• Switzerland's news in English
Geneva advises teachers on religion in school
File photo: C Carlstead

Geneva advises teachers on religion in school

The Local · 24 Aug 2016, 12:03

Published: 24 Aug 2016 12:03 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The 30-page booklet, entitled ‘Secularism at school’, aims to address questions such as whether students may pray at school, wear religious symbols or be exempted from certain activities such as swimming classes.

Issued by Geneva’s department for education, culture and sport (DIP), the guide, which is illustrated with cartoons, stresses the canton’s guiding principle of secularism and religious neutrality “in the context of great sensitivity surrounding religious questions,” the DIP said in a statement.

“In the current context, where emotion too often overrides reason, it’s necessary to remind ourselves of the framework and principles regarding secularism at school,” said Anne Emery-Torracinta, the minister in charge of the DIP.

“Respecting secularism in school life is the best way of guaranteeing harmony in a society which must learn to practise multiculturalism without losing sight of its roots.”

The guidelines follow recent controversy in Swiss schools over religious issues.

Earlier this year two Muslim teenage boys at a school in Therwil, in the canton of Basel-Country, caused outrage across Switzerland when they refused to shake their female teacher’s hand for religious reasons.

After the school initially allowed them to be exempted from the common Swiss practice, the decision was later overruled by cantonal authorities, which said female teachers should not be discriminated against and anyone doing so would be liable for a fine of up to 5,000 francs.

And in June a Muslim father was fined 4,000 francs for refusing to allow his two teenage girls to take swimming lessons at school.

Under Geneva’s guidelines, outlined in the booklet, teachers may not wear religious symbols but the practice is tolerated among students as long as it doesn’t prevent the integration of the student or cause problems at school.

All pupils are obliged to participate in all school studies – including physical education, swimming, biology and sex education – as well as linked extracurricular activities such as school camps, and may not be exempted for religious reasons.

Students and their parents must respect equality of the sexes, says the guide.

Story continues below…

Pupils may have limited days off for religious festivals, if outside of exam times, but prayer rooms in schools are not allowed.

The booklet underlines that the “rules apply to all and are non-negotiable”, said the DIP.

But where problems occur, the child and/or their family should be guided to change their stance, “the goal being to educate, not exclude”.

Secularism is not about forced assimilation or ignorance of religion, says the booklet, but aims to ensure “peaceful coexistence of differences, to allow each person to follow their own path calmly”.

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Villagers asked to help fund bridge renovations
The bridge links the two villages of Veltheim (pictured) and Holderbank. Photo: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht

The crowdfunding campaign by the two communes is the first of its kind in Switzerland.

Police discover body buried in Orbe house
File photo: Bas Leenders

Police have opened an investigation after finding a body buried in a house in Orbe, in the canton of Vaud, on Saturday.

Valais shaken by 4.2 magnitude earthquake
The earthquake hit in the canton of Valais near Sierre. Photo: Alain Rouiller

It's the biggest earthquake to hit the country for two years.

Swiss Indoors kicks off without champ Federer
Federer celebrates with ball girls and boys after winning the event in 2015. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Pool/AFP

Stan Wawrinka is top seed as injured Federer sits it out.

IOC hires Russian doping whistleblower as consultant
IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed the news. File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has hired Vitaly Stepanov as a consultant and is helping his runner wife Yuliya.

‘Scary clown’ craze hits streets of Zurich
Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP

Police in Zurich have warned so-called ‘scary clowns’ that they could face charges, following a number of incidents in the city.

VIDEO: driver chases runaway car on Swiss motorway
Image: Neuchâtel police

Shocking footage shows the moment a man dodged lorries to chase after his runaway car on a Swiss motorway.

Saas-Fee crowdfunds low-cost season ski pass
Saas-Fee is hoping to attract 99,999 season pass holders. Photo: Denis Emery/Photo-genic.ch

Skiers could get their hands on a whole season pass for just 222 francs ($223) in the Swiss resort of Saas Fee this winter – if enough people want one.

Swiss billionaire fined for dodging import tax
Urs Schwarzenbach owns the luxury Dolder Grand hotel in Zurich. Photo: Wilhem Rosenkranz

Urs Schwarzenbach faces a $4 million fine for failing to properly declare some 200 artworks imported into Switzerland.

Muslim woman wins headscarf court battle
Photo: Jack Guez / AFP

A Swiss court has ruled against a company that fired a longtime employee after she began wearing the Muslim headscarf.

Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
jobs available