Peter will change Switzerland

Kim Berrendorf
July 3, 2019
Sustainability
“Change Switzerland!” That’s the name of the campaign run by online platform engage.ch, and one that we are actively supporting as part of our commitment to the political education of young people. Engage.ch offers young people the chance to submit their issues and ideas via an online portal and to implement these as part of a process involving the economy, science and politics. Peter Boder, currently still a commercial school intern in the Customer Management department, has an issue of his own and one he has come a long way with.

Access to university with a vocational baccalaureate

Peter’s idea is based on his own experience. He completed his vocational baccalaureate in economics and now he’s got his heart set on securing a law degree at a university. Unfortunately he cannot attend university yet. Peter did not attend a grammar school, so first he must complete a one-year bridging course, called a Passerelle, and catch up with the subjects he did not cover at business college in order to reach grammar school level.

While at first that might sound plausible, as a motivated vocational college graduate Peter has a two-year advantage in his schooling in relevant subjects like law, but still has to catch up on subjects like biology and chemistry at grammar school level in order to study law. This will be very demanding and the rationale behind catching up on complicated material that will be of no relevance to his degree afterwards is questionable. That doesn’t really make any sense. 

Peter’s idea has of course met with some criticism, the argument being that a broader knowledge base is indispensable for a university degree. There are however different possibilities, such as a certain minimum grade average, which would give highly motivated vocational school graduates with a vocational baccalaureate the chance to move on directly to a university degree – without the risk of flooding Swiss universities with vocational school graduates. Peter is well aware that his suggestion cannot be applied equally to everyone: 

In some respects I think the route via the Passerelle bridging course makes a lot of sense. It means that for example a sales administrator still has a chance of becoming a doctor. But why should somebody who wants to undergo further training in their own field have to take a detour via the Passerelle?

Peter Boder

The advantage of modern education pathways

Peter will not be able to change his own situation now. He’s aware of that, but he wants to push ahead with this issue – which has been picked up by member of the Swiss National Council Nadine Masshardt (SP) – and change something for the next generation of motivated vocational school graduates, for more equal opportunity. But it’s not just the victims of the system that would benefit from this.

Peter Boder und Nadine Masshardt im Gespräch
Peter Boder and Nadine Masshardt

Peter’s suggestion could provide the all-rounders that the job market is always looking for. Peter has prior training in the field of law, and he has completed a commercial school internship, i.e. his first work experience. He could complete a university degree right afterwards while gaining more work experience as a student employee alongside this. He could be available on the job market as a highly trained specialist one year earlier. That doesn’t sound bad at all. Politicians thought so too, selecting Peter’s suggestion as one of 15 winning ideas for the 2019 campaign “Change Switzerland!”. 

Well on his way with a little help

After submitting his idea, Peter had the chance to pitch it in front of an audience before discussing and elaborating on it afterwards with representatives from the economy, science and politics. The biggest revelation in all this? Companies were not even aware of the bridging course detour faced by vocational school graduates. 

After receiving enormous support for his idea in different fields, not to mention member of the Swiss National Council Nadine Masshardt’s involvement, Peter wanted to advocate his idea internally too and find more support. And he has done so with great success.

Whether Junior Staff Development, HR or Public Affairs – everyone is supporting Peter and his idea. Now the ball in is the politicians’ court.

Generally the cantons are responsible for governing access to universities. After a very productive meeting with member of the Swiss National Council Nadine Masshardt, the first step will be to forge the path nationally and draft a bill (postulate) for submission. The Swiss Federal Council will then work out together with the cantons how the barriers in this area of the education system can be removed. If this generates a positive response, Ms Masshardt will put forward a motion. So there is still a lot to do, but Peter has set the ball rolling with this idea and his proposal is on the right track.

 In the meantime, Peter is well on his way too. He has now received his vocational baccalaureate certificate and, following his commercial school internship in Customer Management, this August he will start the Passerelle bridging course while at the same time remaining a student employee in Claims Customer Service at Baloise. With his level of motivation he will pass the Passerelle with flying colours. After that, he can realise his dreams of studying law at a university of his choice.