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Christophe Xavier Clivaz | Putting Piaget’s theory into practice

The founder-director of Swiss Learning on the history of boarding schools in Switzerland and what draws the network of educational institutions to India

Christophe Xavier Clivaz | Putting Piaget’s theory into practice
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Remember how curious everything seemed when you were a kid?

That curiosity is what noted Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget centered his whole research around—that children learn by doing, touching, and exploring.

Enter Christophe Xavier Clivaz, who, inspired by Piaget’s research, has applied that theory into practice.

Clivaz is the founder-director of Swiss Learning, a network of 14 boarding schools and hotel management institutions spread across 12 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.

These institutions, some of them set against the stunning backdrop of the Swiss Alps, offer a unique educational experience.

Press Insider caught up with Clivaz on his recent India visit.

Edited excerpt:

Could you share how India figures in Swiss Learning’s plans?

Absolutely. India represents a growing market for us. While it’s not one of our largest markets yet, we’re actively working to expand our presence there. We began focusing on India before the pandemic hit, which temporarily paused our efforts, but now we’re keen on re-engaging and developing this market further.

What drew Swiss Learning to the Indian market?

Our goal is to diversify our student body, aiming for a representation of 10 to 15% Indian students, which translates to around 300 to 400 students across our schools. Despite having 14 schools, our aim is to maintain a small, yet diverse, student population. This aligns with our ethos of providing a multicultural and multilingual educational environment, grounded in the Swiss educational system’s strength of high academic standards.

In how many Swiss cantons are your schools located?

Our schools are spread across 12 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, offering a range of environments from city settings to mountainous landscapes. So, we have schools in the German part, in the Italian part, and in the French part. The most popular regions historically are near Lake Geneva and in the Alps, due to their accessibility and the scenic beauty they offer to the educational experience.

The historic Orient Express, a famous train route connecting Istanbul and Venice with Paris, would stop in Lausanne, Switzerland. Wealthy parents traveling on this route would leave their children at boarding schools near Lausanne for a few weeks of education while they continued their journey, often to Paris. This practice contributed to the popularity of Swiss boarding schools in the region, as they became a convenient and attractive option for families looking for high-quality education for their children during their travels.

(From left) Swiss consul general Martin Maier; Yash Raj Films (YRF) chief executive Akshaye Widhani; and Swiss Learning’s Christophe Xavier Clivaz at an event in Mumbai, where YRF was recognized for promoting India-Swiss ties.

Are there any competitors for Swiss Learning?

Swiss Learning is unique in its approach, much like the British Council, but on a smaller scale. We emphasize the distinctiveness of each school, ensuring they cater to the diverse needs and backgrounds of our international student body.

Could you explain the balance between vocational and academic education in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, we emphasize both vocational and academic education. Our approach ensures that students receive a well-rounded education, preparing them for a variety of career paths. While we offer comprehensive high school programs, we also integrate vocational elements, especially in our hotel schools.

We recognize the value of vocational training and, accordingly, incorporate vocational elements into our curriculum, especially through programs like the IBCP, which bridges the gap between academic study and vocational education.

How important is vocational education in Switzerland?

Vocational education is crucial in Switzerland. It’s essential for preparing students for careers in various sectors, such as hospitality, hairdressing, and automotive repair. A strong vocational education system contributes to our low unemployment rate by ensuring that individuals can work in high-value areas, producing goods and services that require specialized skills.

About 60% of our population pursues vocational education, which is unique and highlights our commitment to preparing students for practical, skilled work. This approach aligns with our belief in learning by doing, as advocated by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, emphasizing the importance of experience in education.

Piaget believed that the primary goal of education should be to empower the younger generation to innovate rather than replicate past generations’ actions. This philosophy underpins our educational approach, focusing on experiential learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

With the emphasis on both vocational and academic education in Switzerland, how does Swiss Learning incorporate this into its curriculum?

Our focus is primarily on providing a high-school education that prepares students for higher education and life beyond. Switzerland’s strong vocational education system is a model we admire, ensuring students are ready for a world that values practical skills as much as academic knowledge.

With the global focus on artificial intelligence (AI), how is Swiss Learning incorporating modern technologies?

Embracing AI and technology is essential for our curriculum. We aim to equip our students not just with the tools to use these technologies but also with the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate the information they encounter, ensuring they can distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources.


John Melvin Konath is the Managing Editor at Press Insider. John has close to two decades of experience in managing and editing a range of domestic and global publications, notably from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North America. More

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