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Switzerland's educational system is experiencing a period of rapid change at the beginning of the new millennium. Both internal and external factors have influenced educational reform. Globalization and a unified European Community, even though Switzerland is not a formal member, have put significant pressures on the educational system. In order to meet the growing demand for qualified workers and to work towards international recognition of Swiss diplomas, the nonuniversity higher education sector has been modified and reclassified as technical colleges. These include most teacher colleges. The dual system of higher education is comparable to similar institutions in Germany, Austria, and Holland, which include university level institutions and technical colleges. In Switzerland the different schools comprising the technical college level are still very fragmented. Transferability between the two sectors of higher education still remains problematic, with few clear paths between the FH/HES and the universities and Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.

The number of students attending the gymnasium has increased significantly in the last 20 years. In the last decade women have made significant progress in completing the gymnasium and continuing to university studies. The ratio of maturity graduates is considerably higher in the areas of the Suisse romande (French and Italian Switzerland), where children are tracked later than in German-speaking Switzerland. In contrast, children of foreign workers and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to complete higher secondary educations or to go on to higher education. There is also significant disparity between the educational systems of the mountain regions and those of urbanized Switzerland. Future educational reform needs to be directed toward questions of equity in the educational system.

Education in Switzerland continues to be very decentralized and fragmented, although important strides have been taken toward reducing the disparities between the cantonal educational systems. Coordination measures, such as the introduction of standards for middle schools or maturity certificates, and the development of less elitist forms of higher education, take years to institute. As a whole, Switzerland has a very good educational system; however, free transfer from canton to canton is impeded by the 26 different cantonal educational systems and the lack of common educational standards.


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—Carol L. Schmid

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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceSwitzerland - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education