Following the school disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Swiss schools abroad plan to look to the future. For starters, they need to define what makes them “Swiss”.
This content was published on July 12, 2022 – 10:08 am
The heads of the 18 Swiss schools abroad will meet in the canton of Thurgau from 11 to 13 July for their first annual conferenceExternal link in Switzerland after two years of pandemic.
More than 100 people will be in attendance on the official day of July 13, also open to outside guests.
Thurgau is the patron of the Colegio Pestalozzi, the Swiss school in Lima (Peru), which was one of the hardest hit in the network during the pandemic. Distance learning has been in effect there for over a yearExternal link†
In most other schools across Latin America, Asia and parts of Europe, the situation is “relatively back to normal,” said Barbara Sulzer Smith, director of educationsuisse.External linkthe organization that represents Swiss schools abroad.
Interior Minister Alain Berset saw the situation with his own eyes when he attended the Swiss school in Rome last May. “After incarceration and distance learning – mastered with dedication by the Swiss school in Rome – it is all the more pleasant to celebrate his 75th birthday here,” he tweeted afterwards.
Only the most recent Swiss school abroad, that of Beijing, has had to resort to distance learning again this year, says Barbara Sulzer Smith. Schools in the Chinese capital were closed in May due to a spike in Covid cases.
Declining number of students
“In some schools the challenge was to bring the kids back [en classe]† They had to go back to normal school life,” she adds.
Although the level of German – the main language taught in Swiss schools abroad – has declined somewhat for some students due to the lack of practice opportunities, the general academic level has remained good. to the director of educationsuisse.
However, the number of pupils in Swiss schools abroad is falling very slightly. The figures for 2020 – 2021, which will be published soon, show 7,970 students, compared to 8,000 in 2019.
“Some foreign Swiss families have returned to Switzerland [en raison de la pandémie]but some schools have also seen new children come, especially as indigenous families realize that Swiss schools provide good education even in times of crisis or pandemic,” explains Barbara Sulzer Smith.
Swiss schools abroad, although originally designed for foreign families, now have only about 20% Swiss students. The rest of the school community consists of natives and people of other nationalities. The schools are fee-paying but not for profit and sponsored by a patronage canton that provides educational support but no funding. Financial support comes from the government.
In order to receive their official label, Swiss schools abroad must also meet certain criteria laid down in Swiss law. For example, the majority of teaching staff must be Swiss.
In recent years, calls for the network to more accurately define its “Swissness” have multiplied, especially in the context of the highly competitive international schools market. In Singapore alone, where one of the Swiss schools is located, there are estimated to be over 60 international schools. Competition in China is also very strong.
This situation has led to the development of a new charter for Swiss schools abroad, which will be presented to the public on 13 July. It defines the “Swissness” of the 18 establishments in terms of their values, their management, but also in terms of pedagogy and education. The charter also covers how Swiss schools act as cultural hubs and operate as a network.
She also indicates that the participation of teachers, students and parents in school decisions is very important. This reflects the importance of direct democracy in Switzerland – where the people have a say – and differs from other school systems, where the principal usually has the last word.
“Many of the charter’s values are already being applied to Swiss schools abroad, but we want to make them more visible,” says Barbara Sulzer Smith.
Translated from English by Emilie Ridard
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