Types of school in Switzerland

Types of school in Switzerland

Switzerland has various types of school to complement the school system. Swiss schools are known for their high quality of education and a large amount of diversity in the curriculum. Particularly in secondary education, parents and students have a large amount of choice within the public and private system as to where they are educated, with most schools specialising in certain fields or subjects to prepare the student for higher education or working.

Primary school types in Switzerland

The curriculum and school structure in Switzerland is determined by your local county (canton). Each canton has its own system of funding and allocating school places, with some smaller cantons subsidising students to attend private school if there are no public school places available. Typically, most primary students attend the school run by their local council (Gemeinde), although some communities have started to combine their services into larger facilities.

Public primary schools

Over 90 percent of primary students attend public primary schools. Students attend these schools for six to eight years, with studies focusing on personal development and career planning.  Although each canton has control over its curriculum, state education is closely monitored by national authorities to ensure a high standard of learning.

Montessori schools

Montessori schools are primary schools that adhere to the curriculum devised by Italian educator Maria Montessori. These schools recognise a child’s independence from a young age and base many of their classes on curiosity and real-world resourcefulness. There is a high emphasis on learning through experience and play, nurturing their children to learn through natural experience and socialising. Although permitted in all cantons, some cantons will require two years of higher primary school after Montessori before moving into an apprenticeship or gymnasium.

Religious schools

Religious schools are schools that use a curriculum that follows a specific religion or denomination. These can range from Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish, or Imam schools. Although you will be required to respect the religion of the school, there are some cases where you do not have to be a practising member in order to join. For example, many of the best boarding schools and private academies in French Switzerland are technically Catholic schools.

Secondary education

Once you have completed mandatory primary school, the Swiss system gives you a myriad of choice when it comes to secondary education. These can range from public gymnasium schools to schools for expats. The school system in Switzerland splits students in secondary to those who are pursuing a Matura certificate and those who are seeking a vocational qualification, leading to a diverse range of different schools with different specialisations. In addition, if your child has completed the mandatory 11 years of schooling, they can leave.

Public gymnasium

If your child has been successful in applying for a place in a long or short gymnasium, they will then attend a gymnasium of their choice. These facilities are considered to be extremely competitive schools that emphasise educational excellence above anything else. These schools are known for their excellent teaching and rigorous standards.

Types of Swiss gymnasium

When you are choosing your gymnasium, it is important to find out what the school specialises in. Due to the relaxed approach to the subjects required to earn a Matura, all gymnasiums have specialised in different subjects. Some of the most common specialisations are:

  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Humanities
  • Languages
  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Sport

Vocational training colleges

If your child has chosen to take an apprenticeship, they will be assigned a vocational training college. These colleges are designed to provide education to gain the knowledge required to perform their apprenticeship. The amount of time spent in vocational college differs depending on the type of apprenticeship selected, with professional qualifications usually adhering to a 50 / 50 split between school and work. These colleges provide the benefit of professional qualifications with the practical guarantee of work.

International schools

Unfortunately, very few state institutions offer courses in English. If you would like your child to learn in English or in a dual language school, it is recommended to attend an international school. These schools provide a welcoming and diverse atmosphere for your child, as well as the security of not having to learn a language of Switzerland immediately. These schools typically offer a Matura, IB diploma, A level or SAT as a final qualification.

Is homeschooling allowed in Switzerland?

Only 0,2 percent of the child population are homeschooled in Switzerland. As of 2021, only 16 of the 26 cantons permit homeschooling. The subject is often the subject of local referendums, with many cantons looking to restrict the practice; citing the wellbeing of the child and their development without a school structure.

In order to homeschool in Switzerland, you must declare that your child is homeschooled annually, paying an administrative fee.

Some of the cantons that allow homeschooling have additional requirements listed below.

Homeschooling allowed after registration

  • Aargau
  • Appenzell Ausserrhoden
  • Geneva
  • Jura
  • Lucerne
  • Neuchatel
  • Vaud
  • Zurich

Homeschooling only allowed with a teaching licence

  • Appenzell Innerrhoden
  • Schwyz
  • Glarus
  • Graubunden
  • Fribourg
  • Schaffhausen
  • Thurgau
  • Solothurn
  • Valais

Homeschooling allowed with registration and regular assessments by a teacher

Homeschooling allowed if no places in public school available

  • Basel Land
  • Basel Stadt 

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