Since years there has been a lack of teachers in Swiss elementary schools. The number of committed and experienced primary and secondary school teachers that change their profession or chose early retirement has increased: “[…] A lot of teachers at retirement age do not want to participate in ‘HarmoS’ (New regulations of constitutional provisions on education) – they leave a huge void”. (Basler Zeitung, 31.10.2013)
In former times educational courses for other professionals were offered in order to provide a remedy. Since 2012 the opportunity has existed to apply for studies at Swiss cantonal colleges for pedagogy (PH) in order to train as teachers at elementary schools. (cf. “Wiler Nachrichten” from 29 September 2015)
When scrutinizing the admission process for this educational training one recognises that nowadays obviously only those can become elementary teachers who reveal the “correct” cast of mind: the admission process mainly consists of an examination of one’s convictions. This fact confirms many parent’s and teacher’s concerns that children, when ruled by Curriculum 21 will be influenced in an ideological way. Among others this is one reason for many cantonal popular initiatives to prevent the establishment of the Curriculum 21. And this is certainly also one factor, why many contemporaries heavy-heartedly decide not to become or remain to be a teacher: We Swiss do not like to be told what to think.
Our particular interest, however, focuses on the candidates’ professional requirements. This allows the gentle reader once again to immerse oneself in the very depths of the term “competence” – and it is to be feared that he will not be any wiser when returning to reality.
The admission process for lateral recruits to become kindergarden or primary teacher – I chose the PH St Gallen as an example – consists of three parts: one obligatory information session, the enrolment and an assessment day (cf. www.phsg.ch; “Aufnahme sur dossier”).1
Part of the enrolment procedure is an application form to be filled in with personal data, moreover there is “a letter of motivation and self-assessment of one’s competences’”. The letter of motivation must answer the questions: “What determines your conception of being a teacher? What expectation do you have with respect to being a teacher? What are potential negative aspects of the teacher’s profession and how would you address them?”
These questions already amount to testing one’s convictions: What is an applicant expected to write about his motivation of becoming a teacher and his conception of being one to please the PH-trainers? Or the other way around: What ideas should he better avoid to express?
The “self-assessment of skills” consists of a grid with 4 levels (very good, good, rather unsatisfactory, clearly insufficient). First “competencies” are needed in mathematics, natural sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, engineering), German (literature, grammar), humanities (history, geography, economics, law, philosophy, ...), music, sports, design, works, so in all subjects of the Curriculum 21. The candidate can make comments and attach documents as evidence.
Is there only knowledge required? How can the candidate assess his status in those many subjects by himself? “I took biology a long time ago at high school, but I do not know exactly what I retained,” or something like that? Or should he cite the elementary school teaching aid or material from his former vocational training? Or his school records? “In maths, I always had a 5 or 5.5”, that means “good to very good skills”. Or: “I can find all formulas in physics on the web, so I’m very knowledgeable/competent.” Should he tick honestly, if he has only little knowledge of a subject, or bluff?
Oh, there is a note to be read: “If your skills are inadequate, please explain very concretely how you will reach minimum standard by the start of the studies.” [emphasis Current Concerns] To this end, the canton provides a preliminary pedagogy course at the ISME (Interstate Matura School for Adults). But the question still remains unanswered: What are the contents that are part of the required minimum standard? What are insufficient or sufficient skills? Or in other words: How are the “competencies” measured? Unanswerd questions abound: Must the candidate, for example in mathematics, master the themes listed or is it sufficient to just have to have an idea of them and to be able to find out (with aids), how a task is to be solved? Or in plain English: Does he have to calculate the equation himself and to draw the construction task by hand, or is it sufficient to find the solution in an educational tool and to tick congruent triangles?
Here we are facing the same fundamental problem as in Curriculum 21: The competence orientation provides no guarantee that the students – or the prospective teachers – have really understood a subject and practiced so intensely that they are able to master it. But if it is not mastered by the future teacher – how will he later be able to explain it to the students?
The registration process is not only the self-assessment of professional competences, but a self-analysis of your own personality that interferes deeply with the candidate’s personality – a tricky endeavor. For he has to assess his own methodological skills (analytical thinking, joined-up/networked thinking, structuring capability) as well as his communicative skills, his reflectivity and resilience. Difficult, isn’t it? It will be best when I always tick good or very good – I surely can not write, I am not resilient, otherwise I will be sacked right at the beginning. What exactly do they mean by “communication skills and reflectivity”? That you always act as if you were capable of everything, or that you discuss the usefulness or the nonsense of the respective theories with each professor, pardon, with “each teacher/each female teacher”? – First you should certainly master the gender language to stay candidate! You are also expected to have an understanding of philosophy: The philosophy favoured at the PHs is constructivism (everyone builds his own reality), from this basis, students can discuss with every “teacher”, according to the ideology of the Curriculum 21.
