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 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 two phases), and tertiary education.

Most children start kindergarten at age four, even though this stage isn’t compulsory. Primary school usually lasts for six years, with lower secondary school generally lasting three. Primary school and Secondary are compulsory, but the mandatory starting age and how long each stage takes differs by canton.

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 (states), there are regional differences.

Children can be taught in French, German, Italian or Romansch, depending on where they live, and will usually have classes in a second official language and English.

The language barrier often means that public schools are best suited to expats looking to move to Switzerland for the long term and who want to fully integrate into Swiss culture and society. Speaking an official language is an advantage, and younger children often adapt the fastest. 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 have 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, some expats prefer sending their children to international schools.

International schools are a great option for families that only plan on staying in Switzerland for a short period of time. These schools usually follow the national curriculum of their home country or the International Baccalaureate (IB), which minimises disruption for the students.

There are a range of international schooling options in most large Swiss cities. Competition for places is high and the most prestigious schools have long waiting lists. Expats should apply early.

International schools often charge hefty fees, so expats should try to negotiate an education allowance into their employment contract.

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