Directed by : Fernand Melgar

Genre : Documentary

Duration : 55′

Year : 1998

Original version : French

Subtitles : German, Spanish

Induction class

June 1997: 14 students, aged from 11 to 17, share the benches in Anne Juri’s induction class in Marcolet High School in Crissier. A mix of Catholic and Muslim kids, the class is a melting pot of Kurds, Bosnians, Portuguese and Brazilians. Some children have come to join their parents, who work as seasonal workers and whose work visas had not enabled them to bring their children before now. The others fled the war in Bosnia and are temporarily living in detention centres for asylum seekers. After a year of living in such close quarters, some of them were housed in apartments in areas with subsidised rent, where they and their unworking parents were faced with hostile neighbours, who were both Swiss and long-standing immigrants themselves. These children are getting a taste for the new life available to them in Switzerland, which they idealise and discover during a school class in the Alps. The special moments they share with their teacher make them forget the uncertainty of tomorrow: imminent repatriation for the Bosnian refugees and a limited professional future for the others.

Interweaving images of an idyllic Swiss woman with a much less utopian reality, this film depicts the world of these young adolescents, who are torn between memories of their homelands and the desire to build lives for themselves in Switzerland. How do you learn to read and write in another language when you never even learned in your own language? How do you appreciate the joy of learning when you constantly see your father being killed before your eyes? And why bother at all if you’re going to be repatriated in six months anyway? Through six portraits, “Induction Class” shows the harsh reality facing these children and their redefined families.

In their quest for new identities, these children do not understand that they are in a country that seems to have lost its own sense of identity and has forgotten that pluralism and diversity are at the very heart of its constitution.

Lausanne’s first “classes d’accueil” were created in 1988. Until then, non-French-speaking students, mainly Italian, Portuguese or Spanish, had the opportunity to take intensive French courses in an attempt to catch up with Swiss students. But with the diversification of the migrant population and the influx of asylum seekers, the public education system realized that the problem of foreigners was no longer limited to language. On the one hand, the level of education of the pupils was getting lower and lower (some children had never even been to school before coming to Switzerland), and on the other, they had sometimes suffered such traumas that it was necessary to be able to heal their wounds before teaching them grammar.

A melting pot of cultures, these classes bring together children of very different languages, faiths, ages and levels of education. As a result, class sizes rarely exceed a dozen, and teaching is slower, more personalized, and more focused on the study of French. What’s more – as crises and conflicts inevitably do – new students are introduced to the class during the year, adding to the teachers’ workload. For Bernard Courvoisier, dean of Lausanne’s thirteen reception classes, “teachers willing to take on this work must realize that it goes far beyond pedagogy. It’s social work.

In principle, the child stays in the reception class for at least a year before being able to return to a “normal” class. Students who arrive in Switzerland at the age of 13 or 14 often don’t have time to catch up with the level of a “terminale” before the end of their compulsory schooling. Their integration into the educational system proves extremely difficult. In an increasingly selective school system, access to higher education or suitable vocational training seems almost impossible. So, in the best of cases, they hope to find, with the support of their teacher, a quick and precarious internship that will enable them to work for a miserable wage at jobs that are not highly prized by the Swiss.

In “Classe d’accueil”, filmmaker Fernand Melgar succeeds in conveying a nuanced picture of the inner and outer insecurities of these young “immigrants”; he does so without commentary, by giving a voice to those concerned. It captures both happy and melancholy moments in the lives of these young people, touching on the register of emotions; it raises many questions, notably about the identity of young people, Switzerland as a land of asylum, and xenophobia. The people interviewed in the film express themselves freely on often delicate themes. This is also true of the local resident who, herself French, complains about the large number of foreigners in her town. Her comments are representative for many Swiss people, who have different attitudes depending on the origin of the refugees. Bruno, the young Portuguese, finds it easier to be accepted than Amir from Bosnia, but the fears about the future are the same for both.


Directed by : Fernand Melgar

Assistant : Béatrice Liardet

Images : Camille Cottagnoud, Thomas Wüthrich

Sound : Gilles Abravanel, Bastien Moeckli, Nadejda Magnenat

Edited by : Fernand Melgar, Béatrice Liardet

Sound mix : Fred Kohler

Music : Pascal Comelade, Diatonikachromatik

Color grading : Cédric Rossel

Production : Climage, Fernand Melgar

Coproduction : Télévision Suisse Romande, Gilles Pache, Béatrice Barton | ARTE G.E.I.E., Jacques Laurent, Elisabeth Hulten

Financial support : Office fédéral de la culture (DIP), Fondation vaudoise pour le cinéma, Loterie Romande, Evangelischer Mediendienst


Watch the film (VOD)

In Switzerland : Play Suisse

International : YouTube

Show the film

(public screenings / festivals)

In Switzerland :

World sales :

Start typing and press Enter to search