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This content was published on October 18, 2018 - 10:52 am
Jasmin Odermatt, umbrella organization of Swiss youth parliaments

Average in political knowledge, hardly any interest in politics, only rudimentary school offerings: In 1999, in a study in the subject of political education, Switzerland's democracy received very poor marks. Progress has been made, but only sporadically. At a "Soirée Politique" Externer Link in Bern, around 50 representatives from young parties and youth parliaments pleaded for political education as a separate school subject.

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The 1999 IEA study of the highly praised Swiss democracy had put a damper on it. Since then there have been and are efforts to improve the offersExternal Link. But almost 20 years later, there is little to be seen of a breakthrough.

No wonder, then, it was clear to the participants in the event organized by the umbrella organization of the Swiss Youth Parliaments (DSJ) the thrust: better political education in Swiss schools. And in terms of quantity and quality.

"Political education is important for everyone, not just for the Social Democratic Party (SP) or the Young Socialists (JUSO)," said Oxel Suarez Alvarez, President of the Friborg Youth Council and JUSO representative. "Just the fact that you can take the train from home to work or to school every morning is based on a political decision. Political decisions affect every individual. These mechanisms must be made understandable through political education." said Suarez Alvarez.

The majority of curricula at all school levels have an explicit central goal for civic education. This is also the case with the new curriculum 21.

But as far as the concrete anchoring of policy-relevant content in the classroom is concerned, there are big differences - federalism sends its regards. In some cantons, schoolchildren can enjoy a school subject in politics, especially in western Switzerland. In other cantons, primarily in German-speaking Switzerland, civics is handled through history lessons.

Chameleon in the educational landscape

There are systematic differences according to school types (grammar schools, technical secondary schools, vocational schools with vocational baccalaureate and without professional baccalaureate) and language regions (German-speaking Switzerland, French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino): Political education is a typical chameleon of the Swiss educational landscape - even though all citizens of Switzerland have the same requirements should have to exercise their political rights.

Leroy Bächtold, board member of Jungfreisinnigen Schweiz, gave the following anecdote from his school days: "I had to learn the years of the federal councilors by heart. That was not very encouraging for further political commitment. I found political education very negative during my school days. Accordingly, there is still a lot of potential. "

Raise awareness

Creating "awareness" among teachers, in other words, more awareness of the importance of this area: For Bächtold, this is a central component in strengthening political education. But the substantive discussion goes in the wrong direction for him. Of course, there is the requirement that the content is not tinted politically.

Educational patchwork quilt

In federal Switzerland, the 26 cantons are responsible for educational policy. This so-called Kantönligeist leads to big differences.

Western Switzerland: Political education is increasingly a separate school subject (lower secondary level).

German-speaking Switzerland: Included in the new curriculum 21 in the "Rooms, Times and Societies" container.

Pioneers: Cantons of Ticino and Aargau. Thanks to popular initiatives, political education becomes a fixed part of the class. Ticino: at least two hours per month in political studies (grammar school level). Aargau: one lesson per week (advanced level).

In the canton of Basel-Stadt, a popular initiative to introduce the subject "Politics" is pending among the young liberals.

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Much more relevant, however, is the improvement of the framework conditions for political education and the creation of sufficient resources. But what is then dealt with in class is a matter for the teachers and teaching material experts.

Corina Liebi from the Young Green Liberals Bern (JGLP) agreed with Bächtold, but put her finger on the quality of political education. "In the canton of Bern, teachers have a huge amount of freedom in terms of political education. This is not least because state studies are not listed as a separate subject in the new curriculum 21 and their status in the classroom is at the discretion of the teachers."

More precise definition

In order to counteract the great differences in the way the teachers are handled, Liebi considers a more precise definition of the subject areas to be taught in the curriculum to be desirable. In addition, the subject also needs more weight in the training of teachers.

In Switzerland, the training and further education of teachers takes place through the universities of teacher education. And these belong within the competence of the cantons. So it is up to cantonal politics to exert influence here and give political education more weight.

The long-term perspective was clear to the young politicians: political education must become a school subject of its own. "She is often forced into other subjects, although she deserves her own place," said Corina Liebi.

But they are aware that this will be anything but a political sure-fire success. Oxel Suarez Alvarez: "To strengthen political education, you need political commitment; it doesn't just fall from the sky."

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