Schooling and Education

Public school vs. international school

When coming to Switzerland with school-aged children, you may be faced with a dilemma: Swiss public school or an international school? All of Switzerland’s schools, both public and international, have a very good reputation. Education is one of Switzerland’s major strengths and is the country’s main asset to uphold its position in in the top flight of the scientific and economic world. There is an excellent variety of public, semi-private, private and international schools in Switzerland. Choosing the right school for your children requires you to be well informed, organised and openminded.

Kids going to school

Public School System

The public schools are highly respected. 95% of Swiss parents, regardless of income or education, choose to send their children to a local school. Class sizes are small (between 20 to 25 children). The state gymnasium (grammar/high schools) offer a rigorous programme, resulting at age 18 in a bi-lingual Matura or in some cases a bilingual IB (International Baccalaureate).

All newcomers in Switzerland receive free German support (DAZ = Deutsch als Zweitsprache / German as a second language) either in a special integration class or a regular class.

Schools are assigned by the authorities on the basis of the home address. If a nearby school is full or cannot offer a German integration programme, children may have to travel further. The system is very child-centred and young children up to the end of primary (age 12) attend school every morning and one to three afternoons a week. Wednesday afternoon is left free for the children to pursue their interests e.g. a sports team, playing a musical instrument.

Switzerland has no federal education authority or national curriculum. This can make moving between different cantons with children a frustrating experience, not only with regard to the language of instruction. Depending on the canton, the main language spoken in the classroom is German (as it is in Canton Zürich and Zug), French or Italian. Traditionally, the second language would be one of the remaining two official languages of Switzerland. In recent years, however, there has been a trend towards teaching English as the first foreign language at school.

Public schools include 2 years of kindergarten, 6 years of primary and 3 years of secondary school followed by the highly respected apprenticeship system or 4 years gymnasium (6 years if already started after primary school). Gymnasium students leaving with the Matura have a high level in their languages and maths. The Matura is becoming an increasingly portable qualification, recognised as valuable by universities such as Oxford and Cambridge in Great Britain as well as MIT in the United States.

The school year in Switzerland runs from mid August until the beginning of July. Private international schools operate from the end of August to the end of June

 

Child Care

Should you have little children and seek a child-care option, then there are a number of different daycare centres available. From English-speaking day centres to German or even bilingual establishments. We can provide more details on request.

 

Private Schools

While local schools offer an excellent level of education and one of the best routes to longterm integration, they are not for everyone. We are fortunate in Canton Zürich to have a selection of private schooling solutions with excellent curricula. For mobile families who are only planning a short stay in Zürich, there are also options. In close proximity, private schools in Canton Zug and Pfäffikon offer even more options.