to support the career start with a reduced workload to avoid “burnout” among young teachers.

“We must ensure that people stay in the profession for the long term with attractive working conditions, salaries that meet requirements, opportunities for further trending and protections against excessive work”, Rey said.