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The Swiss education system

Compulsory schooling in Switzerland

primary school pupil
Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Mandatory education in Switzerland lasts for 11 years. Under the Swiss constitution, schooling is free and open to all children.

The cantons are in charge of education matters, meaning there are currently 26 different school systems. Moves are underway to harmonise schooling in Switzerland.

The cantons are in charge of organising compulsory schooling, which means that there are currently 26 different systems in operation. The Swiss constitution nevertheless stipulates that the cantons should harmonise the main targets and structures of compulsory education. Most cantons have signed an agreement to strengthen coordination in this field.

Primary school lasts eight years, including two years of nursery school or kindergarten. Children generally start their schooling at the age of four, although some cantons make exceptions. Lower secondary school covers three years. Most young people have therefore completed their compulsory education by around the age of 15.

The start and finish of compulsory schooling and the transition from one level to the next can be adapted according to the needs and abilities of each child.


Parents may also enrol their children in private (fee-paying) schools, if the education is deemed equivalent to that of the state system. But they need to obtain authorisation from their municipality of residence beforehand. Almost half of the cantons allow homeschooling, upon request by the families and under certain conditions.


Switzerland being a multilingual country, the language of instruction is German, French, Italian or Romansh depending on the region. Pupils learn a second national language as well as English during their years of compulsory education.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR