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This is how the education system works in Switzerland

Updated on November 15, 2023

Are you moving to Switzerland with children? Then it is important for you to know how the education system works in Switzerland. Switzerland offers your children many opportunities and a high-quality education.


Kindergarten is the first obligatory stage of education, lasts two years and usually starts at the age of 5. While public kindergartens are free of charge, there are also a large number of private kindergartens, although they can cost up to several thousand francs per year.

Primary level (elementary school)

After kindergarten, children enter primary school, which today lasts 6 years in most cantons. Vacations as well as the contents of the program vary from canton to canton. Grading is standardized in Switzerland, with 6 as the best grade. At the end of the primary level, an overall assessment is made, whereby it is decided at which learning level they will enter the subsequent secondary level.

Secondary level 1

Secondary level 1 usually lasts three years and serves to deepen general knowledge as well as the acquisition of various social skills. In addition to obligatory main subjects, your children can individualize their learning thanks to the range of optional subjects, such as languages.

There are three learning levels, which are called differently depending on the canton. In the canton of Zurich, for example, they are called Sek A, B and C (A - highest level, C - lowest level), while in the canton of Aargau the highest level is called Bezirksschule, followed by Sekundar- and Realschule.

Towards the end of this level, children are concerned with plans for the future. They are asked to decide what they want to do after obligatory schooling, and there are various options at secondary level 2.

For students who have not found a follow-up solution, there is also the option of first attending a vocational preparation year. During this preparatory year, also known as the 10th school year, the young people are supported by teachers and career counselors.

Secondary level 2

Vocational apprenticeship

The duration and schooling during vocational apprenticeships vary a lot. On average, they last about 3 years. During this time, the apprentices attend school 2-3 days per week, on the other days they are trained in the company. At the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentices take a final exam, which consists of a school-based and a practical part. If they pass the exam, they receive a federal certificate of proficiency (EFZ).

In addition, there is also the possibility of completing a vocational baccalaureate during or after the apprenticeship. This entitles them to attend a University of Applied Sciences at the tertiary level.

Gymnasium (Cantonal School)

The Gymnasium, called Kantonsschule in Switzerland, is chosen by about 20% of the students. They acquire and deepen their knowledge in various subjects such as mathematics, languages, history, geography, biology, chemistry and physics. Thanks to various optional subjects and specializations, the students can also deepen their knowledge according to their interests.

Secondary technical school (FMS)

The Fachmittelschule lasts three years (four years with the Fachmaturität) and, in addition to a deepening of knowledge in various subjects, already provides more specific professional knowledge, depending on the chosen field.

There are also schools at secondary level 2, such as the Handelsmittelschule or the Informatikmittelschule.

Tertiary level

Higher technical college (HF)

The HF can be attended after the vocational apprenticeship, with which a federally recognized degree can be acquired at the tertiary level. In addition, federal vocational and technical examinations can also be taken at this school. The costs vary greatly.

The Höhere Fachschule in the chosen professional field can also be attended by FMS graduates who attended this school for only 3 years.

University of Applied Sciences (FH) / University of Teacher Education (PH)

With the vocational baccalaureate or an internship after the baccalaureate, a University of Applied Sciences in the same professional field can be attended. Universities of applied sciences or universities of teacher education are more practice-oriented than a university, but similar in terms of level. The semester fees are also the same as at the university, at around 600-800 francs. Also admitted to the UAS or PH in the chosen field are FMS graduates who have obtained the Fachmaturität after 4 years.


Those who have attended a Gymnasium or a Berufsmatur with a subsequent Passarelle can study at a university such as the University of Zurich, the ETH or the University of Bern. Switzerland applies the Bologna system and, as with UAS, a bachelor's degree can be earned with 180 ETCS. Since the range of study programs is very diverse and of high quality, many international students are also enrolled here.


Are you new to Switzerland and looking for a suitable school for your children? We would be happy to support you in this process.

Evgeniy Timoshenko

Do you have any questions? Get in touch with me.

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