Educational inequalities highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic – Expat Guide to Switzerland


The coronavirus pandemic has exposed existing inequalities in access to education and training, according to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD). Switzerland is no exception.

In particular, the pandemic risks “exacerbating existing learning gaps,” said the OECD on Thursday in its Education at a Glance 2021 report, which compares the education systems of 46 countries.

In Switzerland, it is feared that some disadvantaged students fell through the net of learning during the school closings in spring 2020 – without having a quiet place to study, access computers or not show up for online classes.

Switzerland was among the countries in the report that said additional measures had been taken to support the education of these students during the pandemic, including by subsidizing devices.

However, it is not among the countries that have allocated additional funds to ensure resources target those most in need, the report said. country notes for Switzerland.

The fact that socio-economic status strongly influences educational outcomes in Switzerland has long been reported by the OECD. For example, students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to opt for the professional path rather than the academic path. Adults born abroad are also more likely to experience problems in the labor market, he says.

Education at a glance The report analyzes the education systems of 38 OECD member countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

This year’s edition focuses on equal opportunities for access, participation and progression in education, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. the fourth OECD State of Education in the World; 18 months after the pandemic report was also released at the same time.

Schools: open

Where Switzerland differed from many OECD countries was in its approach to school closures. The goal was to keep schools open as much as possible.

“Schools in Switzerland were closed for less time than in most other OECD countries in 2020, although Covid infection rates per million inhabitants are higher than the average for OECD countries” , Marie-Hélène Doumet of the OECD told SWI swissinfo.ch via email.

“Nursery, primary and lower secondary schools were completely closed for 34 days in 2020, compared to 44, 59 and 65 days on average in OECD countries respectively. Only high schools closed longer (56 days), although still below the OECD average of 70 days.

“In 2021, schools remained fully open in Switzerland at all levels of education while they were fully closed for an average of 11 to 31 days at all levels of education. [in the OECD], “she added.

In Switzerland, schools closed across the country on March 16, 2020 – an unprecedented measure by the government, as the cantons are generally in charge of educational matters. They gradually reopened from May 11, 2020, with younger students coming back first.

However, since the start of the school year in August this year – under different regimes depending on the cantons – there has been an increase in cases of coronavirus among students. Some schools recommend or require mass testing, others masks. Some cantons have abandoned mass testing. This has led to some questioning of the Swiss / cantonal approach and calls for more to be done to protect children in schools.

Low-skilled adults

The pandemic has also had an impact on employment, as economies and the labor market have been disrupted by bottlenecks, economic constraints and shifts in demand. But again, the situation in Switzerland was slightly different from that of other OECD countries, with low-skilled adult employment being more affected than high-skilled adults, Doumet said.

The unemployment rate of 25-34 year olds with less than upper secondary education (who typically left school at 15/16) has increased by 3.6 percentage points since 2019, reaching 13, 4% in 2020, while the unemployment rate for adults with tertiary education (for example, those with a university education) remained stable, she said.

“In contrast, unemployment increased by a similar amount (by less than 2 percentage points) for adults with less than upper secondary and tertiary education on average across OECD countries” , added Doumet.


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