Success in Switzerland

Switzerland has one of the most successful educational systems in the world. In the top ten, Switzerland turns out leaders every year in nearly every discipline. Why is this country so successful with education of young people?

First, there is no minimum wage in Switzerland and 13 year olds can work up to 9 hrs per week, with this time increasing as they get older. Why is the minimum wage important in the educational system you ask? Because when our country was developing, we had public education for the young, but as children aged they gained skills either in agrarian work for their families or they were taken on as an apprentice by a skilled worker. Even lawyers, like Abraham Lincoln, worked as apprentices before they hung out their own shingles able to earn an independent living.

While some child labor laws are necessary, all exclusion of teenagers from the labor market is harmful to the teenager and the economy. If the labor laws price the “apprentice” out of the market, as the labor laws do in the US, teens never learn the skills necessary to earn a living at a trade. In country after country, in Europe, we witness unemployment rates into the 20 and 30 percent of young people from the ages of 16 to 28, but not in Switzerland. The unemployment rate here is near zero percent because nearly 30% of labor is provided by guest foreign workers with citizens getting the first look at employment. Also, because of the no minimum wage, young teens who are not prone to go on to a higher education are directed early to a type of apprenticeship program where they can learn useful skills (no they aren’t paid much) , but by the age of majority are able to earn a decent living. Per ca pita income here is equivalent to $66,000 per year. They use CHF, Swiss Francs, not Euros. Also, most 26 year olds don’t have the need to be on their parent’s health insurance policy.

Also, because young people are directed in this manner, there is less wasting of valuable educational resources. In Switzerland, they realize that a college education for all is a waste of resources. Young people who excel in certain disciplines are able to spend time making the grade and the universities are not overwhelmed with students who are not cut out for higher education, just because the system gives them government money like in the US. 67% of labor is in the service industries.

For many countries in Europe and increasingly in the US, the university system is a dumping ground for the unemployed older teen and younger 20 somethings. In the US, we have three dumping grounds for the unemployed unskilled 16-28 year old. We have the community college, university system, the prisons, and the military. In Switzerland, they don’t look on their university system as a dumping ground, they have one of the lowest incarceration rates in the world and their military doesn’t do a whole lot. In fact, the last real war they fought was against Napoleon and they surrendered pretty quick.

Also, primary, secondary,and university education is controlled mainly by local government. The federal government in Switzerland has very little to do with ministering the schools. De-centralization, at least here, seems to work extremely well. Comparatively, the cost of educating a primary or secondary school student (many can speak four languages) is about half of the cost of the annual expenditures in a place like Washington, D.C.


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