Bilingual instruction has been available in the Canton of Zurich for nearly twenty years and in the Canton of Lucerne for ten years. Approximately 4,000 learners in these two cantons benefit from bilingual instruction, which is provided by twenty-five vocational schools.
This is precisely the direction that the Federal Council wishes to take. In its report ‘Encouraging the Acquisition of Foreign Languages in Vocational Education and Training’, the Federal Council states that all young people enrolled in vocational education and training should have the chance to learn a foreign language. So far, however, only about half of all learners in Switzerland have had the opportunity to do so. All Swiss education system stakeholders agree that bilingual instruction is a successful product that can help bridge this gap.
Key factors for bilingual instruction
‘Achieving Success through Bilingual Instruction’ was also the theme of the second national symposium on bilingual instruction, which was jointly organised by the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI, the Zurich University of Teacher Education (PH Zurich), the Lucerne University of Teacher Education (PH Lucerne) and the VET offices of both cantons. Around 130 teachers and other VET professionals came to Welle 7 in Bern to find out how to successfully design and introduce bilingual instruction in their training plans.
The conference is opened by Prof. Dr. Cornelia Oertle, Director General SFIVET. Remy Hübschi, head of SERI’s Vocational, Professional and Continuing Education and Training Division, gave a presentation on the Confederation’s view of bilingual instruction in VET programmes. Theo Ninck, President of the Swiss Conference of VET offices (SBBK) and head of the Canton of Bern’s Office for Upper-Secondary Education and Training, shared the perspective of the cantons. Do Coyle, from the University of Edinburgh and Professor Laurent Gajo from the University of Geneva gave input presentations on the key factors ensuring successful bilingual instruction. In the afternoon session, teachers from various cantons presented exciting bilingual instruction projects in schools as well as new teaching materials.
SFIVET as the national competence centre
SFIVET has been the federal competence centre for bilingual instruction in vocational education and training since 2015. In this capacity, it advises schools that wish to introduce bilingual instruction; since 2016, it has trained over 120 teachers in bilingual didactics. From autumn, SFIVET’s bilingual didactics modules will also be included as part of basic training.
New teaching materials published
The successful networking of the various stakeholders is key to the successful implementation of bilingual instruction in vocational education and training. SFIVET is involved in other important projects in this regard: Working with the publishing company hep Verlag, SFIVET has now published a new textbook entitled ‘Society’ (see info box). This textbook shows how language, communication and society subjects (LCS) in VET programmes can actually be taught in a bilingual fashion. In addition, SFIVET is actively working with the new National Agency for Exchange and Mobility (Movetia).