Swiss school causes stir after boasting about low number of foreign students

Swiss school causes stir after boasting about low number of foreign students
A school in the town of Thun tried to recruit new teachers by promising them a "low proportion" of immigrant children

Among the perks listed in a job advertisement seeking a new teacher, Göttibach primary school mentioned “lower than average number of children with a migration background”.

The ad’s wording quickly sparked a wave of criticism.

“It reads as though the job is more attractive because there are few foreigners at the school,” the president of the teachers' association Dagmar Rösler told the 20 Minuten news portal. 

“This sends the wrong message”, she added.

Human resources expert Matthias Mölleney, head of the center for personnel management at the Zurich University of Economics, said the ad seems to suggest that a low proportion of immigrant children among the student body is an advantage.

“It is tactless and can be taken as racist,” he noted.

READ MORE: OPINION: The benefits of raising children in Switzerland

Faced with outrage over the ad’s content, the school’s principal Regine Gfeller said that factors like the class structure and number of foreigners “influence daily school life quite a bit”.

However, she emphasised that the advertisement “was not meant to be judgmental. It is not fundamentally better to have fewer immigrant students, but simply different”.

Given the backlash over the ad’s wording, Thun's School Commission president Mark van Wijk pointed out that such recruitment methods “are not the usual practice in the city”.

The offensive ad has since been removed and there is no word about whether any applicants had responded to it.

According to government figures, 27.3 percent of primary school students in Switzerland are foreign, but some cantons have a higher ratio than others.

In Geneva, for instance, 43 percent of students come from abroad, while that figure is only 9 percent in Switzerland's smallest canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden.

A 2018 study carried out by University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern found that teachers had lower expectations of immigrant children than of their Swiss counterparts.

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