The Swiss school system: what parents need to know
When coming to Switzerland for the first time, trying to find the right school for your child may seem daunting. The myriad of different choices are outlined in Robin Hull's A guide to the Swiss educational system, which provides parents with a one-stop shop to help find the right school, and the right qualifications for their child, to achieve their educational goals.
For families wanting to come to Switzerland to live, work and raise children, one of the first things to think about is schooling. While Swiss schools are excellent at providing high-quality education, the system may not be for everyone.
Guide to Swiss school qualifications
Parents of expats, international Swiss people (those who want to live in Switzerland permanently) and locals want the best for their children, and where to send their child to school is typically one of the things parents start thinking about before moving to a new country. A large number of parents have moved to Switzerland over the years, and many are choosing to stay for longer periods of time.
This means that your child needs a plan for secondary and possibly higher education in the Swiss school system. While this may be simple for children with a firm knowledge of German, French or Italian, to some that either struggle to learn languages, or have come to Switzerland at an older age, options can be limited.
Swiss Matura (Maturitätszeugnis)
Starting with the Swiss system, the system of Matura and professional qualifications provides an excellent range of subjects, including mandatory algebra and language courses. The system appeals to those who are adept at a wide range of subjects and is the best way to secure vocational education and qualifications within Switzerland itself.
However, the system does require a strong understanding of two national languages of Switzerland. There is no bilingual system of education that includes English as it is only offered as a subject. In addition, the Swiss system is designed so that only around 15 percent of the population attend university, choosing instead to offer a wide range of apprenticeships and vocational courses.
The range of subjects offered also presents an issue for those who wish to study abroad, as many universities struggle to recognise the value of a Matura or understand what to offer. This means that, if you want your child to pursue an education in English or hope to send your child to university abroad, the Matura is best avoided.
The International Baccalaureate is one of the most notable international qualifications for high school students. With a strong emphasis on theory of knowledge and learning systems, the IB is seen as one of the best primers for university education. The curriculum is recognised by universities around the world, making it easier to secure a university degree abroad.
However, like the Matura, the IB can be a challenge for children that aren’t “all-rounders,” as the system requires mandatory mathematics, humanities and sciences. Much like the Matura, it is praised for the breadth of subjects offered, but does not offer the depth of subjects or level of flexibility like A-levels do.
A-levels and IGCSE
Finally, A-levels and IGCSEs are the international variations of the standard school leaving certificates in the UK, meaning that they are some of the most recognised qualifications in the world and can be one of the best tools for applying to Russell Group universities (a group of 24 of the most esteemed universities in the UK). The limited subject structure means that students can obtain a deep knowledge of their chosen field and avoid subjects they may struggle with.
Understand the choices on offer
The message is that it is crucial for parents to find out about the Swiss education system so that they can make informed decisions about their child’s education. If you have a child approaching secondary school age, it is important that you understand the choices on offers and where said choices lead in the long term.
This is only a wide overview of what Robin Hull’s book has to offer. A guide to the Swiss educational system is the first comprehensive guide to the school system in Switzerland, targeted at expats and international Swiss who want to make Switzerland their permanent home.