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Researchers call for improved political education

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Teaching civic studies could be a way to improve political dialogue Keystone

Pupils at Swiss schools should all be taught civic studies in order to raise their interest in subjects decided by popular votes, according to the findings of a study on political reform.

The GfS Bern research and polling institute Bern asked more than 1,000 people in Switzerland for their views on the political system and reform ideas External linksuggested by experts.

About three-quarters of those questioned said they were happy with the political system, GfS Bern said on Monday.

Bolstering political education was rated the most popular way of improving political dialogue, strengthening political culture and enabling young people in particular to show more interest in politics.

The researchers recommend all schools teach civic studies from 7th grade in a “neutral way” in order to improve young people’s ability to participate in political discussions. The proposal received the backing of 77% of respondents, the survey found. A majority said it should be as significant as mathematics.

Political content is best communicated to younger people via social media, where they may for example participate in political discussion about upcoming votes, the researchers said.

Political reforms

Despite the fact that political mechanisms may seem cumbersome and not very efficient because of the country’s direct democracy, it is difficult to get political backing for reform, the study showed.

In 2012, voters rejected the last proposed change to the political process, and a year later they brought down an initiative demanding to have the people choose the president instead of parliamentarians.

The researchers wanted to find out how to improve the country’s already quite successful political system and secure its prosperity in the long-term.

According to the study, 92% of the people surveyed knew how many cabinet ministers Switzerland has – namely seven – and 71% were happy with that number. Only 19% would increase their number and 4% would reduce it.

Respondents also advocated a stronger dialogue between the cabinet and the population and a more offensive foreign policy, the study found.

Regarding reform of the political system, about three-quarters of the people surveyed liked reforms that would improve how difficult issues are handled. They were in favour of promoting compromise and a powerful cabinet acting resolutely and concertedly.

Streamlining the body politic, however, is controversial, according to the study. A majority of those surveyed for example rejected the idea of increasing the number of signatures required for a popular initiative.

Other reform proposals that the study shows would have a hard time would be strengthening the power of Switzerland’s rotating presidency, giving larger cantons more weight in the senate or the strengthening of the majority rule at the expense of minorities.

The study “Building blocks to strengthen the Swiss political system” was commissioned by the Bank Julius Baer.

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