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14 August 2018

Mobile Phone Ban Is Unthinkable in Swiss Schools

We are ashamed with Switzerland for allowing children's use of cell phones in the classroom for "learning" purposes. Children receive "media education" but this sounds like it only goes as far as dealing with social media: fake news, photos, cyberbullying.  Little is taught about safe ways to reduce exposure to the microwave radiation emitted by these devices which could potentially cause physiological harm.

(Photo): Swiss schools deliberately use smartphones as a didactic tool for group work. GETTY IMAGES
It is also used in the classroom. The fact that cell phones are banned at school, as in France, is impossible in Switzerland. Here the smartphone serves as a learning tool.

Mobile phone ban is unthinkable in Swiss schools
by Christiane Binder, blick.ch, August 2018 -

Smartphones interfere with the classroom, foster bullying, make people stupid and anti-social - these are the arguments of opponents of smartphones in the school. France has just passed a general ban on smartphones in its schools.

Such a rigid approach is unthinkable in Swiss schools, explains Beat W. Zemp (63), Central President of the Swiss Teachers' Association. This is primarily due to federalism. In Switzerland, education is cantonal sovereignty. Whether the phone can only be used during the break, when it has to remain in the backpack, whether it can remain on the table - are all determined first of all by the teacher. The second instance is the school administration. The canton follows in third place.

School beginners do not need cell phones

In Switzerland, however, the following is still true: in the first two class levels, the smartphone at the school is not an issue. "Children of this age do not need it," says Zemp. At most, the child is allowed to bring along a classic cell phone, where the working parents can call quickly to say that they pick the child up later. But in class, it is undesirable for small children.

That changes with age. The smartphone belongs in today's society,  like cars and television, and more and more, parents at home are constantly on it, and the users are getting younger. In Germany, a study by the children's book publisher Egmont Mediasolutions came out, according to which almost every fourth German child between the ages of six and 13 has a phone with additional functions - almost twice as many children as in the previous year. At the age of 13, virtually every child has a cell phone, even in Switzerland. "De facto, a sixth grader without a cell phone is exotic," says Zemp.

Mobile phones even allowed in exams

In Switzerland, only Rudolf Steiner schools are strict. Mobile phones are only allowed during breaks at secondary school level / sec. II, and only partially. Otherwise, the schools use the new technology pragmatically. "The mobile phone is part of the personality today," says Stefan Schneider (54), Rector of the Kantonsschule Romanshorn TG. "Mastering Wi-Fi, i-pads and smartphones is as much a part as reading and writing today," explains Beat W. Zemp. He considers a total ban, as in France, a "pseudo solution".

From the intermediate level, the mobile phone becomes a didactic tool: it opens up the opportunity for a new way of learning and teaching. Sometimes students have to take mobile phone photos of the blackboard and copy them into their materials, sometimes they need it for photo projects or vocabulary learning. At Stefan Schneider's school it is sometimes even allowed during exams - because it does not help the students at all. Memorization - "Which is the longest river in Africa ?" - is no longer in demand, instead the students have to analyze and interpret events. For Schneider's school, 15 to 19-year-olds say: "bring your own device", meaning they must have their digital device with them like the books.

In addition, the "Media and Informatics" module in Curriculum 21 for the new school year in Switzerland has been implemented almost nationwide. As part of this media education, students learn what happens when they post pictures of themselves, how to protect themselves against cyberbullying, or what Fake News is all about. "The aim of the training is to deal with these media," says Rector Schneider.

Original article in German:

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