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Court fines Muslim father in latest swimming lessons row

A Muslim father was fined in Switzerland on Wednesday for refusing to allow his daughters to take swimming lessons at school, in the latest case exposing the challenges of integration in the alpine country.

Court fines Muslim father in latest swimming lessons row
Photo: P Cutler

The unnamed 40-year-old man was ordered to pay 4,000 Swiss francs ($4,000, 3,700 euros), the ATS news agency said in a report.
   
He had also refused to allow his daughters to go to camps and other school events, insisting they ran counter to his religious beliefs.
   
The Altstaetten district court in the northeastern Swiss canton of St. Gallen found the father guilty of among other things violating the law on obligatory schooling and of disobeying previous orders by the authorities, ATS reported.
   
The court reached its verdict after the father appealed a previous ruling faulting him last December.
   
The prosecutor had requested that the man be sentenced to four months behind bars, in addition to a fine, maintaining that the Bosnian national who has been living in Switzerland since 1990 had resisted integration and had no respect for Swiss legislation.
   
The family has reportedly been in conflict with the local authorities for years.
   
Last year, the parents were sentenced by a lower court for refusing to allow their daughters go to school unless they were permitted to wear an Islamic veil.
   
But the country's highest court overturned that verdict, ruling that the eldest girl should be allowed to wear the veil to school in the name of freedom of religion.
   
Wednesday's ruling came days after it emerged that two other Muslim girls had been denied citizenship for refusing to attend compulsory school swimming lessons.

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SCHOOLS

Why teachers in Swiss schools are worried about falling education standards

Switzerland is seeing a drop in standards at its state schools, especially in German-speaking regions of the country, teacher's associations warn and it's all to do with staff, or the lack of them.

Why teachers in Swiss schools are worried about falling education standards

Switzerland’s teachers’ association has warned of worsening school education standards because of a lack of certified staff.

Association president Dagmar Rösler told a news conference that an increasing number of primary schools have had to bring in supply staff who are not qualified to be a teacher. “The quality of our education is in danger”, she said.

“The new school year starts with a further worsening of the shortage of qualified staff. This is hardly surprising and the schools are paying for what the politicians have failed to do for too long”, Rösler said.

READ ALSO: Geneva’s private universities charge high fees for unrecognised diplomas, probe reveals

She added there is a need to train new teachers, reduce overtime work, and provide new teachers with financial support. In addition, Switzerland needs to “make the profession more attractive”, according to the educator.

Where is the situation worse?

Rösler said the situation was worse in the German-speaking cantons in Switzerland and that schools were having trouble recruiting teachers to fill vacant positions ahead of the new term.

In Bern, for example, there were still 500 positions vacant in May 2022. The situation, which was already bad, was worsened by the Ukraine refugee crisis. As schools resorted to “emergency solutions”, they ended up hiring insufficiently qualified stern.

Rösler said: “In the canton of Bern, about 1,500 out of 15,000 teachers are insufficiently qualified. Moreover, two-thirds of the professionals working in education settings in the canton of Aargau do not have appropriate qualifications”.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

“Teaching is a demanding and complex task that requires basic training. Where this is lacking; the remaining experienced teachers have to provide support”.

“What is meant to be a relief turns into the opposite”, she said.

Rösler warned that the knock-on effect could see parents opt to place their children in private schools or homeschool.

What needs to be done?

David Rey, president of the teachers’ workers’ union SER, said that the emergency measures taken must become the norm and that recruited persons who are inadequately trained “must not be offered permanent employment”.

He added that “false solutions” such as having more kids in the same class just place an additional burden on the teachers.

READ ALSO: Zurich mandates organic food for hospitals, schools and cafeterias

For the professionals, the cantons need to recruit and hire more qualified people. They also ask governments to support the career start with a reduced workload to avoid “burnout” among young teachers.

“We must ensure that people stay in the profession for the long term with attractive working conditions, salaries that meet requirements, opportunities for further trending and protections against excessive work”, Rey said.

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