In Switzerland, education is government responsibility (cantonal and/or federal) from the beginning of compulsory education up to and including tertiary level (universities and professional education and training). Responsibility for education lies primarily with the 26 cantons. The cantons and the federal government each have their own
responsibilities for post-compulsory education (general education schools, vocational and professional education and training, universities) and thus bear responsibility for these levels of education together. The cantons and their local municipalities finance 90% of public expenditure on education.


  • Switzerland is very open for access to the various types of education,
    Anyone who has the necessary qualifications can generally attend the course of his/her choice
  • Switzerland is ranked number 9 out of 65 nations and economies in a recent OECD/PISA survey of educational standards among 15-year-olds.
  • Switzerland’s school year conventionally begins between August and
    September and will carry on for two periods of 12 weeks at a time.
  • Homeschooling can be considered illegal in certain parts of Switzerland
  • Switzerland is one of the only two countries to have a square flag
  • Coffee in Zurich is the most expensive in the world
  • Switzerland is one of the world’s great exporters of chocolate


Around the age of six, children go to primary school. Depending on the canton,
primary school lasts between four and six years. At this level, children are not divided into achievement groups.

The children will be taught in the language of the region (German, French, Italian, or Romansh). Subjects include the first language, a second national language and
English, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities (eg. geography, history, ethics, and religion), music art and design, physical education and health.

Pupil assessment varies from canton to canton but generally pupils receive either an ungraded or graded school report twice a year at the end of each term (grades are from one to six with six being the best grade and one being ‘insufficient’). There can be end-of-year tests as well.

Depending on how well pupils have done in the year, they may be promoted to the next level, given extra support or have to repeat a year, for which there is no stigma attached.


Lower Secondary Level
Children generally move onto lower secondary level at the age of 11/12 at a middle school called either a Gymnasium or Kantonsschule. Lower secondary education
usually lasts for three years except in Italian-speaking Ticino, when it lasts for four years. How well the child has done at primary level determines which level the child is assigned in the lower secondary level.

Topics taught at lower secondary level are usually: the language of the school/region, a second national language (and an optional third) and English, mathematics,
biology, chemistry, physics, geography, history, civic education, music, art and design (visual arts, textile design, technical design), physical education and health, home economics, career guidance and vocational preparation.
There is no national exam or school leaving certificate or diploma in Switzerland.


Upper Secondary Level
After nine years of compulsory education, adolescents continue to the upper
secondary level, which is split into vocational and general education.
Upper secondary education in Switzerland is optional although more than 90 percent of Swiss students do decide to continue their education around the age of 15/16.
Upper secondary school is regulated jointly by the Confederation and the cantons so there are variations in organisation and curricula across the country.

Qualifications awarded by cantons are recognised across Switzerland.
The three types of upper secondary education include:

  • Vocational education and training (VET) schools
  • Baccalaureate schools
  • Upper secondary specialised schools


Tertiary Level
The tertiary level comprises universities (incl. universities of applied sciences and
universities of teacher education) and, as a second important pillar, institutions
providing professional education and training. The latter is aimed at people with
professional experience, enabling them to gain specialist education and additional qualifications. It comprises diplomas from a PET college and federal or advanced
federal PET diplomas.

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