Home > Relocation > This is how the education system works in Switzerland

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.

TOP 10 cities in Switzerland

Switzerland is one of the most beautiful and interesting countries in the world. Therefore, a lot of expats move to Switzerland with their families. We have listed the ten most popular swiss cities and given you a short review of them.

How to immigrate to Switzerland

Impressive scenery, good career prospects and an excellent standard of living, have long made Switzerland an attractive destination for immigrants.

Pros and cons of living in Switzerland: What expats need to know

Switzerland is a great destination for expats, but every nation has its ups and downs. If you’re new to the country, or if you’re just in the process of planning your move, you should know what to expect. We’ve got the greatest advantages & disadvantages (plus how to deal with them!) about life in Switzerland laid out for you.

How to find a home in Switzerland

If you are planning to immigrate to Switzerland, you should already in advance plan where to stay.

Where to enjoy the snow despite corona

The corona situation in Switzerland is still critical. If you still don't want to miss out on some fun and sport, you'll get your money's worth when visiting ski resorts.

The 10 most bizarre laws in Switzerland

Switzerland is very famous for its many laws and obligations. Here are some of the most bizarre ones.

Hiking in Switzerland

Switzerland has the longest, densest, most varied and best waymarked network of hiking trails. In so many ways a record breaker. In total in Switzerland there are 65’000 kilometers of waymarked trails at all levels of difficulties. We have gathered the most important information for hiking in Switzerland.

Top 10 sights in Switzerland

We have summed up for you the ten most beautiful and interesting sights in Switzerland.

Find love in Switzerland

Conditions, qualities and expectations vary from country to country. Therefore, it is important that you are aware and know how the dating scene works in Switzerland and what Swiss men and women value and love.

Childcare options in Switzerland

The range of childcare options in Switzerland is very diverse and wide-ranging. Find out in this article which childcare options are available for your children and which one best suits your needs.

Find a job in Switzerland

Good career opportunities, numerous further qualification possibilities and an attractive salary. These are the things that define the Swiss labour market. The world of work is stable and the unemployment rate has been low for many years, which is one of the many reasons why the Swiss labour market is one of the best in the world.

Studying in Switzerland

You already know that Switzerland offers very good educational opportunities and great career prospects. But did you know that the study opportunities are also just as diverse?

Find friends in Switzerland

As you already know from our article on "How to find love in Switzerland", making new contacts in Switzerland is not that easy. But that doesn't mean it's impossible - you just have to know how. Read on to find out more!

Traditions in Switzerland

From amusing, charming to brutal traditions - Switzerland has a variety of traditions and customs to offer. Around 200 different ones are still practiced today. We are pleased to introduce you to four of the best known living Swiss traditions.

What do Swiss people do in their free time?

It's no secret that the Swiss work a lot - but what do they actually do on their days off or after work? Find out in this article which are the most popular Swiss hobbies.

The 12 most important apps in Switzerland

Everyday life for newcomers can be challenging and often you don't know where to get the right support. In this article, we have compiled the most important apps that will simplify your life in Switzerland.

The 10 most exciting museums in Switzerland

Switzerland has a wide range of leisure activities to offer. This also includes museums. Whether culture, science or art - visitors are fascinated by what Switzerland has to offer. In this article, we have selected the 10 most exciting museums for you from over 1130.

How the Swiss celebrate Easter

In all parts of the world, Easter is a good reason to share hope, confidence and joy with loved ones and create unforgettable moments together. But every country has different customs and traditions and so does Switzerland. In this article we will acquaint you with the most common and popular Swiss traditions during Easter time!

The spring festival Sechseläuten

The Sechseläuten, also known as Sächsilüüte, is a spring festival in Zurich that has been held every spring in the center of Sechseläutenplatz since 1902. On April 25, the Sechseläuten took place. In this article you will learn the exciting story behind the spring festival.

Things you can do this spring

Springtime - The favorite season for many people. And rightfully so. The weather is cooperating, the list of activities is endless and the anticipation for summer is huge. Want to be as active as possible this spring but don't know where to start? We have put together a list of the best activities for you to make your choice easier!

Sustainable living in Switzerland

Sustainability is a topic that is becoming increasingly important and more and more people are addressing it. Whether it's reducing plastic consumption or separating garbage, everyone can make a contribution to more sustainability in their everyday lives. In this article, you will find out how you can make your everyday life more environmentally friendly.

Sechseläuten: A living cultural heritage of Zurich with customs, tradition and enthusiasm

The Sechseläuten is a centuries-old tradition at the beginning of spring in Zurich. It always takes place on the third Monday in April. Besides historically costumed guild members, bands, horses, flowers, flags and the "Böögg" characterize the festival. Nowadays, the Böögg is even the main figure and symbolizes winter. He is burned on a pyre just in time for the six o'clock chimes of the Grossmünster church. And the faster his head, filled with fireworks, explodes, the more beautiful summer will be. At least that's what they say in Zurich.

How to avoid fines if you are new in switzerland

Living as an expat in Switzerland is an exciting journey full of new discoveries and experiences, but it also comes with numerous laws and regulations to adhere to. Switzerland takes fines seriously – violations of the many local regulations are quickly punished with fines. Here's how you can avoid unpleasant surprises and integrate smoothly.

Evgeniy Timoshenko

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

Follow us