Cantons move to employ more non-Swiss teachers

Cantons move to employ more non-Swiss teachers

In a bid to ease the ongoing shortage of teachers at Swiss schools, several cantons have stated their intention to employ more expats and internationals. Local officials hope that staff shortages could be eased in primary and secondary schools by retraining already qualified non-Swiss educators.

Teacher shortage continues to squeeze Swiss schools

According to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), Switzerland faces an acute shortage of teachers which is only expected to get worse as time goes on. Thanks to a decline in the number of new teachers being trained, and a rise in the number of staff retiring, federal officials report that the alpine nation will be short of 10.000 educators by 2031.

The FSO noted that primary schools are at the highest risk, predicting that 47.000 new early years teachers will have to be trained between now and 2031 to fill the shortage. The staffing squeeze has also already pushed schools into taking drastic action, from paying huge sums for job listings to employing so-called untrained teachers

Bern launches new CAS qualification for non-Swiss teachers

As staff shortages continue to grip local schools, Swiss cantons are now looking into ways to better remedy the crisis. A new example comes from Canton Bern, where officials have launched the so-called CAS or Certificate of Advanced Studies qualification.

The course is designed to help employ teachers from abroad whose qualifications are not or only partially recognised by the Swiss authorities. Foreign teachers can apply to have their diploma recognised in Switzerland at the Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), who will then decide whether they require further training to work in schools in a specific canton, but this process can be expensive, long and drawn out. 

The course itself is open to international teachers who hold all types of Swiss residence permits (including S- permits issued to Ukrainian refugees). The only requirement is that participants speak German to at least a B2 level - meaning they understand the key content of complex texts in all manner of contexts and should be able to speak spontaneously and fluently.

The qualification takes six months to complete and “provides basic knowledge of the Swiss education and school system.” In theory, the course should allow qualified non-Swiss teachers to join the education sector without having to fully retrain or join as a non-qualified teacher - the EDK noted that unqualified teachers and those with unrecognised qualifications earn 20 percent less salary on average. The course itself costs 6.800 francs per person.

Other Swiss cantons looking at foreign teacher courses

Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, course director Nathalie Glauser argued that the programme will help to better use workers who are already resident in Switzerland. “We don’t know what talented treasures we have in this country whose potential we could use,” she argued.

The approach by Canton Bern is being closely scrutinised by other regions, with a spokesperson for the University of Teacher Education in Zurich telling the Tages-Anzeiger that “the development of programmes for people with a foreign teaching diploma is currently being examined.” Officials in Lucerne added in a statement that “measures to combat the shortage of teachers are continually being developed.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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