The education system in our country is, I believe, held to be shambolic, a system which suffers from ‘tinkering’ by the political elite as and when they achieve power. That the dire straits we find ourselves in, in respect of unemployment rates, can surely be laid at the door of our political elites who, as in most areas for which they assume ‘responsibility’, know nowt and legislate purely on political ideology. Compare and contrast:
As a country with few natural resources, Switzerland’s prosperity depends to a large extent on its brain power (regardless of natural resources does not the prosperity of any country depend upon its ‘brain power’?), consequently Switzerland has always placed a high value on the delivery of good-quality education and boasts a great many higher education opportunities. It is one of the world’s leading investors in education. In 2006, for example, public expenditure on education totalled CHF 26.8 billion.
The Swiss education system is decentralised, with responsibilities shared primarily between the cantons and municipalities. The 26 members of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education ensure the coordination of the primary and secondary education system. Higher education is generally a joint cantonal-federal responsibility.
Switzerland has three levels of education: primary, secondary and tertiary. The primary and lower secondary levels are compulsory, and together usually take nine years. This is followed by post-compulsory education (upper secondary level – age of 16). Switzerland operates a “dual system”: students can opt for either the vocational education and training route (apprenticeship) or for the general academic one, which will prepare them for the Matura (Swiss baccalaureate) and ultimately attendance at university. Around 60% of young people opt for the apprenticeship route, which can take up to four years. There over 300 professions to choose from. Currently, the most popular professions are administrative, sales or medical assistants, chefs and electricians.
Traditional universities and Universities of Applied Sciences
Switzerland has ten cantonal and two national universities. The national universities are called Federal Institutes of Technology and are based in Zurich (ETHZ) and Lausanne (EPFL). Depending on the university, lectures are in one or two national languages. Teaching in English is also on the rise.
- Universities of Basle, Berne, Zurich, Lucerne, St. Gallen and ETHZ: teaching in German
- Universities of Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchâtel and EPFL: teaching in French
- University of Lugano: teaching in Italian
- University of Fribourg: teaching in French and German
Swiss universities offer degree courses in economics and law, medicine and pharmacy, humanities and social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences, as well as theology. The Federal Institutes of Technology offer programmes in natural and engineering sciences, architecture, mathematics, pharmacy, sports and military sciences. Switzerland also has 60 Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS), which dispense a more practice-oriented university-standard education. Around 25% of young Swiss people have third-level qualifications. Of the 25,000 students who graduate in Switzerland every year, around two-thirds come from traditional universities and the remaining third from a UAS. A ‘summary’ of the Swiss educational system can be seen here, that of compulsory education, here, post compulsory education here and tertiary education here.
Would not such a ‘structured’ educational system as that in Switzerland, in time, solve our unemployment problem? Would not such a system benefit the country, thus heading us back – again, in time – to be a ‘manufacturing’ nation once more, especially were companies to become involved and possibly sponsoring, or part-sponsoring, those applicants that said companies felt had something to offer them? Might not such a ‘structured’ educational system better prepare children for later life, rather than being offered lessons in spiritual, moral, social and cultural learning.
Just a thought……….