Geneva s educational system

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1 Geneva s educational system The educational system includes compulsory schooling. It then branches into vocational training, whose purpose is to provide the practical skills to carry out an occupation (whether training takes place at a school, or dual/mixed, school/company), and into the essentially theoretical teaching involved in higher education. Swiss vocational training offers a wide variety of specializations and leads to high-level qualifications. In Switzerland, initial training followed by higher vocational training is the equivalent of a High School/University track (with specific character). Due to its federal structure, the Swiss educational system resembles a mosaic with more or less autonomous parts. In the field of education and schooling, each canton is sovereign in as much as it undertakes to achieve general objectives established at federal level. The Swiss Confederation plays a surveillance role. It ensures that quality education is provided in the schools of each canton. Vocational training does not operate in the same manner. It is governed by a federal law: the law on vocational training. The canton of Geneva, like the other cantons, is obliged to implement this law and guarantee the quality of vocational training. In Geneva, this mission is the duty of the Office d orientation et de formation professionnelle (OOFP). The cantonal education authorities (Département de l instruction publique) are responsible for the canton s vocational school system. Geneva s educational system 7

2 Geneva s educational system 8

3 Compulsory education Compulsory education comprises nine years of education for 6 to 15-year olds. Two years of optional education are offered to children from the ages of 4 to 6 (pre-primary school). This is followed by 6 years of compulsory education, known as primary schooling (from the age of 6). In Geneva, German is taught from the third year of primary school. The last three years (years 7-9) of compulsory education are part of cantonal schools called, Cycles d orientation, within the context of secondary education at level 1 (or secondary 1). Particular emphasis is placed on teaching languages. English and German are taught as compulsory subjects for three years. Additionally, general computing skills are taught from primary school onwards and continue throughout the Cycle d orientation. In many instances, young people pursue a 10 th intermediary year of schooling, before going into vocational training and deciding on which field to train in. This year allows them to develop personal projects and to deepen their general knowledge. Post-compulsory education After compulsory education, approximately 95% of young men and 90% of young women go into training: Nearly 40% of young people in Geneva attend a secondary school or Collège (near-equivalent of High School or Sixth-form College). The awarding of the federal diploma called maturité (near-equivalent of a baccalaureate or A levels) gives direct access to University entrance or to Federal Institutes of Technology. As in other Swiss cantons, a Collège is called a Gymnase, this diploma is commonly known as maturité gymnasiale. Geneva s educational system 9

4 Geneva s educational system Approximately one quarter of young people attend other schools on a full-time basis. The Ecoles de culture générale (ECG) and Ecoles de commerce award a diploma different from the maturité. These training paths fall between the maturités gymnasiale and professionnelle paths (University-level entrance qualifications, vocational or otherwise). The Ecoles de culture générale prepare students for higher education courses and careers in the field of social-related affairs, healthcare, communication and the arts. The Ecoles de commerce open doors to the world of business. The diploma awarded by the Ecoles de commerce is the equivalent of the CFC. Other technical schools (Ecoles d enseignement technique) provide technical and scientific training. This leads to a technical baccalaureate, which gives access to study at the Universities of Applied Sciences (Hautes Ecoles Spécialisées). Approximately one third of young people in Geneva that is much less than the national average (approximately two thirds) go into vocational training. This may take place in full-time vocational education. But in the vast majority of cases (over 80% of the total), this takes the form of sandwich courses, namely by means of a «dual system» of training in companies and schools. Geneva, in common with eight other Swiss cities, has a University divided into seven faculties. For its part, the Swiss Confederation has two university institutions: the Federal Institutes of Technology (Ecoles Polytechniques fédérales) in Lausanne and in Zurich. Initial Training 10 Vocational training is a good example of partnership between the Confederation, the cantons, companies and professional associations. Apprenticeships are the central element of this training stream. They can take place directly in enterprises, in the private or public sector, (with weekly lessons grouped over 1 or 2 days, or on a full-time

5 basis in vocational schools (near-equivalent of technical colleges). For each profession, there exist a set of training regulations. This official document, which applies throughout the country, is a fundamental in instrument training. It sets out precisely the fields of employment for each occupation and defines the objectives of the training course for each year. The regulations also contain the curricula for courses taught at vocational schools and explanations on the examination procedures at the end of the training period. 1) The dual system of vocational training (also kown as «en alternance» or sandwich courses) involves companies directly. It is based on three pillars: The company offers trainees an ideal environment for acquiring and putting into practice an occupation, profession or trade. The vocational school, where the trainee has 1 to 2 days of lessons per week depending on the course, teaches the theoretical fundamentals of the chosen occupation and general knowledge. Classes are organized by occupation and by year of training. Practical training courses organized by professional associations, at the start of the training period, give classes in basic working techniques, which individual companies are unable to provide. These classes are taught for many occupations. Basic training provided by vocational schools and in practical courses reduces companies training costs. Geneva s educational system Your trainee will attend in-company training 3 to 4 days per week. If your trainee is also preparing a professional baccalaureate during his or her apprenticeship, s/he will attend an additional half day of classes at the vocational school. In some instances, during the first year, your trainee will attend several weeks full-time practical classes before starting in-company training. These classes may take place more than once and only for a few weeks, during the later years of training. 11

