Swiss Secondary Education Reform (Matura/maturité) — an open letter

The Swiss Secondary Education is currently being reformed. Such a process last took place in 1994. This is an important moment to include more pluralism and considerations of sustainability in economics education at the secondary education level in Switzerland. The letter has been written with the support of Rethinking Economics Switzerland.

There are two ways in which you can sign to support this, as a teacher or as an academic. For ease, we have placed the open letter also below. You will find additional French and German versions in the links above.

Open letter from academics and teachers: Swiss secondary education reform – economics

This open letter and the suggested changes to the draft economics & law curriculum for Swiss secondary education were prepared by Bildungskoalition (http://www.bildungskoalition.ch/de/news/) and an ad-hoc expert working group. The full document with the proposed changes can be found here, in French and German: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/127U7qCsQe47URUnvAlo31y1yESIcvMV6?usp=sharing

We invite anyone working in the field of university education in Switzerland to sign the open letter. With your signature, you confirm that you are in principle in support of this statement.

Economic education should equip students to navigate the economic issues and policy questions they will encounter during their civic, domestic and professional lives. Economic education is thus of pivotal importance to taking an active role as citizens of our semi-direct democracy. Urgent global challenges – such as climate change, the biodiversity crisis, and inequality – have causal roots in economic processes, and will decisively shape the economic policy issues of the 21st century. It is therefore crucial that economic education become fit for the challenges of the 21st century. These connections must also be addressed in economic education. Yet currently, Swiss economic education at the secondary level is based on partly narrow and outdated notions in economics, and serves to prevent creative, critical and future-oriented thinking in students, rather than prepare them for a lifetime of engagement with a living topic. As university-level educators, we have witnessed first hand the inadequacy of current secondary-level economics education, not just to prepare students for a specialised training in economics or management, but for multiple topics related to sustainability, social and environmental goals.

As a result, we put forward the following principles to guide the transformation of secondary economics education in Switzerland and complement the current curriculum:

1) Theoretical and methodological pluralism:

In order to understand how the economy is embedded in society, students need to be familiarised with different schools of economic theory, e.g. (post-)Keynesianism, ecological economics, feminist economics, institutional economics and behavioural economics. For this purpose, mathematical and statistical models, but also qualitative research methods have to be presented. This enables students to reflect upon economic policy problems from different perspectives which is essential from the perspective of critical thinking, as well as for participating fully in civic and democratic debate. This principle is vital for preparing students for further education and professional activities, thereby also contributing to the transversal goal of civic participation.

2) Economics for sustainable development, within planetary boundaries:

The teaching of economics must enable students to understand how the economy is embedded in planetary processes and ecosystems. This understanding should encompass the biophysical resource use and waste/emissions accompanying production and consumption processes, and strategies for reducing these within planetary boundaries. In the spirit of education for sustainable development,the global dimension – for example in relation to the climate crisis -,the local context -for example in relation to biodiversity and nitrogen pollution of the soil -, as well as socio-economic activities must be addressed.

3) Society-oriented economics:

To foster the goal of promoting interdisciplinarity and civic education, students should be enabled to grasp questions of social justice in the context of economic thinking. For example, sexism, racism and migration are intertwined with economic inequality and lack of opportunities. At the same time, historical and current inequalities, especially on the international level, are a decisive factor in determining the responsibilities and capabilities of individual countries to combat the climate & ecological crises.

In accordance with these three principles, we support the concrete proposals for changes to Swiss secondary level education.

To support this letter with your signature, find the form here if you are a teacher and here if you are an academic.