Referendums in Swiss cantons on 21 May

Zurich voters support current foreign language approach

Zurich voters support current foreign language approach

On Sunday, around 60% of voters in the canton rejected the initiative "more quality – one foreign language at primary school". The proposal, which had the backing of several teaching organisations, argued that pupils were overburdened with learning two languages at primary level and that the practice placed a large workload on teachers as well, affecting other subjects.

According to the initiative supporters, if instructors carefully introduced just one language at the primary level, students would learn a second one faster in secondary. More time would be set aside for teaching the second language than if two languages were taught in primary school.

The initiative's text did not specify which language should be taught first.

Now that the plan has been voted down, pupils will continue learning English from age seven and French from age 11, both during primary school.

The canton of Zurich's government and a majority of its parliament convinced voters that Zurich's language concept was already working very well with two languages, therefore there was no need to change it.

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Other votes on school issues

Cantons Basel Country and Solothurn also voted on education issues on May 21.

Solothurn accepted a common curriculum in German-speaking cantons known as "Lehrplan 21".

An initiative had sought to block introduction of the curriculum saying it harmed schools and was an unnecessary reform at the cost of pupils. Supporters of Lehrplan 21, including the cantonal government, said the canton would be isolated if it failed to adopt the common curriculum.

To date, similar anti-Lehrplan 21 votes in other cantons have failed, meaning they plan to adopt the common system.

In Canton Basel Country 4 out of 5 voters rejected an initiative which would have required secondary school teachers to hold university degrees. The cantonal parliament and government were against the proposal, saying such a move would make it hard to find enough teachers in a time of shortages.