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Assessment policy: introduction - Switzerland

At present, the federal Invalidity Insurance legislation is of paramount importance as it controls the allocation of children and funding to institutions and services providing SNE. This funding system will change (probably in 2008) as a consequence of the “Reorganisation of Financial Equalisation RFE” when financial responsibility is transferred to the cantons.

There is no Swiss education system as such, but rather 26 cantonal education systems: «Education falls under the authority of the cantons» (Constitution, Art. 62.1). The cantons organise the (regular) education system according to their regional and linguistic needs.

In consideration of the special situation in Switzerland, the Policy Report is organised along the different levels of political and legislative systems:

  • national/federal
  • inter-cantonal
  • cantonal
  • communal. 

The principle of subsidiarity governs the relationship between different levels: What can be successfully regulated at a lower level should not be regulated at a higher level. On the basis of this principle, communities and individual schools enjoy much freedom to develop their own practices and procedures related to assessment. 

Policy and practice of assessment in integrative/inclusive compulsory schooling will be described giving a comprehensive view with regard to all levels of education. Education systems in Switzerland tend to be rather segregated and streaming at secondary level is very common. Streaming practices are based on more or less professionally established pupil performance and tend to increase the social selectivity of the education system. 

Switzerland has neither a general legal system or regulations nor general policies for assessment at the federal level. The principle of subsidiarity governs the relationship between different levels. On this basis, communities and individual schools enjoy much freedom to develop their own practices and procedures. The different models and practices realised represent attempts by single communities, schools or even teachers, to implement a system of assessment in special needs education (SNE) that best fit the local needs and conditions. In these systems, several individuals and services are involved in the assessment process in a range of functions and objectives:

On one hand, achievement is meant to provide the basis for re-allocation within the regular education system as well as for decisions between schooling in inclusive settings and the exclusion of a pupil in order to be re-assigned to a special needs education programme. On the other hand, diagnostic information is used for individual education planning. 

The manner in which educational planning is conducted depends greatly on the knowledge, skills and preferences of the responsible professionals. Thus, it is vital to improve their competencies and to extend their training in SNE.

In assessment practices, several attempts are made to institute standardised procedures and tools based on international standards (such as the ICF) and therefore to consider not only pupil-related items, but also the influence of environmental factors on assessments. 

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