For the second year running, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked 50 economies in its Worldwide Educating for the Future Index, placing Switzerland second just after Finland and before New Zealand. The index claims to “assess the effectiveness of education systems in preparing students for the demands of work and life in a rapidly changing landscape.”
Education systems need to adapt to challenges
A pressing task today is to adapt education systems in a way that will help tomorrow’s adults address current and future challenges. To do so, it is important to foster creative skills and abilities like problem solving and collaboration. According to the index, Finland and Switzerland rank particularly high in their policy environment, i.e. in formulating future-skills strategies and defining assessment frameworks. For example, Switzerland places great emphasis on embedding problem-based learning in curricula. The study states it is important to move away from rigid exam-based systems towards those that value many different forms of learning. By doing so, a lifelong learning mindset is fostered early on.
Do labour and learning belong together?
The labour market is in a state of flux, largely driven by automation, flexibilisation of work, demographic changes and geopolitics. It can be difficult for educators to align with labour market needs for a number of reasons: scarcity of relevant information and the belief that education should remain separate from the labour market, valuing learning for learning’s sake. World Bank’s Jaime Saavedra says that this ivory tower mentality is a problem: “Students should know exactly what the labour market returns are by career and by type of training. There is very little information out there, and we need much more.” One study interviewee counters by suggesting that future employees will have to remain flexible because “individual pathways are often determined by factors such as personal networks, individual persistence, and even luck and timing, rather than by rational alignment between training and jobs.”
In and out of school
To foster future skills and prepare upcoming generations for the challenges that will arise, although school is important, it is not the only place for education: sports, outdoor activities and leisure activities all contribute to greater social, physical and mental skill sets. Communities need to ensure low-threshold access to these activities through youth centres, extra-curricular activities in schools and holiday camps.
There is always room for improvement
Switzerland may be ranked second in this index; the government and educators should not rest on their laurels for a number of reasons among which that policy and practice are often divergent. Cultural norms prevent fundamental change. Educators often need further training, which is time consuming and costly. This is especially relevant as the Swiss national education budget was recently reduced, which, in fast-changing times like ours, is not a forward-looking move. We hope that the next government will re-evaluate the budget, as the educational system needs to continuously improve and adapt.
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