They start Kindergarten at age 6 and graduate from high-school at 16 and are more educated than students from other countries at 18 or 19. How can that be? How is that possible? Do those kids still have playtime?
The Swiss Education System is a very organized teaching model that any country could follow in a sense. It would take some major reorganizing but who said that it would all have to be done in one night. The Swiss Education is very goal oriented. Depending on the State that you live in, you are enrolled in Elementary School until the end of 5th or 6th grade. During this time, a child’s abilities and academic strengths are evaluated for the purpose of choosing the right high-school, the Sekundar or the Real School. If you are academically an achiever and well organized with good grades, your choice will be the Sekundar School. If you would like to further study at a major College or University, then the Sekundar School is a must. For those kids who are slower learners but perhaps do well working with their hands, such as metal, wood, etc will be promoted into the Real School. The separation of the slow learners from the fast learners will guarantee a more comfortable learning environment for both teachers and student. The slower learners don’t feel too much pressure in having to keep up with the academic achievers. And the fast learners don’t have to study a subject for a longer period of time to the point where they reach boredom and don’t participate.
Let’s start with Elementary School. At age 6, kids start kindergarten. They practice creative art, singing and music, social skills. It is not until the 1st grade that a student starts to work on his academic skills. Every year the school units increase. For instance, a third grader will have 27 units per week compared to a 6th grader with 31 units. During the first year, a student is taught letter recognition including reading and writing. Cursive writing is taught at second grade and is a requirement in all school work. For that reason every student will always have a working cursive pen. In 3rd or 4th grade, depending on the State that you live in, you are introduced to a second language, which is either Italian or French. Some schools prefer to introduce English as the first foreign language at that time. But in essence, all students will eventually study three languages during the mandatory school years. The first one being the one language of their region. That could be either German, French or Italian. And in addition they are required to study English and one of the other three. The fact is that you can’t really chose. It all depends what part of Switzerland you reside in.
Three units every week are devoted to physical education. Children are required to bring a change of clothes and participate in physical education such as gymnastics, track and field, basketball, soccer, field hockey, baseball, tennis and even skiing and snowboarding in the wintertime if located in a resort town.
Mathematics is a very important factor. It is based on pure repetition and sometimes involves studying the numbers. But soon enough it is done by heart and homework doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Another important subject is the first language with big emphasis on grammar. It is studied over and over from grammar subject to grammar subject until everybody knows it. Reading is part of the language class. Most kids are excellent readers. Another subject is to learn about nature and one about geography, especially about the specific region the kids live in. In the higher grades world geography is introduced, and big tests are written to make sure children do know about the world. History starts early too in chronological order from the beginning of times until world war II and the present time. Creative Art and Drawing is another subject that develops skills and is taught at every school level.
Teachers pay big attention to clean work. Some work can be done by pencil but most of it has to be completed by cursive pen. Is an assignment not done at the teacher’s satisfaction, the student will have to redo it. Assignments are to be taken very seriously. Forgotten assignments or incomplete work or homework will be punished with extra school work. Sometimes kids even have to come to school on their school free afternoon.
Tests are given very frequently with plenty to study. They learn at an early age to pay attention, to study hard and to achieve good grades.
Swiss Schools also put big emphasis on developing each student’s organisational skills. Some schools issue a weekly planner with all assignments and homework that are due by the end of week. This way the student can see all the work that has to be completed and learns to become organized, an important factor when entering high-school, but especially important for their successful future.
Most subjects that are studied are all mandatory. The Swiss School Education feels that it is necessary to know all the main subjects very well such as math, language, nature, anatomy, history, geography, geometry, creative skills developed through other classes. To offer to many other subjects will just dilute the basic knowledge necessary to become a successful and happy student and to help one’s self esteem when starting a career.
One to two years before graduating each student starts focusing on the future, working together with a career counselor offered by the state. Each student spends a week at a time on a job of his or her choice to learn more about the work that is involved with a certain trade or profession. About 70% of the graduates will commence their professional career by enrolling in a three-year apprenticeship program. This program consists of partially attending classes at one of the assigned colleges and partially working a few days a week. At the end of the three year program the student will not only have gained more academic skills, especially necessary for the profession he or she has chosen, but they will also have gained a great deal of hands-on work experience making job placement much easier. The three-year program doesn’t cost the student anything. As a matter of fact, he or she will earn money.
The Swiss Education System is just another one of their many implemented systems that truly work, just like clockwork.