Education Overview

Understand the educational system in Switzerland...

The period of compulsory schooling lasts for nine years and consists of primary school and secondary school in all cantons. Attendance is mandatory and free of charge for all children, including foreign nationals.

  • Every child has the opportunity to attend pre-school (kindergarten or Vorschulstufen/école enfantine) for one or two years
  • On reaching six years of age, the child may continue to the compulsory school stage which lasts from age six to fifteen
  • After that (15 years of age and older), the pupil must choose:
    • vocational training
    • a college of further education or
    • study for a vocational (matura, maturité) school-leaving certificate

Induction classes (classes d'acceuil) are available for children with little or no knowledge of German or French. Suitable teaching brings them up to a certain standard and enables them to be integrated into the normal system.

Childcare, crèche, nursery school, kindergarten

There is a distinction in Switzerland between pre-school (Kindergarten, or Vorschulstuf/enécole enfantine) and childcare outside the family (childminders, day-care mothers, crèches, kindergartens, jardins d'enfants, playgroups and Spielgruppen or nursery schools). These facilities are sometimes run by the communes and frequently by private organisations. After the age of 4 in the Geneva region, and after the age of 4 years and one month in the Zurich region, children can go to pre-school.

Information about what options are available can be obtained from social services of the relevant commune (Département des affaires sociales or de la jeunesse).

For a list of addresses of crèches, kindergartens or nursery schools contact the individual canton's education department (Bildungsdirektion or Bildungsdepartement).

Pre-school, kindergarten

Every child has the opportunity to attend pre-school for one or two years before starting compulsory schooling. Pre-school is free of charge. Pre-school attendance is voluntary except in Geneva, where one year is compulsory. Pre-schools take children from the age of four onwards and are the responsibility of the school authorities of the communes (or the local administration). Foreign, newly-arrived children need to provide a health insurance certificate before they can be enrolled.

Primary level

This is the first part of compulsory education. A child may begin primary schooling at age six (no younger).

Lower secondary level

This is the second part of the compulsory education. The Lower Secondary Level provides a basic general education for children up to the age of 16. It is divided into three difficulty levels depending on the child's abilities.

Upper secondary level

The Upper Secondary Level is split up into general education and vocational education.