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Continuing education

Continuing education and training (CET) serves to improve and update skills, abilities and knowledge, and to expand them to encompass new fields and tasks. CET activities take place alongside the formal education and training system. It includes general educational or job-related education and training activities which are conducted within an organised framework and do not lead to state-recognised qualifications (e.g. CET courses or seminars), as well as learning processes which take place without a teaching/learning relationship or outside a learning setting (e.g. reading specialist literature or learning at the workplace).

The majortiy of people living in Switzerland take part in some form of continuing education and training. The participation in CET activities depend, among other things, on the individual motivation, the available time, the individual financial resources or the continuing education and training offered. People who work full-time or with a workload over 50% participate more often in CET activities than people with a workload below 50%, and employed people do so more often than the unemployed. With rising the level of education, the amount of participation in CET activities increases.

Governance and framework conditions of continuing education

The Swiss continuing education and training (CET) landscape is characterised by great diversity with regard to responsibility, regulation, programmes offered and financing. CET is largely market-based organised. Private bodies often provide CET courses and programmes. CET is primarily each individual's own responsibility and is largely paid for by the CET students themselves. The Confederation and the cantons have a subsidiary role in CET: they intervene in the areas of CET where it would not be possible to achieve the pursued objectives and intended effects without suitable regulation or supportive measures.

Various special laws passed by the Confederation include stipulations regarding continuing education and training. These regulations (like Switzerland's CET sector) have historically grown and go into different degrees of detail and serve different purposes, e.g.:

  • the Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act regulates job-related CET

  • various federal regulations apply to reintegration measures in the event of unemployment or disability

  • the Swiss Code of Obligations and Swiss Labour Law also include provisions on continuing education and training

  • CET also serves to aid socio-cultural integration of specific groups. In particular, target-group-specific CET measures are supported in the contexts of migration, illiteracy, equality for people with disabilities etc.

In 2006, the revision of the education regulations in the Federal Constitution (article 64a) gave the Confederation the authority to lay down principles of CET in a law. The act implements the constitutional mandate on continuing education and training (CET), organises CET in the Swiss education area and lays down principles governing CET.

The cantons define the specifics of job-related CET in the cantonal laws which implement the Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act. Depending on the canton, general (non-job-related) CET can be regulated differently, e.g. in a specific CET law, within the framework of the regulations on job-related CET, in laws on education and culture, or on another legal basis. The cantons coordinate transregional tasks in CET via the Intercantonal Conference for Continuing Education and Training (IKW). The IKW is a specialist conference within the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) and acts in the interests of life-long learning. The cantonal representatives for CET form the IKW.