- Basic information about the main policies currently implemented, plus any points of interest specific to this country.
Since 1997 the Swiss Confederation started to adopt acts concerning adult education, especially regarding vocational education. With the new Vocational Education Law and the Vocational Education Decree, both of which were implemented in 2004 , all areas of vocational education and training have a uniform legal framework. This law takes into account the growing number of careers and introduces new qualification procedures, which contribute to the openness of the educational system.
Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons, which are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton has to create its own cantonal law on the basis of the national guidelines. As some cantons need more time than others for this, the process of implementing new cantonal laws on vocational education is still in progress. Due to the federal structure and the lack of national competences in the field of adult education, legislation in areas of adult education varies .
However, a specific act on adult continuing education still does not exist. The decision to adopt a federal act concerning adult continuing education beganin 2006, but the path for it's realisation and legalisation is still ongoing. In May 2006, Swiss people decided to amend the articles of the Constitution on education, the Federal Council was instructed to develop a federal law to regulate this issue, but the discussion is currently (2011) still ongoing .
Politics and Law
Basic overview of the political background for the country's attitude towards Adult Education, including key legislation, any legal issues or political directives etc, and any points of interest specific to this country.
The situation in the field of adult learning and education (ALE) is set to change, as a result of the new amendment of the constitutional articles governing education. Adult learning is now mentioned specifically in the Swiss constitution for the first time, the corresponding law, which will determine "areas and criteria" according to the constitutional article, is due to be drafted by the end of 2011. This means that the first national law on adult continuing education will probably not be in force before 2014, but it might well take even longer. However it is currently unclear whether the new law will be based on a broad or narrow definition of ALE, and therefore what it will cover. In the field of vocational training, the revised Vocational Education Law provides new and improved ways of promoting vocational education. It takes into account the growing number of careers and introduces new qualification procedures, which contribute to the improvement of the educational system. Moreover, more funding is available from the Confederation for continuing education .
Several political initiatives have been undertaken to incite new measures in favour of specific target groups such as those with few qualificatons, women planning re-entry into the job market, or people with low literacy and basic skills. In some of these areas new measures have been planned or implemented, yet currently most of these initiatives have not led to a real change. However, Several project proposals have been submitted to the government departments responsible for education and training or employment.
The first priority is the new national law on continuing education is to determine areas and criteria as well as the preconditions for promoting and funding continuing education. This includes defining the field of continuing education, which can lead to a broad definition in terms of lifelong learning or a narrower one focused on vocational continuing education. Goals of high strategic importance are the implementation of a closer connection between ALE, other sectors of the Swiss education and training system, and the economic and social system. Some examples of this development can be seen in the report on economic growth (published by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO in April 2008)  as well as in the guidelines for promotion of education, research and technology (ERI) 2008 - 2011 written by the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology BBT) .
ALE is a highly decentralised and heterogeneous field, which is regulated by several ministries on the national and cantonal levels. Switzerland does not have a Ministry of Education. Therefore, the responsibilities are sometimes split and not always well co-ordinated. This results in various ministries being responsible for different parts of academic continuing education, literacy, unemployment education, and continuing education for the disabled. This distribution of competencies makes the furthering of ALE difficult and for decades the Confederation has maintained a certain distance from adult learning with the federal structure of Switzerland in educational matters .
The Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (BBT)  is in charge of vocational continuing education in the major professions, except for continuing education at the university level, which is the responsibility of the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SBF) . The Federal Office for Culture (BAK) is in charge of literacy policies . The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) mandates continuing education for the unemployed. Other Federal Offices are in charge of specific ALE segments, such as the education of the disabled, migrants, or the elderly.
As far as the organisation of the system is concerned, this situation has remained basically unchanged since 1997, except for the efforts regarding the co-ordination and strategic planning of ALE measures. In 1997, the parliamentary Commission for Science, Education and Culture (WBK) submitted a position paper titled "Report on the situation, development, requirements for support and measures in the general and cultural adult learning from a federal viewpoint: the division of duties with the cantons is to be clarified and the content, structural and financial links to vocational education are to be highlighted " to the Federal Council . The first concrete result was that the Federal Council commissioned the two Federal Offices BBT and BAK to submit an expert report on the situation and development of the continuing education sector in Switzerland, which was done in 1998. On this basis, the Federal Council mandated the foundation of the Swiss Forum for Adult Learning (Forum Weiterbildung Schweiz) in the summer of 2000. The Forum is a stage for debate concerning the development of a coherent policy on adult learning in Switzerland. It is an advisory board composed of representatives from federal offices (education and training, employment, culture, research, statistics), cantons, social partners and ALE providers. In 2005 the government established a second committee, the Swiss Coordination Conference for Adult Learning (SKW).This advisory board coordinates the consideration of ALE related matters between which concern the Confederation and the cantons. The SKV aims for close cooperation between administration, research, providers and social partner organisations. The Forum supports the SKV through its recommendations and through its activity as a sounding board for policy developments. The common aim of the Forum and the SKW is the structural foundation of adult learning .
