Events - 25.05.2012 - 00:00 

Debate about education quality

Within the context of “Zeit Campus Dialogue” at HSG, German newspaper Die Zeit put the topic of education quality up for discussion on 22 May 2012. Do students in Switzerland get the education they deserve?


24 May 2012. Do students benefit from expenditures on education? Are enough resources deployed at the right place in Swiss education? Does an academic degree protect you from unemployment? Or should the emphasis in young people’s education be on professional practice? Those questions were up for discussion during the “Zeit Campus Dialogue” on 22 May in St.Gallen.

Hands-on training as a solid foundation

Panelists of the debate included Peer Teuwsen, Switzerland correspondent of Die Zeit, President Thomas Bieger, Vice President Ulrike Landfester, education-evaluation expert Dr. Urs Moser of Zurich University and economist Rudolf Strahm. At the start of the debate, Strahm, a long-standing SP member of the National Council and former price supervisor, struck a blow for the Swiss model of a dual course of education. A solid vocational education is the reason why young people in Switzerland are largely immune to unemployment, he said. The economist made a case for an education that pays off in the long run. In most European countries, which lead more pupils to matriculation and an academic degree, youth unemployment is much higher.

Traditionally, academic degrees are not as important in Switzerland as they are in Austria and Germany, Moser said. “The educational institution’s reputation is more important than the academic degree”, Strahm added. HSG President Bieger argued that a good reputation has disadvantages for an institution as well. The University of St.Gallen’s reputation attracts more and more bachelor graduates who complete their master’s degree in St.Gallen. A steady increase in master’s-level students, however, is difficult for the quality of education. “The master’s courses are much more expensive than the bachelor’s or assessment courses because of smaller seminars”, Bieger said.

Promoting young academic talent
The lack of promotion of young researchers from Switzerland also came up for discussion: Strahm criticized the fact that Swiss tenured professors have failed to support their colleagues on the arduous path to the title of professor. “The critical success factor being the number of published articles obstructs the freedom to choose in the Swiss education system”, he said. Bieger countered that scholars can only achieve global recognition if they enter the competition for best publications.

“It must not be that a life’s journey becomes a dead-end road”, he said, referring to the teaching staff below professor level. Strahm replied that the number of published articles should not be more important than the practical experience in research and teaching. Bieger and Landfester stressed that publication experience is also important for educating PhD students.

When asked in which area the limited resources for education should be most reasonably spent, education expert Moser replied: “Investments in the early stages of education are of great importance.” The professional training of unskilled children from immigrant families yields the highest “share”, Strahm pointed out. About the canton’s budget cuts, Bieger said that in the future quality would still be the priority in the selection of students.

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