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Swiss education system

Below is a summary of how the Swiss education system is organised.

This content was published on September 1, 2003 - 07:50

Compulsory schooling lasts nine years. The school year may not be of fewer than 38 weeks’ duration, and must begin in August or September.

To gain the school leaving diploma (Matura), children must have attended school for at least 12 years, but not more than 13.

For the nine years of compulsory schooling, public education is free of charge.

The costs, excluding the cost of educational materials, are covered by the municipalities and cantons.

Some municipalities also pay for text books, exercise books and similar items, but this is now the exception rather than the rule.

Nursery schooling: generally available for a maximum of one or two years, rarely compulsory.

Primary schooling: in 20 cantons, primary education lasts for six years; in the others, five or four years.

In the first year, pupils attend 21 hours of lessons a week. In the fifth and sixth years, weekly attendance is 32 hours. Performance is measured by marks given, assessment interviews and reports.

Secondary schooling (level 1): the nine years of compulsory schooling are completed at middle school (equivalent to English key stages 3 and 4). There are two or three types of middle school, catering for different levels of learning ability.

The transfer from primary to middle school is decided on teachers’ recommendations. The number of lessons varies from 27 to 37 per week (the average is 34).

The costs of primary and secondary (level 1) schooling amount to 9.75 billion Swiss francs per annum, borne by the Confederation (0.2%), the cantons (38.8%) and the municipalities (61.1%).

Secondary schooling (level 2): education at this level is dispensed by vocational schools and high schools.

Further education: universities, colleges of education, higher vocational colleges, institutes of applied science.

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