Schools in Switzerland

Switzerland boasts a high standard of education. Swiss public schools have an excellent reputation, and the country's private boarding and international schools are also exceptional.

However, while expat children will undoubtedly receive an excellent education, schooling in Switzerland can be very expensive.

There are four stages of education in Switzerland – kindergarten, primary, secondary (split into lower and upper phases), and tertiary education. Compulsory school-going ages vary by canton, but Switzerland is moving towards one standard country-wide policy whereby education is compulsory for all children from age four (kindergarten) to age 15 (end of lower secondary school).

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Healthcare plans designed specifically for expatriates and local nationals living in Switzerland.

Most residents, including many expat children, attend public schools in Switzerland. These schools are funded by taxes and there are no tuition fees attached. However, because they are managed at the level of cantons, there are regional differences.

Children may be taught in French, German, Italian or Romansch, depending on where they live. The language barrier often means that public schools are best suited to expats planning to live in Switzerland long term and who want to fully integrate into Swiss culture and society. Speaking a local language is an advantage, and expats with young children will find that they adapt quickly. Public schools in Switzerland do, however, make some provisions for foreign language speakers.

Private schools in Switzerland are highly regarded, with many Swiss boarding schools having prestigious international reputations. While these institutions generally follow the Swiss national curriculum, they offer a stimulating, personalised environment, with smaller class sizes than those found at public schools, and state-of-the-art facilities. However, these institutions come with a premium price tag, so parents will need to budget accordingly.
Bilingual schools in Switzerland teach the Swiss curriculum, but lessons are presented in two languages such as German/English, French/English or German/French. The language combination will depend on the school’s location and is likely to include the language dominant in that particular region.

Despite the high standard of Swiss schools, international schools are a great option for families who only plan on staying in Switzerland for a short period of time. These schools usually follow a foreign national curriculum, such as British, American, French or the International Baccalaureate (IB). Because of the familiar curriculum and language, internationals schools minimise disruption for expat students.

There are a range of international schooling options in most large Swiss cities, including both day and boarding schools. Competition for places is high and the most prestigious schools have long waiting lists, so it’s best to apply early.

International schools often charge hefty fees, so it’s well worth proposing an education allowance during employment-contract negotiations.