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Swiss schools abroad to get increased funding

Students walk pass the Swiss cantonal flags in Sao Paulo's Swiss school

(Keystone)

Parliament has approved a SFr4 million ($3.5 million) increase in funding to SFr20 million for Swiss schools abroad in next year's budget.

The Organisation for the Swiss Abroad (OSA) greeted the move with relief, saying it was a rational decision to support the 17 schools.

The federal budget surplus for 2008 is SFr1.1 billion. The Senate approved the budget on Tuesday, in line with the House of Representatives.

The budget foresees excess expenditure of some SFr7 million. The increase is partly accounted for by the rise in funding for Swiss schools abroad, and also covers youth and sport activities and filmmaking.

According to the OSA, the decision will secure the quality of the 17 recognised Swiss schools abroad.

A needs analysis by the federal commission for the development of the education of young Swiss abroad found that the state had to commit SFr20 million to guarantee standards in the schools and allow them to expand.

Ambassadors

"Good Swiss schools abroad are ideal ambassadors for our country," said Derrick Widmer from the Swiss Schools Abroad committee.

"Experience shows that the children and young people who attend these schools have a strong and positive connection to our country all their lives."

Tony Wunderlin, principal of Barcelona's Swiss school, told swissinfo: "This means we can now increase teachers' salaries, which have been frozen for some time."

He added: "Salaries have been very low for years and have been criticised by Swiss inspectors. The school has 66 teachers from Switzerland."

Wunderlin planned to cancel the 15 per cent fee deduction for Swiss students last year. "Thanks to the subsidies we do not have to proceed and Swiss students will keep the deduction."

The OSA believes the originally envisaged target of SFr15.4 million funding for the schools for 2008 would have been insufficient and bad for Switzerland. "To deprive the schools of their financial needs would have cost the country dearly," Wyder said.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The federal contribution to the 17 recognised Swiss schools abroad had diminished in recent years. In 2004 the schools received SFr18.9 million, whereas in 2007 the figure was SFr16.1 million.

The number of students attending these Swiss schools has increased steadily in the same time period from 6,350 in 2004 to 6,700.

The share of costs covered by the government has shrunk from 50 per cent in 1990 to less than 30 per cent now.

Schools have had to increase class sizes and cut back on salaries, teaching costs and the range of classes offered to make ends meet.

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