Pupils at Cantonal School get a taste of what it is like

Last week a number of pupils at the Cantonal School in Menzingen had the opportunity to see what it is like to run a big business.

This “Economics Week” had been organised jointly by the Zurich and Zug Chambers of Commerce especially for schools in these two areas, the teaching materials produced by the Ernst Schmidheiny Foundation (after the Swiss industrialist and politician (1871-1935)), which promotes the interest in, and the understanding of, economic aspects.

During the course of the week, each day of which represented one business year, the pupils, acting as the board of a company which has been active in the market for ten years and selling products similar to those of other companies, have to choose a product, position it price-wise, present a marketing concept, hold a media conference, choose appropriate advertising and finally hold an investors’ conference.

In the case of pupils William Rüeger, Ronny Suter, Alex Waldis and Dino Paganoni, as seen from left to right in the photograph, they faced decisions such as whether to raise further finance and where to position their product, in this case a soundbox. It did not take them long to realise that, while they had raised the price of their product, they could not so easily increase its quality, and were subsequently left with an overpriced product.

Also involved in the week’s activities was Heinz Schaffner, a retired former manager in a company and one of many voluntary helpers to the pupils. He pointed out, for example, all the relationships between employees and processes, and between processes and finance. What was particularly useful was a computer programme showing what effects decisions taken by board members had on the market. Schaffner also pointed out other major aspects pupils had to take account of, such as social responsibility and consideration of the environment.

Pupils were soon confronted by the consequences of their decision-making, which also included having to dismiss staff, as Sybil Breitling, one of the two accompanying economics teachers at the Cantonal School in Menzingen, explained. She was very much for this way of learning, especially with the pupils able to experience the effects of their decision-making.  

As fellow economics teacher, Lukas Nagel, mentioned, previous such “Economics Weeks” had taken place on school premises, but he thought that being able to use a real company’s offices, in this case those of the Bossard AG, added that extra touch of reality to it all.

In these days where there are calls for women’s quotas in the boardroom, what was noted here was that, of the 17 participants,16 were young men.

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