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OECD gives Switzerland good education marks

Despite progress, the number of graduates remains below the OECD average

(Keystone)

Switzerland's educational system has received a good report in a new international study, with young Swiss well equipped to join the workforce.

The latest study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says standards among member states are continuing to rise.

The Paris-based group says thanks to big efforts at the higher level of education in Switzerland, the percentage of graduates to the population had increased from 10.4 per cent to 25.9 per cent between 2000 and 2004.

The OECD notes the higher Swiss graduation rates are largely due to reforms under the Bologna process, which includes 45 countries.

This not only shortened the duration of the first degree but also created new higher education institutions in Switzerland.

But despite this progress, the figure is well below the OECD average of 34.8 per cent, according to the study, which presents an international comparison of education systems.

With the exception of Italy, Switzerland is the only OECD member country that has made such clear progress in higher education.

Six years ago, Switzerland trailed the rest of the field in higher education but has since overtaken Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Turkey.

When it comes to mathematics, 15-year-old Swiss students also receive high marks, with seven per cent reaching the highest level of proficiency in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) scale.

Other countries that feature high in this maths scale are Belgium, South Korea, Japan and the Netherlands.

But 15 per cent of Swiss 15-year-olds are not able to show routinely the most basic type of maths knowledge and skills that Pisa seeks to measure. This is, however, less than the OECD average of 21 per cent.

Upper secondary graduation rates in Switzerland are near 90 per cent, above the OECD mean of just over 80 per cent.

Reform

The Swiss voted overwhelmingly in May to reform Switzerland's education system, aimed at improving coordination among the country's different school structures and giving the federal authorities a bigger say.

The system had come in for increasing criticism since the 2003 Pisa study revealed what critics called serious shortcomings in reading, as well as considerable differences among the 26 cantons.

The planned reforms include streamlining the length of compulsory schooling and the school starting age, as well as the mutual recognition of diplomas.

A survey ahead of the vote revealed that the Swiss were more critical of their education system than ten years ago, with costs, discipline and the different cantonal school structures all coming under fire.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Bologna Declaration of 1999 aims to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010.

Switzerland is one of 45 countries in Europe that signed up to the accord, whose aim is to harmonise European higher education to make it more attractive internationally.

The new university course is divided into two stages: three years for a Bachelor's degree and two more to obtain a Master's degree.

The first Bachelor courses started in 2001. The first degrees were awarded in 2004 (1,057, mainly in law and economy).

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OECD

Founded in 1961, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has 30 member countries.

It succeeded the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation, which was formed to administer United States and Canadian aid under the Marshall Plan for reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War.

Its mission is to build strong economies in its member countries, improve efficiency and expand free trade.

The secretariat in Paris has a staff of about 2,000, including about 700 economists, lawyers, scientists and other professionals, who provide research and analysis.

Switzerland has been a member since 1961.

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