Federal framework and cantonal differences in the evolution of the Swiss VET system. The key period between 1950 and 1970

Men in old fashioned atelier
Swiss VET sector has one major characteristic: although it is regu-lated at national level, there are considerable cantonal differences, particularly with regards to participation in dual-track VET. Analysing VET development in three cantons (Geneva, Zurich and Ticino) between 1950 and 1970, this project is intended to explain the socio-political and economic conditions that gave rise to these differences. The project is being conducted in collaboration with Prof. Philipp Gonon, University of Zurich.

Although federal legislation on vocational education and training has existed in Switzerland since 1930, the cantons have always retained a certain degree of autonomy, which has allowed them to establish specific policies on VET. This autonomy is reflected in the differences that we see today in the management of upper-secondary education, differences that may be summarised as follows: the French- and Italian-speaking cantons are more inclined to develop policies geared towards school-based education at upper-secondary level (e.g. full-time vocational schools for VET and baccalaureate schools for general education). In contrast, the German-speaking cantons tend to favour the dual-track VET.

These cantonal differences are now known and documented. However, there is currently no in-depth study on the origin of these differences.

Focusing its analysis on three cantons (Zürich, Geneva and Ticino), this project is intended precisely to identify the main factors that have influenced development of VET at both cantonal and federal levels. These factors should enable us to explain the differences that we have just mentioned. Basing ourselves on analysis of written documentation (legislation, Federal Council Dispatches to the Swiss Parliament, reports, statistics, press articles, etc.), the work of identifying the factors will follow the various stages of development of VET from the end of the 19th century to the present day. Particular emphasis will be placed on the period 1950-1970, which is considered to be a pivotal phase in the evolution of VET in Switzerland.

Our research is a continuation of ongoing research into the history of VET, which has developed in Switzerland in recent decades. Our research is also based on current research at the international level on the functioning of VET systems. Thus conceived, the project offers two main benefits. First, for Swiss VET research, this project will explain the factors determining one of the most striking internal differences in the Swiss system. This will be achieved by highlighting, on the one hand, the existing tension between federal provisions and cantonal implementation and, on the other hand, by showing the impact that specific compromises between different cantonal approaches may have had on the development of the VET sector in particular and upper-secondary education in general. Second, as part of international debate, this project will offer an in-depth analysis of a series of factors which, within a common national framework, have given rise to the differences that we see today; an in-depth analysis that may subsequently open up new avenues of research, including at international level.

Co-responsible of the project:

  • Prof. Dr. Philipp Gonon (University of Zurich)

Scientific committee

  • Eric Verdier (LEST, Aix en Provence)
  • Esther Berner (University of Hamburg)
  • Gianni Ghisla (SFIVET, Lugano)
In progress
1.6.2018 to 31.5.2021
Project manager: 

Universität Zürich / Université de Zurich / Università di Zurigo / University of Zurich

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)