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Continuing education and training in Switzerland: a heterogeneous system

Swiss continuing education and training (CET) is very diverse. Those who want to take part in a CET programme have the choice between a large number of providers and many different formats. But diversity also makes it difficult to gain an overview. The first Federal Act on Continuing Education and Training (WeBiG), which has been in force since 2017, aims to increase transparency in the next years.

A varied offer

In Switzerland there is a comprehensive, diverse offer of continuing education and training programmes. This includes courses, seminars, programmes and CET courses, as well as learning options outside of course structures. This field includes visits to museums and workshops, readings, excursions and conferences, for example. Continuing education and training also covers e-learning and blended learning, work-based learning and the independent use of learning materials or specialist literature. CET also covers learning in self-organised groups.

Private providers dominate the CET market

Not only are the forms of continuing education and training heterogeneous, the spectrum of providers also ranges from small private schools to large enterprises financed privately, from public providers, associations or trade unions to micro-enterprises, learning studios and independent trainers. In absolute figures, private providers clearly dominate the picture: they provide around 80% of the total number of course hours, whereas public providers – above all universities, universities of applied sciences and VET schools – offer about 20% of CET hours.

Language courses rank first

Also the taught contents are characterised by diversity. Among the most popular course contents are languages, with a share of 16% of all course hours attended within one year. The fields of health/medicine, managerial courses and IT (with a share of around 10% each) also play a major role. Most of these courses can be attended for professional or personal reasons. Contents learned for the job are also used in private life, in voluntary work or leisure time activities – and vice versa: the world of work benefits from adults who acquire many different skills in their leisure time.

How we understand the concept of continuing education and training

At SVEB we use an integral CET concept based on the paradigm of lifelong learning.
CET includes not only organised learning offers but also informal learning. These are learning activities which explicitly serve a learning objective but do not take place as part of a learning relationship, for example reading specialist literature on one’s own or learning from colleagues at work.

New concept: non-formal education

With the introduction of the WeBiG, the concept of non-formal education is gradually gaining in importance. This concept is also widespread internationally, but it is by no means understood the same way everywhere. In Switzerland the WeBiG defines what non-formal learning is.