Jump to content
Your browser is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this websites. Learn how to update your browser[Close]
 See in another language: 1  Languages: 1

Every child in Switzerland must go to school up to and including grade nine (around the age of 15), after which students are funnelled into apprenticeships, specialised programmes or university tracks.

Responsibility for educating the young falls to the cantons and municipalities, each of which has its own requirements and programmes. Efforts are underway to harmonise the educational system across the cantons.

Switzerland also has some of the best – and most expensive – private schools in the world ranging from kindergarten up to university age. The Swiss Private Schools Federation has more information on the 240 schools in the system.

For a graphic representation of how the school system is organised in Switzerland, visit the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education.


The minimum enrolment age for kindergarten is set by the cantons. It is usually between the age of four years and four years nine months. Kindergarten lasts until a child has to begin primary school (age six by a certain cut-off date).

Under a nationwide agreement, two years of kindergarten will become the norm across Switzerland. The minimum enrolment age (four years) and the cut-off date (July 31) will be harmonised in cantons which have adopted the agreement.

To register a child in school, contact educational authorities in your particular canton. You can find a list of them at the Swiss Education Server website.

Primary school

Primary school generally begins at age six – this will also be harmonised among the cantons. It is compulsory and free. Cantons and municipalities are responsible for organising and funding primary schools – often defined as the first six years of schooling (give or take a few years) not including kindergarten or pre-school.

As with kindergarten, you must register your child with the local educational authorities. You can find a list of them at the Swiss Education Server website.

Lower secondary school

At the end of the primary level, a child must continue on to lower secondary schooling, which lasts for three to five years, depending on the canton and municipality. This schooling is compulsory and free and marks the final stages of mandatory education. Children in these grades tend to be between 12 and 15. There is no nationwide exam at the end of ninth grade – the final year – so students receive no graduation certificate. 

Children are divided up based on performance, teacher recommendations and perhaps a test. Testing, behaviour and work attitudes are used to determine whether a child continues to the next grade level.

Lower secondary teaching provides basic, general education (such as maths, geography and two foreign languages). Students at this level are being groomed for vocational education and apprenticeships or for continuing education at an upper secondary school.

Here is more information on what is taught at the lower-secondary level.

Upper secondary education

Upper secondary education is not mandatory and is divided into two groups: general education and vocational. About 20-30% of students go to a senior high school (commonly called “gymnasium” in German, “gymnase” or “lycée” in French and “liceo” in Italian). Most students get apprenticeships and vocational training. For information on the latter, please see the section on Work Life, Apprenticeships.

Senior high schools are jointly regulated by cantonal and federal authorities but cantonal authorities often set admission requirements. In most cantons, an entrance exam is a critical component to determine whether a student can study at such a school.

At the end of their senior high school studies, students must do a type of thesis as well as pass a series of examinations that, if successfully completed, result in a matura – or baccalaureate – certificate that allows admission to cantonal universities and Federal Institutes of Technology. Certain tests may still apply for university admission if, for instance, a French-speaker wishes to study medicine in a German-speaking region.

For more on senior high schools, including how adults can earn a matura certificate, please see the Swiss Education site.



All rights reserved. The content of the website by swissinfo.ch is copyrighted. It is intended for private use only. Any other use of the website content beyond the use stipulated above, particularly the distribution, modification, transmission, storage and copying requires prior written consent of swissinfo.ch. Should you be interested in any such use of the website content, please contact us via contact@swissinfo.ch.

As regards the use for private purposes, it is only permitted to use a hyperlink to specific content, and to place it on your own website or a website of third parties. The swissinfo.ch website content may only be embedded in an ad-free environment without any modifications. Specifically applying to all software, folders, data and their content provided for download by the swissinfo.ch website, a basic, non-exclusive and non-transferable license is granted that is restricted to the one-time downloading and saving of said data on private devices. All other rights remain the property of swissinfo.ch. In particular, any sale or commercial use of these data is prohibited.