Upper Secondary Education in Switzerland

After compulsory education students are transferred to Upper Secondary education, which is further split into General Education programs and Vocational Education and Training programs. Students in the age group 16 to 19 years attend the Upper Secondary Education. The general education program comprises of the Baccalaureate schools and the upper-secondary specialized schools and prepares students for the higher level education programs, while the Vocational education and training (VET) prepares the students for a particular specialized profession.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

In Switzerland, VET comprises professional, general and vocational education subjects. In Vocational Education and Training (VET), knowledge and skills are taught that are imperative for a certain career or professional field. The Vocational Education and Training (VET) is based on a dual system:

  • Practical training of a few days at a company comprising apprenticeship
  • Theoretical classes that includes vocational and general education subjects at the VET school.


Students who have finished lower-secondary education and have attained the age of 14 are eligible for VET. They can apply for an apprenticeship at a training company or enrol in a full-time vocational school. The criteria for selecting a VET student for apprenticeship include the student's performance in Secondary level I (lower-Secondary), the application documents and an interview. Several training companies also want the applicants to pass an aptitude test.

Programs Offered

Vocational education and training (VET) offers the following programs:
  • Two-year Vocational Education and Training (VET) program: The two-year VET program provides a federally recognised professional qualification and readiness for workplace in a particular profession. The two-year VET program leads to a Federal VET Certificate.
  • Three- or four-year VET program: The three- or four-year VET program provides training for work in a particular profession and leads to a Federal VET Diploma.
  • Federal Vocational Baccalaureate program: The Federal Vocational Baccalaureate (FVB) program leads to a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate (FVB) Certificate. It is an extended general education to supplement the three- or four-year VET program for students with higher learning performance. The Federal Vocational Baccalaureate (FVB) provides direct admissions in universities of applied sciences. 

Assessment Mechanism

VET Training Companies: The vocational trainer at the training company maintains a learning report of the student wherein they record the student’s educational status, performance, learning progress and their vocational interest. In the learning documentation, the VET students also record all important work, acquired skills and experience. The learning report is issued once a semester. Technical, social, professional and personal skills and student's performances at the VET school and training company are measured.

VET School: At the VET school, the student's performances in the individual subjects are evaluated after each semester in the form of a report. A 6 point grade system is used wherein 6 refers to best grade, 4 indicates sufficient, below 4 indicates insufficient. 

Baccalaureate Schools

Baccalaureate schools prepare students for higher education. The Confederation and the cantons jointly regulate the recognition of baccalaureate schools. Baccalaureate schools aim to boost intelligence, personality development and health, knowledge and skills in the area of social issues, moral philosophy, politics, science, communication, culture and aesthetics. 
The structure and duration of Baccalaureate education vary according to the canton. 

Eligibility & Duration

To be eligible for Baccalaureate, you need 12 years of schooling at primary and secondary levels-lower-secondary and upper-secondary level. Enrolment in a Baccalaureate school usually occurs in grade 9. Baccalaureate school generally lasts four years. In cantons, Baccalaureate schools lasts three years with enrollment in grade 10 and preparatory Baccalaureate education take place in grade 9 within lower-secondary education. Admissions are based on student's average grades, recommendation and an entrance examination. Entrance examinations are generally taken in written form. Mainly the first language, foreign languages and mathematics are tested.

Subject Offered

The compulsory subjects, main specialism and one secondary specialism are taught at the Baccalaureate schools. A Baccalaureate essay must also be completed.
  • Compulsory Subjects: The following subjects are compulsory subjects: national language, a second national language, a third language, Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography, Visual arts and music, law and economics. 
  • Main Specialism: The specialised subject can be selected from eight subjects or groups of subjects, and the complementary subject from fourteen. 

Assessment Mechanism

The cantons manage assessment of students and it is based on the curriculum learning objectives. Performance is measured by a grade scale of 1 to 6 wherein 6 indicates best grade, 4 indicates sufficient, below 4 indicates insufficient. At the end of the school year, a graded report is issued depicting the detailed performance of the student.

Baccalaureate Certificate

At the end of the Baccalaureate program, a written Baccalaureate examination along with an oral examination is taken in at least five Baccalaureate subjects. The examination subjects are the first language, a second national language, mathematics, the main specialism and one further subject. The Baccalaureate grades are determined by the performance in the examination subjects, Baccalaureate essay and the performance during the concluding year of education. If successfully passed the examination, a Baccalaureate Certificate is issued.

Specialised Schools

Upper-secondary specialised schools are schools which provide general education and profession-specific basic knowledge and skills at upper-secondary level. They provide training for professional education and training (PET) in specific occupational fields at PET colleges and universities of applied sciences.  The general education comprises languages and communication, math and natural sciences, social sciences, law, artistic subjects and sports. The program at the Upper-Secondary specialised schools leads to a Swiss recognised upper-secondary specialised school certificate. This qualification allows admission to PET colleges in the studied occupational field.

Enrolment Conditions

Enrolment at an upper-secondary specialised school occurs at the age of 14, i.e. after compulsory education. The admission requirements are regulated by each canton. Entrance examination and interviews are the basis of the admissions. 

Specialised Baccalaureate Program

The specialised Baccalaureate program is a one-year additional course leading to a Swiss recognised Specialised Baccalaureate. Specialised Baccalaureate leads to direct admission to specific studies at universities of applied sciences in the studied occupational field and direct admission to studies for pre-school and primary-school-level teachers at a university of teacher education.

Assessment Mechanism

The cantons manage and administer the evaluation of students. The performance of the students is assessed using a grade scale of 1 to 6 wherein 6 indicates best grade, 4 indicates sufficient, below 4 indicates insufficient. At the end of the term, a graded report is issued indicating about the performance of the pupil. The program ends with a final examination, in which at least six subjects are tested, of which at least one is professional area related. The examination is either oral, written, or both, depending on the subject.
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