Although it is surrounded by EU states, Switzerland itself is not a member as its independent citizens rejected the accession in a 2001 referendum. Switzerland however has been part of the United Nations since 2002 and relations with the EU are now based on bilateral agreements. Neutrality is a big part of the Swiss national identity and the Switzerland tend to stay clear of global clashes since it adopted a neutral stance in 1815
Switzerland is a top choice for professionals and students from around the world for academic, business, and professional development. There are excellent educational opportunities in Switzerland that can help with career advancement, as well as having the opportunity to develop a network that can span Europe. Taking courses in Switzerland will provide not only a top-notch educational program, but also a cultural experience in a lovely and beautiful country.
The official languages of Switzerland are German (North, Central and Eastern Switzerland), French (Western Switzerland), Italian (Southern Switzerland) and Romansh – a derivative of Latin (South-Eastern Switzerland). It is possible to study in all three official languages in Switzerland. A good knowledge of the language of instruction is required.
In Switzerland, more than 90% of the children go to public schools, which are rated among the best worldwide. About 20% of the Swiss population is foreign, and your child will have a choice of bilingual schools, international schools, boarding schools and foreign schools. These schools can be either public or private.
Switzerland is a country that considers knowledge and education extremely important resources. So much so that the education of this country is recognized worldwide and students get high results in mathematics and science in relation to the rest of the countries of Europe.
The education system is decentralized and each of the 26 cantons run its own education system. Some contents vary from one canton to another. Cantons choose what languages are taught in which schools, the length of the school day, the syllabus and the enrolment ages. Depending on the canton, schools teach either in German, in French, in Italian or in Romansh. The Conference of Cantonal Directors of Public Education tries to coordinate canton school systems, but its power to do is limited. The federal government and the cantons’ governments share responsibilities for higher education.
Every child in Switzerland must go to school up to and including grade nine (around the age of 15), after which students are funnelled into apprenticeships, specialised programmes or university tracks.
The minimum enrolment age for kindergarten (four years) and the cut-off date (July 31) have been harmonised in cantons which have adopted a nationwide agreement.
Primary school generally begins at age six. It is compulsory and free. At the end of the primary level, a child must continue on to lower secondary schooling. As with kindergarten, parents must register their child with the local educational authorities.
Lower secondary school (Secondary I) is compulsory and free and marks the final stages of mandatory education. Children in these grades tend to be between 12 and 15. There is no nationwide exam at the end of ninth grade – the final year – so students receive no graduation certificate.
Children are divided up based on performance, teacher recommendations and perhaps a test. Testing, behaviour and work attitudes are used to determine whether a child continues to the next grade level.
At the age of 16, pupils move to Upper secondary education (Secondary II level), which generally lasts three to four years. Upper secondary education is not mandatory and is divided into two groups: general education and vocational. About 20-30% of students go to a senior high school (commonly called “gymnasium” in German, “gymnase” or “lycée” in French and “liceo” in Italian). More than two-thirds are streamed into vocational training.
This means the trainee spends most of his or her time working for an approved employer but attends a vocational school for one or two days a week.
Senior high schools are jointly regulated by cantonal and federal authorities but cantonal authorities often set admission requirements. In most cantons, an entrance exam is a critical component to determine whether a student can study at such a school.
At the end of their senior high school studies, students must do a type of thesis as well as pass a series of examinations that, if successfully completed, result in a matura – high school leaving certificate – that allows admission to cantonal universities and Federal Institutes of Technology. Certain tests may still apply for university admission if, for instance, a French-speaker wishes to study medicine in a German-speaking region.