Adult Education in Switzerland

Esther Derendinger

What is meant in the country when you talk about Adult Education?
The Swiss Federation for adult learning (SVEB) uses the terms “adult education” and “continuing education” interchangeably. Until the mid 90’s was referring the terms “adult education” to general education, the “continuing education” refered to on the job-oriented education. As asserted itself the model of lifelong learning, it became clear that the “general” and “vocational” interlocking handles aspects of the learner and the offers inseparable and the terms “continuing education” and “Adult Education” were distinguish more difficult.

What is typical for Adult Education in the country?
In Switzerland there is a wide range in the area of  continung education. This includes courses, seminars, courses and postgraduate studies, but also learning opportunities outside of the course structures. The spectrum of providers ranging from small private schools to further education corporation, public institutions, associations or unions and micro-enterprises, learning studios and freelance trainers. The private providers dominate: make about 80% of the total course hours ready.

Legal basis
The legal basis for continuing education in Switzerland is regulated by different laws, while the vocacional education has its own set of rules. Switzerland is currently developing a law for continuing education, which comes into force no earlier than 2016. It is a law providing guidelines, numerous questions are still governed by special laws. So find legal bases for continuing education in over 60 federal laws. Examples are: Law on Migration, Vocational Education law, Higher Education Support Law, Unemployment Insurance law, etc.

Responsible public bodies / ministries
The Confederation, cantons and municipalities are responsible for the education . A central coordination point for the entire continuing education area does not yet exist. This means that the support structures tend to be intransparent. Responsabel at national level is the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SBFI).

Relevant umbrella associations and national (service) organisationsSchweizerischer Verband für Weiterbildung SVEB

Schweizerischer Dachverband Lesen und Schreiben

Verband der Schweizerischen Volkshochschulen

Staatssekretariats für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation (SBFI)
Bundesamt für Statistik BFS / Bildung, Wissenschaft
ch Stiftung für eidgenössische Zusammenarbeit
EDK Schweizerische Konferenz der kantonalen Erziehungsdirektoren
Konferenz der Höheren Fachschulen HF der Schweiz
Forum Weiterbildung Schweiz

Providers of Adult Education
In Switzerland there are about 2000 – 3000 provider of continuing education. The spectrum ranges from small private school to the training group and of public bodies, associations or trade unions to micro-enterprises, learning studios and freelance trainers. Private providers account for about 80% of the total course hours ready, while public support – especially universities, colleges and public vocational schools – offer only just 20% of training hours.

Around 4.3 billion euros are spent annually for continuing education in Switzerland. The developments are mainly financed by the participants themselves or by their employers. According to estimates give the cantons of approximately EUR 121 million and the federal government about 162 million CHF for continuing education. This corresponds to 1.4% of all education spending.

Participation rate
In Switzerland, 77% of the permanent population between 25 to 64 years formed per year. Of these, 63% constitute non-formally on, 50% more informal form (includes a 36% attend continuing education both non-formally and informally.

Training topics: The most popular subjects are
• computer science (13%)
• Personal development (13%)
• health (13%)
• Executive courses / training (10%)
• Science (10%)
• Language courses (10%)

Exact figures for employees in adult education are not recognized in Switzerland. SVEB estimates the number of trainers to around 100,000.

Quality system / insurance
In Switzerland, there are different quality management systems. The best-known for the tertiary area B, where the training is affiliated, is eduqua. Colleges and universities often use the international EFQM model. In addition, ISO standards are applied.

Latest developments / upcoming topics
Important current topics are:
– Promotion of basic skills of adults
– Development of a National Qualifications Framework
– Development and implementation of a continuing education law
– Transparency and quality assurance in continuing education
– Professionalisation in the continuing education
– Raising awareness of Lifelong Learning

Relevant links
Euridyce: Structures of Education and Training Systems in Europe – Switzerland 
EAEA Country presentation: Switzerland
General country information: Wikipedia: Switzerland