Photo: Marco Fieber/Flickr
Photo: Marco Fieber/Flickr

Switzerland: Education unions join forces for safe return to schools and quality education

published 12 August 2020 updated 9 June 2021

In Switzerland, two affiliates of Education International have urged political and education decision-makers to approve the financial and human resources required to implement vital measures in schools, such as the introduction of health protection officers.

As schools in Switzerland prepare for the 2020/2021 school year, two education unions, the Dachverband Lehrerinnen und Lehrer Schweiz (LCH) and the Syndicat des enseignants romands(SER), have challenged policy and school decision-makers to learn from and implement the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quality education for all

“During the emergency distance learning courses, the differences in education performance between pupils have widened,” the trade unions stressed at a joint media conference on 10 August.

In the new school year, additional care resources should be made available to focus on students affected by learning gaps during the lockdown, they said.

The LCH and SER also stressed that extensive school social work, early language promotion, and day-to-day structures must be implemented in rural schools across Switzerland. This is to ensure that the sometimes extremely different family requirements of enrolled children are fully considered, and that all children can complete their education as equitably as possible.

Introduction of health protection officers

Regarding the hygiene and protective measures in force, the unions found that the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how health management is needed in schools.

Both the LCH and SER have called for health protection officers to be put in place in all schools and given training for the 2021/2022 school year.

In addition, the crisis revealed the need for timely, well-functioning, and accessible technological equipment to maintain teaching and learning. However, many students had insufficient digital equipment and some teachers had to use their private devices. The SER and LCH has asked the public authorities to equip learners and teachers with the necessary digital equipment. Teachers should also receive compensation for the period in which they, like many employees, used their private devices as they were working from home.

Staff shortages

The education unions also acknowledged that staff shortages in schools remain critical. They noted that it is often difficult to fill positions with adequately trained teachers, for example in the teaching of French in German-speaking Switzerland or German in French-speaking Switzerland.

To improve this situation, the SER and LCH believe that the teaching profession must be made more attractive, which would encourage recruitment and retention.

Invest in schools to better equip them for crises

They underlined the importance of not using downsizing measures to weaken the school system in response to the economic crisis. On the contrary, the unions reaffirmed that political and school decision-makers should ensure that the necessary financial and human resources are approved for all school levels. This would ensure that all schools are better equipped for emergencies and crises in the future. Closer coordination between the member cantons of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) can contribute to this, they noted.