Swiss perspectives in 10 languages

Pupils face new classroom rules

Swiss pupils will have to get used to new spelling rules Keystone

Swiss schools are introducing reforms as students get ready to go back to their classes at the end of the summer holiday.

The reforms include a standard textbook on maths, spelling rules and the introduction of English as a first foreign language in some cantons.

Pupils in many parts of Switzerland are due to go back to school next week, but as a result of the country’s federalist system some regions only resume teaching at the beginning of next month.

The diversity of the education system in the country’s 26 cantons also makes it difficult to introduce reforms nationwide.

Nevertheless, many primary school children in the most populous canton, Zurich, and in regions in central Switzerland will begin with English lessons in the second or third grade.

Until now French was the first foreign language taught in most schools in the German-speaking part of the country, and at a much later stage in the school curriculum.

Foreign language

The education authorities have been trying to find a common solution for the four different language regions – German, French, Italian and Romansh – but settled for a regional approach.

Reforms to be introduced in the French-speaking region of Switzerland include a common textbook for mathematics in the ninth grade.

It is the final step in harmonising the teaching of maths for schools in the French and Italian-speaking cantons.

Pupils in the majority German-speaking part – except those in and around Bern – will also have to get used to revised spelling rules in their standard language, gradually introduced over the past few years.

Other cantonal authorities are stepping up efforts to improve student assessments in a bid to address a perceived lack of equal opportunities.

Meanwhile, the authorities say a teaching shortage has been overcome with enough teachers now available for most subjects at the primary school level.

swissinfo with agencies

New measures:

A standard maths textbook for the French- and Italian-speaking regions.
New spelling rules in German.
Introduction of English as a first foreign language for Zurich and central Swiss cantons.

Under the Swiss federalist system, education and schooling are primarily a responsibility of the 26 cantons.

The federal parliament is due to discuss two constitutional amendments this year to improve cooperation in educational matters.

Efforts to harmonise curriculum have made progress on a regional level in the French-speaking part of the country. But nationwide attempts are limited to setting standards for a limited number of school subjects only.

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR