Stories making the Swiss Sunday papers

11th December 2016, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland’s approach to education is a major theme for the Swiss newspapers on Sunday, after the results were criticised by officials due to a new method of obtaining information. Some of the results have also caused a number of different concerns and ideas to surface.

Although Swiss teenagers are the best in Europe at mathematics, they scored average marks in reading.

In the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper, the head of the PISA study, which ranks children’s education level in different countries and compares them, responds to criticism from Swiss education officials. For the first time students completed the assessments online rather than via handwritten tests, and it’s caused quite an issue in Switzerland.

Andreas Schleicher told the paper that Switzerland is the only country to have complained about the new method of gathering data used for the latest results.

He said that the data was still comparable, and went on to add in a counter-attack, that Switzerland had not responded well enough to advances in technology over the past ten years, such as smartphones, social media and big data, commenting, “I expected significantly more from the Swiss education system”.

Schleicher said another striking issue was the influence that a child’s social background has, “Switzerland has a problem with equality”, he told the paper, and noted that schools are unsuccessful in making up for a child who comes from a disadvantaged background.

A choice between language and learning?

In the German-language NZZ am Sonntag, a controversial idea is discussed – that of teaching children who have moved to Switzerland some classes in their mother tongue, rather than teaching them another national language. The education expert at the Swiss Teachers’ Association, Jürg Brühlmann is calling for children with a migration background to have classes in their own language rather than learning French.

Christoph Eymann, president of the Conference of Education Directors said the idea was worth looking in to. “Children should not be overwhelmed with languages.” Such exceptions, he added, would have to be decided in individual cases rather than as a blanket rule.

When children have only basic skills

The SonntagsZeitung discusses another point that came out of the latest PISA results. One in five school pupils in Switzerland are functionally illiterate after nine years of school, meaning their reading and writing skills are not good enough to enable them to carry out any tasks in daily life or at work beyond a basic level.

Stefan Wolter, director of the Swiss centre for education research told the paper, “In an average-sized class of 19 students, at the end of mandatory schooling, two to three students per class would not be able to read and write to a sufficient level.” He dubbed it a ‘system failure’ in a country with the second-most expensive school system among all member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Wolter said there was no need for money, it should just be used in a different way.

Asylum decisions need further explanation

The NZZ am Sonntag reports that in an initial judgement, the Federal Administrative Court has said that the treatment of Eritreans who fail to successfully apply for asylum in Switzerland, is unlawful. It refers to a tightening of the law, and specifically to two cases involving minors.

The paper writes that the underage asylum seekers had their applications refused and the State Secretariat for Migration said they could be returned to their country of origin as they had numerous relations there. The court however argued that the decision by the secretariat was not sufficiently explained, and it was not enough to refer to the minors having numerous relatives in Eritrea, without giving more detail.

Assisted suicide in retirement homes

The SonntagsBlick publishes figures from assisted suicide organisation, Exit about the number of people in retirement homes taking their own lives with an Exit representative present.

In 2007 there were ten cases, and in 2015, 92, according to the paper. “These numbers will continue to grow,” said Exit board member Jürg Wiler, adding that baby boomers who are used to making their own decisions, are now coming to this age.

The Swiss Association for Ethics and Medicine however, told the newspaper it found the development alarming, “To end lives in this way gives it [the practice of assisted suicide] an institutional seal of approval.”


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