Report: Swiss education is good but needs improvement

Switzerland’s education and job training system is good but needs improvement in some key areas, according to a new report by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

This content was published on September 29, 1999 - 08:38

Switzerland’s education and job training system is good but needs improvement in some key areas, according to a new report by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The report, presented at a news conference in Berne on Wednesday, gives high marks to performances in maths, foreign languages and apprenticeship job training programmes. But students have dropped to an unacceptable level in chemistry, and too many Swiss have problems in reading and understanding a text of medium difficulty.

Following are some key findings of the report, which is titled Efficiency of Switzerland’s Education System:

Good marks:

-- Swiss students score top results in maths in an international context.
-- Apprenticeship programmes work well, noting that Swiss industry invests SFr1.7 billion ($1.13 billion) in those three to four-year long programmes each year.
-- Foreign language tuition is a success and paves the way for higher salaries. Annual spending on foreign language tuition (normally French, German, Italian and English) amounts to SFr1.6 billion ($1.06 billion).

Bad marks:

-- 7th and 8th grade students perform below par in science, particularly in chemistry.
-- More than half of all adults have problems in reading a text of medium difficulty, such as instructions or prescriptions.
-- Further education, while generally considered to be good, mainly benefits those who already have a high standard of education – and thus deepens the rift between people with high and average education levels.


The report shows that Switzerland has some of the highest education spending among the 29 member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

With an annual total of SFr21 billion ($14 billion), Switzerland ranks in fourth place behind the United States, Norway and Denmark.

The report further underlines the economic benefits of foreign language studies, which is compulsory in Swiss schools – not least because it is meant to strengthen social and political cohesion between the country’s four language regions.

While French and German are normally the first foreign languages learnt in the respective language regions, it is English that brings the biggest economic benefits.

The report finds, for instance, that German-speaking women who speak good English can boost their salaries by up to 50 percent compared to equally qualified women who cannot speak the language.

However, researchers also found that there is still a marked gender gap: Women who opt for further professional training often get paid the same salary while men’s wages increase by up to SFr800 ($533) a month.

From staff and wire reports.

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