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“Ask Jimmy” Part 3: Those educated Swiss!

Jimmy Jackson

12 March 2024

Hello, all you fans of higher and lower education out there! It’s Jimmy Jackson, with another installment of my incisive, almanac-like Swiss knowledge builder, “#AskJimmy.” I sure hope somebody in Switzerland gives me an honorary doctorate (hint, hint).

Hello, all you fans of higher and lower education out there! It’s Jimmy Jackson, with another installment of my incisive, almanac-like Swiss knowledge builder, “#AskJimmy.”

This time, I encouraged all of you to send me your questions about Switzerland’s outstanding education system.  Here are the top questions I got:

Hey there Jimmy,

Is Swiss education better, or just different?


Wondering in Walla Walla

Well, Wally, I don’t think you should just take my word for it.  The Swiss higher education system was ranked 1st in the entire world by an outfit called IMD, and they’re pretty reliable when it comes to these things.  Not only colleges and universities, though!  Switzerland also has an amazingly well-designed parallel track for vocational education, and that system also got ranked as… let me see… No. 1, too!  So, like my bride Norma’s prize-winning pot roast, when something great gets voted Numero Uno by some impartial judges, yes, you’re entitled to say it’s “better” than all the others!

Dear Jimmy,

In your opinion, what sets Swiss education apart from other countries?


Jealous Belgian

Dear J.B.,

Quality of the curriculum, rigorous standards, great infrastructure, excellent teachers – all the usual stuff, of course.  But what probably makes Switzerland so great when it comes to education is that Swiss students graduate with a deep understanding of precision and practicality, profound appreciation for punctuality, and probably a lifelong love affair with chocolate.  The field trips are also pretty wonderful, I bet.  I remember going to stuffy museums when I was a kid, but in Switzerland the schoolkids are out there skiing, rappelling down waterfalls, inhaling the heck out of the fresh mountain air, taking in all that lush Alpine scenery, and, of course, yodeling!  Yes, J.B., you are right to be jealous.

Dear Jimmy Jackson,

Would you say that the education you get in a Swiss school is more general, or do you specialize?


Big Bob in Baltimore

Dear BBB,

Both!  In Switzerland, you first get an all-round college education while you’re still in high school !  Yep, you read that right.  That’s how good the high schools are over there.  (Only they’re called “gymnasiums” to lull other countries into a false sense of security thinking Swiss teenagers do nothing all day but phys. ed.)

Then you go to an actual university, and that’s where you specialize, for instance in math or chemistry or engineering (Switzerland has internationally top-ranked schools in Zurich and Lausanne for all that #STEM stuff) or international relations (Switzerland also has one of the world’s most prestigious schools for this in Geneva) or languages (heck, at any Swiss university) or law, medicine, literature, life sciences – you name it!  Even applied yodeling*.

There are dozens of universities and other educational institutions for practically any specialized area you can think of.  For example, did you know that Switzerland has the number one ranked hospitality management school in the world?  And some of the top business schools in the world?  And schools of design?  So it’s not just the general-purpose schools that are excellent, it’s the specially focused ones, too.

And did I mention most of the universities don’t charge students any tuition fees at all?

* No, sorry, I made a mistake: no degree programs in this area – yet.

Hiya Jimmy,

I know a guy who worked in a bank in Switzerland, and he told me the place was crawling with 16 year olds.  They were all apprentices.  Apparently there’s a school in Switzerland for learning how to be a banker.  Half the time you go to class and half the time they put you to work.  What do you think about that?


Wish I’d Done That

Dear WIDT,

I think that’s great!  What’s not to like?  Not every kid wants to spend years at a university so they can brag about getting a doctorate in Latin American cultural studies or becoming a botanist or a French literature nerd or nuclear physicist.  These kids need another option.  And in Switzerland, they have a really good one.  Instead of quitting school and getting thrown into the deep end of the reality pool, the Swiss education system, so to speak, teaches them how to swim for a couple of years.

It runs a whole bunch of practical apprenticeship programs to ease kids into lots of real-world professions like carpentry or architecture or, yes, banking.  They actually work in companies in that field, study it in class, take tests on it like any college kids do, and if they pass they end up with a diploma that proves to the world that they really know their stuff.

If your company hires young folks who’ve graduated from a Swiss apprenticeship program to join your team full-time, you don’t need to put these kids through a training program. They’ve already done one!  They’ve got a ton of actual experience, so they’ll hit the ground running!

Pretty smart, if you ask me!  I’m thinking Jackson Quantum Ventures’ Swiss office might sign up for a couple apprentices… as long as they don’t show up the boss.

Dear Jimmy,

Are the teachers good in Switzerland?



Dear Curious,

Of course they are.  They know their stuff.  I can’t promise that every teacher in every school is an award-winning educator with the intellect of a Nobel scientist, the personality of Robin Williams, and the sweet soul of a saint.  But they’re highly qualified, or they don’t get the job!

Speaking of teachers knowing their stuff, I’ll never forget Mrs. Reinhardt, my seventh-grade homeroom teacher.  She taught math, music, home ec, social studies, and volleyball.  At the time I thought that was kind of unusual.  But now I realize she was just versatile!  In fact, you know what she was?  She was a “Swiss Army knife of knowledge.”  You know, a combo of lots of different kinds of know-how all folded into one compact package. Each separate item, though, from the blade to the bottle opener, the corkscrew to the tweezers, right down to that ivory-colored toothpick, was a beautiful precision instrument.  That was Mrs. Reinhardt.  Swiss to the core!

See you all again soon!