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Swiss seek new lessons at WorldDidac

The conference comes amid worries about falling standards in Swiss schools

(swissinfo C Helmle)

Zurich has become the world capital of education this week, as the WorldDidac conference gets underway.

The four-day conference is now the world's most important international event for promoting teaching materials, new educational methods, and the latest developments in further education and e-learning. Some 400 exhibitors from 30 countries have gathered for WorldDidac 2002.

It is the second time the conference has been set in Zurich; it will have a strong presence from the Swiss educational establishment.

Swiss worries

The conference is taking place amid increased concern over falling standards in Swiss education. Late last year an international study found that Swiss school students were below average in skills such as reading and comprehension.

The study, undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, also found that standards among Swiss students were dependent on social and economic status, with those from lower income families having particularly poor education levels.

WorldDidac provides an opportunity to discuss standards in schools. In addition to the main conference, a series of workshops are scheduled, many of them sponsored by Swiss government departments.

Role of the Net

The Swiss Federal Office of the Environment is among six government departments taking part in WorldDidac. The Office is demonstrating a new information technology programme called "Globe", which allows school pupils to publish their research into the environment on the Internet, and to compare their findings with those of other countries.

Meanwhile the Swiss Federal Health Office plans to raise two topics: "School and Health" and a "Network of Health Conscious Schools." The Health Office wants health issues to become a more integral part of school curricula.

And the Swiss Federal Refugee Office will promote a "Youth Web". The main topics on the new site, which is aimed at young people aged between 14 and 20, will be flight, migration, and asylum.

WorldDidac, which is expected to attract thousands of visitors over the course of the next few days, runs from April 23 through 26.

By Jean-Michel Berthoud

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