The Swiss School System

The Swiss school system is quite straight forward until the lower secondary level. Compulsory schooling lasts for nine years and is free for all children. It is made up of two levels: primary and lower secondary level.


Children can go to kindergarten from the age of 4, cut off date is October 30th. The first year is considered a voluntary year and they have two beginning dates in August and February.

Primary level

The first level of compulsory schooling is primary school. Children start primary school at around the age of six. Primary school lasts six years in most cantons.

Lower-secondary level

The second level of compulsory schooling is lower-secondary school. It lasts three years in most cantons.

Upper-secondary level

After this comes the time for the big decisions as the child must decide which path they want to take, do an apprenticeship or attend a school providing general education such as a baccalaureate school or an upper-secondary specialised school.


If they opt for a classic apprenticeship, a young person must choose a suitable occupation with the help of careers advice and find an apprenticeship. During their apprenticeship they also attend an upper-secondary vocational school and obtain a relevant qualification at the end of their course, usually at the age of 18 or 19. In Switzerland there is little stigma attached to doing an apprenticeship, on the contrary it is seen as a great way to get work experience whilst studying.
After completing a three or four-year vocational education and training programme, you can obtain a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate. This allows you to study at a university of applied sciences without having to take an entrance exam.

Upper-secondary school

Students attending an upper-secondary baccalaureate or specialised school receive a general education which prepares them for higher education (tertiary-level), i.e. they are being prepared to go onto university. There is an unwritten rule that only roughly 20% of children should attend a school leading to the baccalaureate and this means that only children with very good grades get to attend.


The universities in Switzerland offer excellent education and best of all are virtually free.

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