School leavers’ lack of scholastic aptitude – a problem to be tackled at its roots!

School leavers’ lack of scholastic aptitude – a problem to be tackled at its roots!

 sl. The Swiss universities and the EDK (Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education) deplore the insufficient writing, reading and maths skills of academic high school graduates. High school teachers realise this already when students enter the “Gymnasium” (secondary school leading to university); they are forced to teach basic skills in the first year, abilities they used to be able to build upon 15 years ago. Also master craftsmen are confronted with the problem that their apprentices have serious verbal and arithmetic deficits. Markus Möhl, Swiss entrepeneur and President of the vocational school in Lenzburg, said in an interview: “When it comes to practise, we must state – and notebly before the introduction of Curriculum 21: Although the students possess a variety of skills, they lack the basics. We need adolescents who are able to read and write.”

So what is going wrong in our schools?

For about 20 years, Elementary School has been chased from one school reform to the other. Constructivist teaching and learning methods have been introdroduced, not least by increasingly implementing schoolbooks based on this theory. Consequently, subject matters are no longer taught in a systematic way, from the simple to the more complex, but by confronting the children with complex learning material, from which they are to make the rules by themselves. The teacher is no longer supposed to teach subject matters, but restricted to act as a coach in the background. In addition, students with learning difficulties and behavioural syndroms have been increasingly integrated in the normal school classes, which forces teachers to finally abandon the approved whole-class teaching and replace it by individualized learning methods, spending time and energy to find agreements with special education teachers, speech therapists and psychologists, and all this at the expense of the actual teaching time.

What needs to be done?

The EDK’s policies are devious. On the one hand, they are launching Curriculum 21, which will cement and even intensify the described causes of misery on elementary school level by, among other means, establishing the constructivist teaching aids. On the other hand there is increasing pressure on the high schools, obliging them to compensate for all the shortcomings of Primary School. This is trying the square of the circle.
The evil must be tackled at the root, i.e. at Primary School level.
Since the formation of sovereignty lies with the cantons, it is up to each canton to decide for or against Curriculum 21.

Initiatives have been launched or already submitted by several cantons, demanding that the Parliament and not, as previously, the education authorities must decide on the introduction of any new curricula. This allows the citizens to take education back into their own hands and, if necessary, to hold a referendum.           •

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