The Education and School System in Switzerland

The Swiss Education System

Switzerland has a top-quality education system characterized by openness and mobility. This is evidenced by the latest WEF study, which once again gave Switzerland top marks.

Each child in Switzerland attends school for nine years. This basic education is compulsory and free of charge. At the end of this nine-year period there are a number of paths that can be chosen, whether an apprenticeship, a university of applied sciences, or an academic university in the classic sense. Around 95% of all children in Switzerland attend public (state) school.


Responsibility for education is divided between the federal government, the cantons and the communes, thereby reflecting Switzerland’s diverse cultures and languages.

Primary responsibility lies with the cantons, which is why there are, in effect, 26 education systems. These differ in certain aspects, but all follow similar fundamental principles. Standard rules apply to the age at which children start school, the start and duration of the school year, and the length of compulsory schooling.

Structure of the Swiss Education System

The Swiss education system is made up of the following levels:

  • Primary (including 2 years of pre-school (Kindergarten); 8 years in total)
  • Lower secondary (3 years)
  • Upper secondary (basic vocational training, academic Baccalaureate schools and specialist upper secondary schools)
  • Tertiary (higher education institutions and higher-level vocational training)
  • Continuing education

The graphic alongside shows a simplified form of Switzerland’s education system, along with the corresponding level under the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) system, thus permitting an international comparison.

Compulsory Schooling

Compulsory schooling generally begins at the age of four and lasts for eleven years. It comprises the primary and lower secondary levels, after which students move to an upper secondary school, which continues for a further two to four years.

Detailed information on the entire Swiss education system and its individual levels can be found on the Swiss education server.

The internet platforms run by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation also offers a good overview of the Swiss education system and public (state) schools. Look for «Klick auf die Schweiz» (German).