6 Geneva s educational system 2) Full-time vocational training in a school. Vocational schools offer practical training in their own workshops (under the supervision of training officers) as well as theoretical classes. The vocational training by dual system, or entirely at vocational school, lasts 3 or 4 years. At the end of the training period, the trainee sits an examination on both the theoretical and practical aspects of the occupation, as well as on general knowledge. If the examination is passed, the trainee receives a diploma called, Certificat fédéral de capacité (CFC), recognized throughout Switzerland. This diploma certifies practical know-how and is an important qualification on the job market. For young people who are not able to finish vocational training, the law provides a shorter training course, available in a certain number of specialities. This course consists of vocational training adapted to the capacities of the individual. Two years in length, its aim is to train a qualified workforce, with hands-on, practical skills in a given occupation. The professional baccalaureate (maturité professionnelle) An in-company trainee has the possibility of preparing the professional baccalaureate during or after the training period. Several options are offered: technical, commercial, arts, trades and natural sciences option. This federal diploma is a very attractive solution for trainees who wish to pursue higher vocational training. Created in response to the needs of the market, and developed to fit in well with the plans for European countries, this academic path provides a solid foundation in general knowledge. The professional baccalaureate directly leads to (no examinations required) the University of Applied Sciences (HES). 12

7 To be awarded a professional baccalaureate one of the following criteria must be met: This training course can be combined with an apprenticeship, with greater focus on theory («maturité professionnelle, intra-cfc»). After receiving a «certificat fédéral de capacité (CFC)», the student can pursue a further year of general knowledge studies in school on a full-time basis («maturité professionnelle, post-cfc»). Higher-level vocational training (formation professionnelle supérieure) Vocational training offers the possibility of gaining access to higher-education level training courses. These are available in non-university institutes of technology with high standards of admission requirements and academic qualifications, which provide technical training (technicians) in the building, electronics, information technology and other sectors. In other countries, these schools would be categorized as universities (or polytechnics). A further option is provided by a system of intermediary and higher-level vocational examinations (examens professionnels moyens et supérieurs), organized by professional associations with the approval of federal authorities. These lead to the types of federal certificates and diplomas (brevets et diplômes fédéraux), widely-recognized and appreciated by the Swiss economy. Geneva s educational system The higher-level training of the Universities of Applied Sciences (Hautes Ecoles Spécialisées) is the equivalent to university. The distinctive feature of the HES lies in the fact that their three or four-year courses focus on teaching practical skills and applied research. The course of study involves the close partnerships with private enterprises, framed within many research and development projects with tangible benefits and direct applications for the partners activities. 13

8 Geneva s educational system Glossary The Universities of Applied Sciences (HES) are comparable to similar institutions in Germany, Austria or the Netherlands. The diplomas awarded, in terms of the UK and US systems, are similar to a Bachelor s Degree. In Geneva, the HES specialize in the following sectors: technology and architecture social affairs and healthcare business and services applied arts and fine arts natural sciences By way of example, the HES award diplomas to architects, interior designers, business economists, physiotherapists, nurses, social workers, computer engineers, agricultural engineers, applied physics engineers, etc. Baccalauréat: see Maturité gymnasiale Certificat fédéral de capacité (CFC): federal certificate awarded on completion of the theoretical and practical training of an apprenticeship, in companies and in vocational schools, or exclusively in such schools. This is a postcompulsory education training course (in Geneva: 6 years of primary school, 3 years of secondary school education). Maturité gymnasiale: federal certificate awarded at the end of 4 years of post-compulsory education, in a higher-level secondary school (collège). This certificate grants access to Universities or to Federal Institutes of Technology (Ecoles polytechniques fédérales). Maturité professionnelle: federal certificate generally awarded at the end of vocational training by means of two main paths: Through a basic training course by increasing the length of the general education (intra-cfc). The student receives both a CFC and a certificat de maturité professionnelle. Through a further year of full-time study after the training course (post-cfc) This certificate gives direct access to the Universities of Applied Sciences (Hautes Ecoles Spécialisées/HES) in the chosen field. 14

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