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EDUCATION

Swiss canton to introduce classes in English in bid to counter private schools

Secondary schools in the Swiss canton of Schwyz are set to be the first in central Switzerland to introduce bilingual German and English classes.

Swiss canton to introduce classes in English in bid to counter private schools
Photo: Depositphotos
The move has been made to counter the competition from private schools.
 
On Wednesday, the Great Council of Schwyz – the cantonal parliament – approved the move, despite opposition from the cantonal government, the Social Democrats and the Swiss People’s Party. 

The vote total was 65 for the measure, with 29 voting against. 

The bilingual classes will be available to students who will later go on to study at a Mittelschule/Gymnasium, the secondary school track which prepares students in Switzerland for university study. 

While it is the first time that bilingual education in English has been offered in central Switzerland – the name given to the central region which includes the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Lucerne and Zug – it is not the first time in the country. 

A similar programme has been introduced on the wealthy Lake Zurich riviera, which received positive reviews and was popular. 

One of the major reasons for doing so was to counter competition from private schools, many of which have offered lessons in English for years. 

The programme was also encouraged to provide more options for development to gifted students in the region. 

The Schwyz government opposed the changes, saying it was not necessary and argued that it wasn’t the job of state schools to compete with their private counterparts. 

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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.

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