Mind the gap

According to the CIDP/EDK, “the concordat of 29 October 1970 on school coordination represents the basis for the Swiss legal and political framework for the joint action of the cantons in the field of education. It serves as a general framework for political, administrative and scientific activities devoted to the development of education as well as to seek consensus on issues that go beyond the possibilities offered at the cantonal or regional level. It is also on the basis of the concordat that the cantons’ collaboration is based on with the Confederation in the field of education and training. This mandate for collaboration (between cantons and between cantons and the Confederation) has been explicitly enshrined in the Federal Constitution since 2006. According to Art. 61a, the latter requires the Confederation and the cantons to jointly ensure, within the limits of their respective competences, the quality and permeability of the Swiss education sector.”

Can institutions evolve to match future needs?

A recent survey of 503 global education professionals from over 50 countries by HolonIQ identified that in mature markets such as Europe, there is a real risk that institutions fail to evolve to meet future needs. Considering the time it has taken to develop a consensus around digitalisation (Lehrplan 21 and Plan d’études romand) and then to implement this in schools across Switzerland, this concern could be very real. However, it is linked to teacher skill gaps, too, as teachers who are not at ease or have not been trained in digital skills will not implement them in their practice. For example, how does a Latin teacher implement technology in class to best effect for improved learning outcomes and not for technology’s sake? Or, why do rising numbers of children and parents select home schooling in the Canton of Vaud (some 40% of all home-schooled children in Switzerland come from the Canton of Vaud)? Are the institutions really evolving in terms of school room disposition, teaching methods, technology and skills set training?

Teacher shortage, skill gaps and political agendas slow down education

The above-mentioned survey also defined other major risks to global education like lack of innovation, poor economic sustainability, teacher shortages, unequal access and escalating cost. Of course, this depends on region and country: in Europe, the top risk is teacher shortage and skill gaps. In Switzerland, this is compounded by the fact that the education system is fragmented and follows cantonal political agendas, if not local ones. Indeed, according to the study, the second highest risk for European countries is that the political process anchors and delays innovation and progress in education. The probability of this happening is around 75%, according to the study. Given the time it has taken to develop a consensus around digitalisation and its implementation in teacher training institutions and schools across Switzerland, it is strongly likely that Switzerland is neither teaching for future skills nor preparing teachers for future skills, unless major efforts and structural changes are made.

Making education a top budget priority

As Switzerland prepares to vote later this year, it is to be hoped that budding and confirmed politicians will put education at the top of their political agendas. As education budgets are cut across Europe, Switzerland must make sure to keeps up its standards and spends significantly on education. Instead of a downward spiralling education budget, there needs to be a well-considered upwards spend: it should cover not just technology purchasing, but also teacher training, continuing teacher education, more work on harmonisation across cantons, and higher investment in changing classrooms from 19thcentury-style to more dynamic and inspiring environments. Switzerland has a great education system. It needs to keep it that way!