The cantons are the main bodies responsible for compulsory education, and they share responsibility with the Confederation over continuing education (vocational training, upper-secondary schooling, universities and professional education and training). The responsibilities of the federal government in the field of education include the activities of the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zürich und Lausanne, the distribution of grants to cantonal universities, scientific research programmes, and Swiss schools abroad. Only recently has the revised Federal Constitution begun to allow the State to promote art and music, especially in the education sector. The measures taken since have progressively allowed for the encouragement of music in schools.
(Source State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI); CW)
After compulsory education (elementary school) the Swiss education system provides two major paths to continue education at the upper secondary level: the vocational education and training (VET) path (more popular during the past years) or the general/academic education path. Each path offers multiple options to attain a degree, which qualifies for tertiary level education.
Swiss education is mainly under the authority of cantons, which make it quite diverse and represent different investment numbers given their autonomy on decision-making. In 2014, Switzerland spent 5.6% of its GDP on education, but expenditure on canton levels ranged from 16.2% (Graubunden) to 31.7% (Freiburg) (Swiss Education Report 2018).
According to the Constitution, the Confederation “shall take account of the special need of children and young people to receive encouragement and protection” (Art. 68), these measures are complementary to the ones taken on the first instance by cantons. The Confederation also supports the arts and music in the education field (Art. 69).
Various endeavours of cantonal offices of culture exist to better anchor art in society, as well as a range of new training courses and programmes. Offerings include certificate courses designed to train culture officers, or programmes dedicated to the subject of the teaching artist and designed to enable practising artists to independently undertake, evaluate, and critically reflect on cultural education projects at schools based on stringent criteria.
Swiss Schools abroad are under the Federal Law on Dissemination of Swiss Education Abroad (2015). The Confederation promotes 18 schools, with around 8000 students, 1700 of whom are Swiss nationals: in Bangkok, Barcelona, Bergamo, Bogota, Catania, Curitiba, Lima, Madrid, Milan (with a branch school in Como), Mexico (with branch schools in Cuernavaca and Querétaro), Beijing, Rome, Santiago, Sao Paulo and Singapore.
On the long-term agenda of the Federal Office of Culture are the promotion of professional arts education, the formal recognition of artistic professions, and the re-training of artists who are no longer able to practice their art or trade. The first concrete measures are being taken in the dance sector.
On the 26th of February 2020, the Federal Council approved the Dispatch regarding Education, Research and Innovation for the 2021-2024 period (a Dispatch is prepared every four years and given to the Parliament). The Dispatch addresses every layer of the educational system as well as the Research and Innovation branches. Today, one of the main challenges and topics regarding education is without doubt, digitalisation. It entails both a better inclusion of digital literacy at different age populations, as well as seizing the chances it offers in terms of innovation and development. Lastly, according to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, measures will be taken to ensure equal access to technology and its resources.