On 14 November, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), met Chen Baosheng, the Chinese Minister of Education, in Bern. The meeting took place on the fringes of the fourth meeting of the Joint Working Group on Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training, a platform for networking and exchanging information on these topics.
Vocational education and training (VET) was a key focus of the discussions held by Ministers Parmelin and Chen. China has undertaken far-reaching reforms to align training programmes with labour market needs, looking to the Swiss dual-track VET system as a model. Since 2014, the two countries have established a working group to improve the exchange of information and experience in the fields of higher education and VET, and to encourage mobility among students and young researchers.
The Swiss delegation included representatives from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI, the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET, as well as swissuniversities and the universities of applied sciences. The latter are particularly active in China, providing expertise, running joint programmes and participating in student exchanges. Switzerland, in turn, hosts many Chinese students, who form the largest community of non-European students in the country, particularly at doctoral level.
Bilateral dialogue with China is part of Switzerland’s international strategy on education, research and innovation, which was published in 2018. This strategy involves raising the profile of Switzerland’s vocational education and training system internationally and promoting the mobility of students and apprentices. Thanks to the many delegations it hosts, and the discussions it holds at ministerial level with several major countries, the Confederation promotes the exchange of information, greater visibility and, more generally, better recognition of the quality of the dual-track VET system, which enables young people to benefit from high-quality training and creates a workforce adapted to the needs of the labour market. In 2021, Switzerland hopes to make its mark at WorldSkills, the international skills competition taking place in Shanghai.