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Education best way to prevent youth rioting

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin educating his party in Winterthur

(Keystone)

The interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, has called for improved schooling and integration policies to ensure Switzerland is spared the unrest seen in France.

Couchepin said on Saturday he was appalled by the continuing French youth riots and said the key for Switzerland was to ensure that its young people did not lose hope.

Speaking in Winterthur at a conference on education organised by his centre-right Radical Party, Couchepin said Switzerland had no advice to offer France, but was forced to watch events unfold in the neighbouring country with horror.

He said he could only hope the unrest would soon end and that the root cause of the problem would be tackled.

Couchepin praised the integrative character of the Swiss education system and called on the school authorities to look into ways to extend the role of schools as "melting pots" in order to combat segregation.

He added that education was the "best recipe against fundamentalist tendencies".

Rioting began in France two weeks ago. The unrest has mostly involved youths from ethnic minorities. It began in poor suburbs of Paris and spread across the country.

Educational reform

At the conference, the Radical Party leadership called for reforms to the current education system, whereby the 26 cantons are largely left to set their own policy.

"The Radical Party aims for the harmonisation of the Swiss education system," it said. "Only in this way can results be compared and quality improved.

"The Pisa [international student assessment] survey has shown that the education system needs to be improved immediately. Children and youths benefiting from an excellent schooling are the key to Switzerland remaining a leading financial centre."

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Most pupils start school at the age of seven.

They usually stay in school for nine years before going on to higher education or training.

Overall, cantons are permitted to take their own independent decisions when it comes to the structure of their education systems, syllabuses and the dates of school holidays.

However, there is a Conference of Cantonal Directors of Public Education which ensures contact and harmony between the cantons.

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