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K-12 Education System in Switzerland

The Switzerland K-12 education system is split into the following levels: preschool, primary, and Secondary Education (lower or secondary I, upper secondary or secondary II). The preschool level consists of the kindergarten is financed by the commune. Depending on the canton, children go for one or two years of kindergarten education before starting compulsory schooling. The age at which children begin primary education varies by canton; the youngest is 6. The duration of the primary schooling also varies: in most cantons it is 6 years, while in others it is 4 or 5 years.

Responsibilities and Supervision

The responsibilities for regulation, funding, implementation and management vary according to educational level-Pre-school, primary, lower-secondary and upper-secondary levels and educational institution.

Pre-School, Primary School Level and Lower-Secondary Education

The cantons are in charge for regulation and management of compulsory education, including pre-school and lower-secondary schools. The municipalities contribute to primary schools and pre-schools.

Upper-Secondary Education

Upper-Secondary Education includes Baccalaureate schools and upper-secondary specialised schools and Vocational Education and Training (VET)
  • Baccalaureate schools and Upper-Secondary Specialised Schools:
    The cantons are responsible for supervision and financing the Baccalaureate schools and upper-secondary specialised schools. The Confederation and the cantons are jointly responsible for Swiss-wide recognition of the Baccalaureate.
  • Vocational education and Training (VET): The Confederation, the cantons and the professional organizations jointly are responsible for Vocational and professional education and training. The cantons are responsible for the implementation, supervision and public financing of vocational education and training. The Confederation is responsible for the strategic governance and financing of vocational education and training. The professional organizations and companies contribute to the funding and execute significant tasks in Vocational Education and Training.

Pre-School Education

Depending on the canton, pre-school education lasts one or two years. Attendance of pre-school education is compulsory in 19 cantons. Pre-school prepares children for entry into school. The pre-school curriculum focuses on a holistic, interdisciplinary education leading to a child’s growth. Observation sheets and parent interviews are used as assessment tools for measuring the performance of the children.
  • Enrolment Age: The cantons set the pre-school enrollment age and it is 4 years.

Primary Education

Primary education in Switzerland generally level lasts six years except for Ticino. At primary school level, students develop their intellectual and creativities abilities and skills. Likewise, a sense of responsibility in relation to themselves, the surroundings and the society is being evolved in them.
  • Enrolment Age: The cantons set the enrolment at primary school level. In the majority of the cantons, the minimum age of enrolment at primary school level is between 6 years, 0 months, to 6 years, 3 months. 
  • Duration: 4 to 6 years (Depending on the cantons)
  • Grades: 1 to 8 (including Pre-School education)

Subjects at Primary School

The cantons are responsible for the curriculum. The following subjects are mostly taught at primary school level: language of instructions, foreign languages- a second national language and English), math and natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, music, art and design, health and physical education.

Assessment Mechanism:
At primary school level, academic achievements are measured by means of grades or learning reports. A grade scale of 1 to 6 is used wherein 6 means best grade, 4 refers to sufficient, below 4 indicates insufficient. Many a times, students get a graded report or a learning report twice a year, at the conclusion of each semester. A decision is made at the end of each school year as to whether students can move on to the next grade on the basis of their performance.

Lower-Secondary Education

Lower-secondary education lasts three years, from grades 7 to 9. In four cantons- Aargau (AG), Basel-Stadt (BS), Basel-Landschaft (BL) and Ticino (TI), lower-secondary education starts early and lasts four years from grades 6 to 9.  Students generally start lower-secondary education at the age of eleven. Lower-secondary education promotes the growth of students and encourages them to a life-long learning. It boosts self-responsibility and contributes to personal development, and encourages solving the problems and working independently or collaboratively. It also prepares the students for upper-secondary education.
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Grades: 9 to 11
  • Age group:12 to 15 years

Subjects at Lower-Secondary Level
The following subjects are taught at lower-secondary level: language of schooling, foreign languages, English language, math, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, music, art and design, physical education and wellness, home economics, career guidance and vocational preparation.

Assessment Mechanism: In most cantons, students get graded reports twice a year. A grade scale of 1 to 6 is used wherein 6 indicates best grade, 4 indicates sufficient, below 4 indicates insufficient. In addition to the report, an assessment discussion usually takes place with the students and their parents. Learning behaviour, social conduct and work attitude are also considered for the evaluation. A few cantons conduct a final examination in the core subjects at the end of the term. School leaving certificate is been given after the successful completion of the lower secondary level.

Upper-Secondary Education

Upper-Secondary Education includes general education and vocational education and training (VET) course of studies.
  • Duration: 3 to 4 years
  • Age group:16 to 19 years
General Education: The general education program comprises of the Baccalaureate schools and the upper-secondary specialised schools.
Vocational education and Training (VET)
: In this students learn a particular profession of their interest. It is mostly completed at training companies referred to as apprenticeship, combined with teaching at a VET school.
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