The Neglected Civic Education in Switzerland: A Danger for Cultural Diversity and Democracy?
The IEA study aimed to elucidate 14-year-olds' civic knowledge, attitudes and concepts in 28 countries (Swiss sample: n=3'202). As interpreted, the results mirror the "absence" of civic education in Swiss schools: regarding the test of civic knowledge, Swiss teenagers are found at rank 19, just about at the lower limit of the international average. Also, by international comparison, Swiss pupils are significantly less positive about their own country, although they trust significantly more their own institutions such as the government than their peers in the other countries. Swiss adolescents also view significantly more negatively immigrants into Switzerland than does internationally the average youth. Cultural diversity seems to be more difficult for them to accept. In contrast, Swiss teenagers, in particular girls, favour significantly more strongly political rights for women than done in many other countries. Nevertheless, the civic knowledge of girls is less than that of boys, and they expect in significantly lesser numbers than boys to vote once reached that legal age. In this respect, Switzerland is at rank 28, the lowest: only 55% of the participants (boys and girls) forecast that they would eventually vote "probably" or "certainly". These results will be discussed critically against the background of the current discussion on civic education in Switzerland. They raise the questions, (a) whether a democracy with a rich tradition such as Switzerland can afford to forego an institutionalised civic education of the members of its society, and (b) what such a renouncement means for the future of the democratic culture of Switzerland.
Keywords: Civic Education, Minority Rights, Women's Rights, Civic Engagement, Democratic Culture
Dr. Andrea U. Haenni Hoti
Scientific associate, College for Teacher Education in Lucerne (CH)