High school selection in Switzerland: Changes in canton Zug

What would be considered a rather low high school entrance quota elsewhere is igniting a contentious debate in a small canton in Switzerland: In 2022, the Gymnasium (academic middle and high school) admission rate in the canton of Zug soared past 25 percent. Concerns loomed large, particularly regarding the potential repercussions on vocational education if an increasing number of students chose the Gymnasium track. To address these concerns, a new legislative draft is proposing the introduction of an entrance examination post-6th grade in primary school.

What does it look like?

Previously, students could transition to the Langzeitgymnasium based on pre-grades and teacher recommendations. Now, there’s talk of adding a test into the mix, using an “ampel” (traffic light) system for evaluation. This system could open up opportunities for admission to the Langzeitgymnasium, even if not all traditional criteria are met, through a placement interview and decision. Transitioning after the 2nd or 3rd grade of secondary school is likely to remain examination-free.

Broad opposition

While some parents and teachers think that this move will make admission fairer, not everyone agrees: A broad based opposition has emerged, made up of Zug teachers, politicians, education professionals, and parent representatives. This alliance is pushing back against the proposed changes. They argue that while strengthening vocational education and lower secondary levels is important, weakening the Gymnasium track isn’t the way to go.

A very Swiss education debate!

While this kind of debate would be highly unlikely in most other countries that strive to increase their academic quota, rather than restricting it, it illustrates the very Swiss approach to education: While there’s a desire to maintain high academic standards, there’s also a recognition of the importance of vocational education and the need to ensure that pathways beyond the Gymnasium remain accessible.

This balance is what makes the Swiss education system unique. It’s a system that values both academic achievement and practical skills, recognizing that success can be achieved through various paths. Whether it’s through higher education or vocational training, the goal is to equip students with the tools they need to thrive in their chosen paths.

Will opponents of the new admission regulations succeed with a referendum? Stay tuned as Zug navigates through this critical juncture in its educational journey!

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