Future trends/key concerns/directions
This section allows for a speculation of the way the country is progressing, current future trends emerging, ‘gaps´ evident etc, and any points of interest specific to this country for the future.
The Government supports ALE projects in the context of the Grundtvig and Leonardo programs. There has been an increase of efforts and projects in this field so that a certain continuity of international cooperation has been established. A major shift in policy is due for 2011: From then on Switzerland, though still not a member of the EU, will participate in the European programmes as a full partner. As an effect of this change, Switzerland is obliged to establish a national agency to deal with the European programmes. This process brings about new collaboration opportunities, which is particularly interesting for Swiss NGOs that are concerned with future developments in continuing education and training.
In the economic sector, development challenges focus on competitiveness and innovation and ALE goals are part of these strategies. The goals are usually defined with reference to economic growth. Until now they have focused on strictly work-related ALE, but there are also attempts to widen the perspective and consider basic skills or key competences as useful contributions to competitiveness .
Other important issues are quality assurance, professionalization in the training of adult educators, or recognition of prior learning. In all these fields, there are developments under way which are considered crucial for the future of the Swiss education system.
However, the main challenge concerning adult education policies for the next few years will be the creation of a national law on continuing education. This law will be the first national law on adult education ever implemented in Switzerland. An optimiststic date for its introduction ís 2014. For now, the only precise information available is that the first draft should be submitted for consultation by the end of 2011.
1. Berufsbildungsgesetz BBG, 2002, Bundesgesetz
über die Berufsbildung, http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/sr/c412_10.html, accessed September 2011
2. SVEB, The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning and Education, CONFINTEA VI report for UNESCO, http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/INSTITUTES/UIL/confintea/pdf/National_Reports/Europe%20-%20North%20America/Switzerland.pdf, accessed September 2011
3. La Fédération suisse pour la formation continue (FSEA), Loi fédérale sur la formation continue, http://www.alice.ch/fr/themen/weiterbildungsgesetz/
4. Berufsbildungsgesetz BBG, 2002, Bundesgesetz
über die Berufsbildung, http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/sr/c412_10.html, accessed September 2011
5. State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, http://www.seco.admin.ch/themen/00374/00459/00460/index.html?lang=de
6. Swiss Confederation, Education Research and Innovation 2008-2011, http://indo-swiss.epfl.ch/webdav/site/indoswiss/users/168979/public/ISJRP%202008-2011/Background%20information/Education,%20research%20and%20innovation%202008-2011.pdf
7. SVEB, The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning and Education, CONFINTEA VI report for UNESCO, http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/INSTITUTES/UIL/confintea/pdf/National_Reports/Europe%20-%20North%20America/Switzerland.pdf, accessed September 20118
8. Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology OPET, http://www.bbt.admin.ch/index.html?lang=en
9 Staatssekretariat für Bildung und Forschung SBF, http://www.sbf.admin.ch/htm/index_de.php
10. Bundesamt für Kultur, http://www.bak.admin.ch/index.html?lang=en
11. SVEB, The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning and Education, CONFINTEA VI report for UNESCO, http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/INSTITUTES/UIL/confintea/pdf/National_Reports/Europe%20-%20North%20America/Switzerland.pdf, accessed September 2011
12. Die Schweizerische Koordinationskonferenz Weiterbildung (SKW) und das Forum Weiterbildung Schweiz, http://www.forum-weiterbildung.ch/default.aspx?code=00&LGE_ID=1
13. SVEB, The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning and Education, CONFINTEA VI report for UNESCO, http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/INSTITUTES/UIL/confintea/pdf/National_Reports/Europe%20-%20North%20America/Switzerland.pdf, accessed September 2011