The third part of the enrolment procedure is the assessment day, which on the one hand consists of a subject examination and on the other hand of an inspection of one’s personal-social competences.
We can imagine what this inspection of the personal-social competences consists of: some “psychological games” and similar humbug … But even in the subject examination various opportunities to vet the personality have been slipped in. Take biology for instance: “human interference with the eco-system” (switch off nuclear power stations or not? Trip to work by car or by public means of transport? And so on); in music/sport (team-games and rhythmic exercises are especially examined, that show, who is able to march in step with others – pardon – make music or move in measure with others.) In the subject German language applicants have to write an “argument-based text” (the provided topics are very well appropriate for testing the applicant’s attitude); especially of importance: “Language and Sex” (examination of one’s personal attitude towards gender); and the oral analysis and interpretation of a text (here again it is easy to sniff out the personal views of applicants.)
The subject knowledge in history – second part of the assessment besides biology out of the group “Natur, Mensch, Gesellschaft” (NMG, nature, mankind and society) is an example of pure brainwashing! Swiss history of the 19th and 20th century is exclusively examined. Without knowledge about earlier periods we cannot call this history! Just take the selective choice of the examination topics which starkly reveals a one-sided, almost manipulative view: for instance the “The Second World War – Switzerland’s Probation Test: independence, neutrality, collaboration, humanitarian tradition; Cold War, the Swiss Reduit Mentality and Special Case Thinking”, or: “The Swiss and the supranational development after 1945, especially Europe’s integration: History of neutrality, relationship to UN and EU”.
Is a Swiss applicant, who wants to become teacher therefore not allowed to voice his indignation about such conspicuous catchwords, that do not live up to neither the difficult and dangerous situation of Switzerland in the World War II nor to any of our parents’ and grandparents’ impressive efforts during the Second World War? Is he not allowed to express his deep identification with our country, nor say loudly and clearly that the accession to the EU would mean the end of the Swiss Model? In other words: Must a candidate mutate into a head-nodding figure, only to become an elementary teacher? From these urgent questions, other more serious ones arise: What kind of distorted picture of Switzerland and the Swiss are future generations to be taught at elementary school? What is the agenda?
The critical citizen receives a vivid insight into the world of Curriculum 21. On the one hand dim competences instead of a solid structure of knowledge and skills, on the other hand grave interferences with the freedom of expression of the personal opinion. These interferences are being inflicted on our children and our future teachers to the taste of some chief-ideologists. The main thing is that the latter receive generous salaries out of the taxpayers’ purses – whether today’s pupils under the reign of Curriculum 21 will some day be capable of learning their desired profession and among other things of earning their life for themselves and their families, whether they will leave elementary school – turned upside down to such an extend – as well informed and reliable citizens, these are the burning questions, posed to us parents, teacher and every thinking human being. We all bear this responsibility. •
1 The admission process for secondary teachers (7th to 9th grade) differs only marginally.
mw. On 21 June 2012 the EDK (Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education) decided on the “minimum qualification requirements of professionally experienced persons (lateral recruits) to become male or female teachers”. For all who do not like this gender-jargon: The EDK has decided on the qualifications, a lateral recruit without “Matura” (highest school-leaving examination) has to fulfil, in order to receive a Swiss-wide acknowledged teaching diploma. (cf. “Quereinstieg Lehrerberuf, http://www.edk.ch/dyn/23673.php)
What gave the EDK the idea, to “enact” this or anything else with Swiss-wide effect, especially because constitutionally the EDK does virtually not exist? It is not for the first time that we recognise: We citizens elected our cantonal governing councillors to have them execute orders by the parliament and the sovereign. They also are to take prevent the cantonal administration from mushrooming beyond their responsibilities. On the contrary, we never allowed our superintendents for educational, health care or social affairs to implement a new adminstrative level between the federal government and the cantons which enacts decrees and regulations – or secretly ordered a centralistic curriculum to be written! – which is hence slipped into cantonal law without consulting the sovereign nor sometimes even the parliament.
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