Education – compare and contrast

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. 

School system

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……….



9 Responses

  1. Andy Baxter says:

    totally agree; education needs to be both elitist in academia and vocational and practical for others, with selection based on merit and potential ability combined with leadership (political, vocational and local empowerment)to drive policy.

    Sadly our education system is infected with the ‘common purpose’ and idealogical agenda at all levels. A policy I truly believe to be deliberate to create a ‘dumbed down’ majority populace that can be controlled via the same way MP’s are via a force fed compliant MSM diet of trivia that can at times instil FEAR through the latest Government SCARE and whip up FRENZY and indignation and genuine ANGER at the latest scapegoat bogeyman.

    TPTB do not want thinking for themselves independent intelligent people seeing what truly goes on, they want compliant drones to milk for all time…..

  2. Ian says:

    Gove’s new CSE’s can only work if they are vocational in nature, not academic O-levels for idiots, as I’ve recently blogged.And yes, let’s bring back real apprenticeships too, not these pathetic NVQs.Some years ago I read that you could even get an NVQ in shelf-stacking.

  3. Chris says:

    I began teaching in a Secondary Modern school where our pupils were not hindered by modern exams. We treasured those we felt had missed out on the 11+ and I’m sure they achieved more than those who only just gained a Grammar place. We also respected those who had lives alien to our own experience such as the non-reader who earned more selling bananas on a Saturday morning than I earned in a week. The most important aspect of the curriculum was that academics and social evangelists ignored us so we got on with preparing the pupils for their life after school. Thanks to FriendsReunited I can count TV celebrities, national sportsmen, American business owners and many more ‘self-made’ successes amongst the ex-pupils. These are the ones who are forced to stay on in education for many years, accumulate considerable debt and gain unsaleable qualifications before working behind shop counters.
    Let’s get rid of the social levelling ‘experts’ together with those who think the only excellence we should aspire to is available at Oxford and return to a system that respects the needs of the pupils and their society.

    Just ranting……..

  4. Peter C says:

    Indeed this was the general post war system introduced throughout Europe, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium in particular did so very successfully. The UK, as with so much else, failed to properly implement it then, lamentably and again as with so much else, abandoned it in favour of the already discredited US comprehensive system in the late 50s.

    It could be said many things ‘conspired’ to wreck our education system. The secondary modern element was undoubtedly underfunded but the main failure was the determination of the educational elite to insist on too academic a curriculum there even for those not suited or not interested, building in failure both for the system and the individual. There was and I suppose still is, the attitude that school should educate, a fundamental error in my opinion. As I have always seen it, you go to school to learn essentially practical skills (and yes, that includes reading, writing and factual knowledge in general), you go to University to be educated, that is learn how to think, although it is always possible for a person to ‘educate’ themselves. The biggest failure in UK education is that we now turn out vast numbers of university graduates who patently can’t think, only regurgitate ‘facts’ with little to no true understanding let alone questioning and thus perverting and degrading even the ‘professions’. The severe labour shortages and lack of industrial competitiveness of the sixties conspired to destroy our apprenticeship system. Why take a three or four year apprenticeship at £4 a week when a building labourer could get £15 a week, cash in hand at that, and it was possible to walk from one job to another in a day, at least in London.

    Nor was ‘education’ seen as essential for success in those days, look at Alan Sugar and his beetroot empire for one. My brother, having been steered into a clerical job in an insurance office on leaving school absolutely hated it. After three months he left, signed on at a factory next day, didn’t like that and left at tea break, went next door and was taken on there, didn’t like that either, lasted until the afternoon when he had a bust up with the foreman, walked out again, saw a garage across the road, went over and got a job there to start the next morning. He stayed there for a while until he fell out with that foreman (yes, a recurring event throughout his working life, never his fault, of course, cough, cough) but found he really liked the work, eventually starting his own successful repair business. Now retired he is a respected voice in our national housing association system.

    • Andy Baxter says:

      I dont agree about tertiary education being the ONLY way to teach people to ‘think’ Peter.

      Education starts fom birth within ideally I would suggest stable two parent man and women families founded on moral principles.

      Secondary education is where I would argue the most influence on budding and inqisitive minds occurs, where principles and opinions that form the basis of future political views are formulated. Why does the Government spend so much money attempting to influence political opinions about CLIMATE CHANGE via propoganda in a geography syllabus in secondary schools?

      I was the last Grammar school ‘educated’ year in Co.Durham and I can honestly say that the education I received from committed, vocational, and skilled teachers totally insulated from ‘agendas’ and prepared to be apolitical taught me to ‘think’ to ‘question’ to ‘reason’ to ‘seek’ to learn’ and to ‘argue’. Skill sets I have taken into adult life and used to great effect in first a military career then in building a successful business.

      I was at a school reunion 5 years ago (there were approx 90 pupils in my school year) and the thing that amazed me about the fellow pupils whom I shared classrooms with was the number of us almost all of us in fact who had built careers in teh military, journalism, writing, medicine, arts, engineering, education even, and even one guy who is one of the top nationally recognised foremost veterinary authority in the UK AND for me mostly amongst us all alot of successful business owners…

      All of us had and continue to be socially mobile (living in various parts of not only the UK but overseas also) because of the skill sets we possessed, and thankfully the opportunity to build and learn these from ‘selection’…..from a grammar school education.

      I accept not all are academically inclined nor able so the piece David writes re vocational and trade skill sets being available in Switzerland is paramount to producing a balanced productive and happy populace.

      But alas I argue again and firmly believe this; that a dumbed down populace fed a diet of ‘Xfactor’ ‘Corra’ and spoon fed propoganda from the Bolshevik Broadcasting Committern (BBC) are easy to control and manipulate.

      TPTB are terrified of a populace that is aware, conscious, questioning and ultimately angry at the injustices they see before them………it is that populace that needs a voice, a movement, direction and leadership to reclaim The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northen Ireland.

      I just hope there are enough of us left to make a difference!

      • Peter C says:

        Come on, Andy, I didn’t say university was the only way to teach people to think, in fact I explicitly said it wasn’t. Nor am I against schools promoting ‘thinking’, ‘questioning’, ‘reasoning’ and to ‘arguing’, the public school system does it pretty well as did the Grammars as you rightly point out, especially as those things are indeed essential skills, sadly lacking today.

        The point is secondary education should concentrate on providing a firm foundation of knowledge, tertiary education should concentrate on extending that knowledge, deepening understanding and building in context and connections between disparate fields.

        During the 1980s in my position as a technical officer in a large manufacturing enterprise it fell to me to liaise with ‘experts’ from our various suppliers. After a time I noticed that those aged around 40 and over could always answer my questions as I sought to deepen my understanding of the plant or equipment under consideration, those younger had all the sales spiel and could rattle off all kinds of statistics, but they couldn’t explain anything not specific to the brief. If asked does this do so and so they would answer yes or no, if asked how it did it they didn’t know. It was clear the older people understood not just what their stuff did, they knew how and why it did it that way, the younger ones simply didn’t for the most part.

  5. david says:

    Interesting conversation twixt Peter C and Andy B.

    Besides imparting knowledge, should not every stage of one’s education include promoting thought and questioning? Is that not the mark of a good teacher?

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