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Challenges and tendencies - Switzerland

Some challenges and tendencies have already been described more or less explicitly in previous chapters. This chapter follows the same structure and lists the challenges and tendency in assessment policy at the different levels (federal, cantonal, communal). 

National/federal level

Challenges:

  • The RFE (Reorganisation of Financial Equalisation) will lead to a substantial change in the funding scheme of special educational services and systems. As financial support is linked to allocation, assessment procedures are likely to change as well. Cantonal education legislation will have to be adapted to accommodate the new responsibility taken over from the Invalidity Insurance.
  • The increase of heterogeneous classes highlights the requirement for improved and fairer assessment procedures comparable across communities and cantons.
  • The current education systems in Switzerland rely mainly on streaming to deal with pupil diversity. As a consequence, a marked social selectivity can be observed. It is very unlikely, that inclusive settings, especially at secondary levels I and II, will be implemented shortly to move towards a more equitable system. 

Tendencies:

  • Presently, the conceptual work to establish a national monitoring system of education is co-ordinated jointly by the Federal government and the EDK. The Swiss Co-ordination Centre for Research in Education (SKBF) is preparing an initial report on education in Switzerland. This monitoring report will serve as a basis for decision-making, related to educational planning and policy from pre-school to adult education. 

Inter-cantonal level

Challenges:

  • As mentioned earlier, the RFE (Reorganisation of Financial Equalisation) will transfer responsibilities in financing special education from the federal to the cantonal level. As the cantons are required to ensure equitable access to resources, an inter-cantonal agreement will need to be developed to formalise co-operation between the cantons. 

Tendencies:

  • “HarmoS”, the project led by the EDK and described earlier, aims at the “harmonisation of education in Switzerland”. The development of models of competencies and minimal standards to be reached by all pupils will lead to a further need for assessment and require better assessment skills of regular and special educators. Presently, many teachers are not able to identify pupils who do not meet the required level of achievement and expertise.
  • Recently, teacher education institutions have undergone major reforms to ensure the equivalent standards in teacher training in all cantons. New diplomas are endorsed by the EDK and entitle the holder to teach in all cantons. In some areas of Switzerland, the training of SNE teachers is offered by institutions responsible for general teacher training while other cantons send their SNE teachers to a special inter-cantonal teacher training college for special education. 

Cantonal level

Challenges:

  • With a foreign school population of about 25%, migration is a well-known phenomenon in Swiss schools. Data suggests that schools are not always able to provide an adequate and equitable education for this particular pupil population.
  • With an increase of debts, public services cannot be extended endlessly. Costs in education are high in Switzerland and there is a concern about increasing costs.
  • National or cantonal policies or guidelines regarding Individual Education Plans (IEP) are in existence. 

Tendencies:

  • School development accompanied by increased autonomy at the school level alters decision-making and implementation processes. In future, schools will be able to act more autonomously and react more flexibly to local requirements.
  • Reform projects in compulsory education, e.g. the merging of Kindergarten and first year(s) of primary school or the implementation of inclusive educational approaches and alternative forms of teaching and learning, are underway in all cantons. 

Communal level

Challenges:

  • Teachers are mainly responsible for developing and carrying out assessment procedures in the class. Therefore, assessment depends substantially on the teacher’s skills and diagnostic competences. Their judgements may be subjective and mistaken. The fact that an untrained person decides on SNE services (e.g. special classes, different therapies, special schools, integrative/inclusive education)  leads to inequalities in access to additional resources, unfair streaming practices and segregation.
  • The SNE services vary from community to community as communities are able to exercise greater autonomy. If a canton decides to organise integrative or inclusive education, communities are still able to decide for themselves whether they agree to offer special classes.

Tendencies:

  • Teachers are no longer left on their own to fend for themselves, independent of co-ordinating activities at school level or other teachers working with them in teams. There is a shift in the unit of analysis and responsibility - away from individual classes and classrooms to a shared responsibility for all children in a community or school.
  • Inter-disciplinary co-operation is now well-established in Switzerland. Team-teaching is put into action increasingly in classrooms and other educational settings.
  • Teachers also need to be equipped with reliable instruments for assessment. In different Cantons, such instruments are developed, to serve as a basis for Individual Educational Plans. More and more schools and cantons are using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) as a framework for assessment in schools (see Best-Practice-Report).
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