Education in Switzerland
In Switzerland, education is free and compulsory for children aged from six to eighteen. Children from all backgrounds, including expat children can attend Swiss schools although expats may consider sending their child to an international school rather than a public one due to lessons being taught in French, German or Romansh. Because of the Canton system in Switzerland different regions may have different term dates and curriculums.
Enrolling your child into a Swiss school
To enrol your child they must be between the ages of 5 and 15 years old. The chosen school will require you to provide the child’s birth certificate, proof of health insurance and your residence permit.
Pre-school education is not compulsory in Switzerland but most parents do choose to send their children to kindergarten two years before they join a primary school. Primary school is compulsory for all Swiss and immigrant children and is coeducational. Expat parents need to be aware that Swiss schools only teach in one language French, German and Italian. Public schools are free for all pupils as they don’t charge tuition fees. However, extra costs may come from paying for school supplies, gym equipment, books and field trips.
Upon graduating from primary school, students are divided according to the type of careers they want. They can choose between academic or vocational courses. Those that choose the academia classes often achieve a Matura (high school diploma) upon successful completion of their exams. The qualification is necessary to get into a university. Vocational course pupils end up with a vocational diploma. High schools are divided between lower secondary and upper secondary. In lower secondary, children study different subjects: their national language (German, French, Italian or Romansh), two foreign languages (generally English and German, French or Italian), mathematics, natural sciences, geography, history and civic education, economics, arts, music and sport. Children also receive career guidance and vocational preparation.
The vast majority of Swiss pupils attend public schools but as an expat you may prefer to send your child to a private/ international school. Compared to state schools, private schools tend to have smaller class sizes, less rigid rules and classes taught in English or other languages. If your child is young then it may be best to send them to state school to allow them to integrate into the Swiss lifestyle quicker.