Living in Switzerland – Information and counselling online  


Education is publicly funded and run by the state in Switzerland. The 26 Cantonal authorities are responsible for all levels of education, from nursery to university. Pre-school and compulsory school are financed and run by the Cantons in collaboration with local communal councils. As a result there are wide variations in methods and curricula programmes from canton to canton. Work on harmonising the Swiss schools is ongoing (HarmoS project). 

Please note:    Moving to a different canton and the subsequent change in school systems can represent a major difficulty for school children, despite attempts to harmonise. 
There are two Swiss Higher Institutes of Technology, in Lausanne (EPFL) and Zurich (EPFZ), under the responsibility of the Swiss Federal Authorities. 

School Year and holidays

The school year begins between mid-August and mid-Spetember. Children in compulsory school have 12 or 13 weeks holidays per year. Semester dates vary between cantons and communes. 

Pre school

All cantons offer children aged four and five one or two optional years of Pre-School.   One aim of the HarmoS project is to make pre-school compulsory so that all children begin school on an equal footing.  

Primary and lower secondary

Compulsory education is free to everyone in state schools. School begins for all children aged 6 years old and lasts 9 years. Compulsory education is generally divided into 6 years of primary school and 3 years of lower secondary (secondary level 1) until aged around 16. 
A large number of young people choose to continue their education, taking higher secondary (secondary level II) studies between 16 and 19 years of age.   These studies lead to entrance to Universities and Technological Institutes, as well as higher professional education. 
Alongside the state education system, there is a wide range of private schools and institutions offering all levels of education and training.  

Higher and further education

There is a wide range of professional and academic education on offer in Switzerland. Students can choose to follow any type of studies; schools and universities set entrance conditions that candidates must fulfil and there is usually a variety of routes in. Students may attend the university of his/her choice. However, in the case of professional training courses that include work placements restrictions in the choice of institution may apply.
Higher and further education qualifications and diplomas are nationally recognised, facilitating national and international mobility of students and professionals.  


In this section: Life-long education, Education grants, Post-compulsory education, Recognition of foreign qualifications, Universities and higher education, Language courses, Pre-school, Entry for educational purposes, Pre-school, Compulsory school, Professional training

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