Fifteen-year-old students in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland performed worst in tests for reading, mathematics and natural sciences, according to figures culled from an international education report.

"/> Fifteen-year-old students in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland performed worst in tests for reading, mathematics and natural sciences, according to figures culled from an international education report.

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EDUCATION

Italian speakers fare worst in student rankings

Fifteen-year-old students in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland performed worst in tests for reading, mathematics and natural sciences, according to figures culled from an international education report.

Adolescents in French-speaking cantons showed the best reading skills, while school-goers in German-speaking regions scored highest in science subjects and mathematics.

The results come from a regional breakdown of figures from the latest Programme for International Student Assessment. Better known as the PISA report, it evaluates educational competence in the OECD countries every three years.

A year after Switzerland released the national results of the 2009 report, 13 of the 26 cantons have now presented their own figures. These show significant discrepancies between the three linguistic regions.

According to the department of education in Ticino, the poor results in the Italian-speaking part of the country are partly attributable to the fact that pupils finish their mandatory education at a younger age (15.1 years old) than students in German and French-speaking cantons (15.9).

Pupils in French speaking cantons topped the reading test with an average of 506 points, followed by German speakers with 502 points, and Ticino with 485.

These roles were reversed for mathematics, with German-speaking students excelling with an average of 539 points, compared to 530 in French-speaking cantons and 518 in the Italian-speaking region.

The results were similar for natural sciences, where German-speaking cantons produced the best results with 523 points, followed by the French-speaking region (500) and Ticino (493).

Cantons Aargau, Fribourg and Schaffhausen obtained the highest average score across the three subject areas, while Geneva produced the lowest aggregate results, followed by Ticino.

Zurich, the most populous canton in the country, was the worst performer among the German-speaking cantons.

The head of the canton's education department, Regine Aeppli, said the comparatively poor results in Zurich were linked to the fact that 29 percent of students belong to socially disadvantaged families or are the children of immigrants, Tages Anzeiger reports.

In all, Switzerland scored above average in the PISA study. The country's 501 points put it above the OECD average of 493.

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EDUCATION

Why ETH Zurich has been ranked the ‘best university in continental Europe’

A new international survey of universities has ranked Zurich’s Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) the highest in the world outside the US and the UK. How does this school excel?

Why ETH Zurich has been ranked the 'best university in continental Europe'
ETH's main hall. Photo by Zurich.ch

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2022 have placed ETH in the 15th place (out of 1,600 surveyed worldwide). The school dropped from the 14th-place ranking the previous year.

Universities in the United Kingdom and the United States hold all of the top rankings ahead of ETH Zurich.

But as the top 14 are not in continental Europe, this means ETH has the unofficial title of the of best in Europe.

What is ETH and what does it do?

It is a public research university focusing exclusively on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

It has a “sister” school located in Lausanne, the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), which specialises in natural sciences and engineering. 

The EPFL ranked in the 40th place in the survey.

Why has ETH scored so high in the study?

“Our strategy is derived from our federal mandate to conduct fundamental research, train specialists and transfer new knowledge to the economy and society,” said ETH President Joël Mesot.

University ranking methodology is based on scores for high-​level indicators relating to teaching, research, international perspective, and collaboration with industry.

“ETH’s overall scores show improvement in teaching, research, and publication citations”, the university’s rankings expert Paul Cross said.

However, it dropped slightly in terms of industry income and international outlook.

“Competition is fierce at the top tier of the rankings”, Cross noted. 

Here are some interesting facts about ETH:

  • It was founded in 1855 by the Swiss government to train engineers and scientists.
  • Today 18,000 students from over 100 different countries study at ETZ, 3,800 of whom are doctoral students.
  • So far, 21 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to researchers who have or had a connection with ETH Zurich.
  • While tuition in the top-ranking schools in the UK — Oxford and Cambridge — costs well over 10,000 francs each year, and in the in the US universities, such as Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Caltech, the annual tuition exceeds 50,000 a year, at ETH it is 1,460 francs.

In all, Switzerland is home to seven of the world’s top universities. Aside from ETH and EPFL, they are University of Zurich (75th place), University of Bern (101st), Universities of Basel and Geneva (103rd), University of Lausanne (176th).

Complete ranking can be seen here.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland leads the world in innovation (Partner content)

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