Schooling and Education
Since the Swiss educational system is organized in accordance with the federal political structure, each canton is responsible for its own education system and there can be significant variations from region to region.
Generally children attend public schools. They are free of charge.
Children are not yet required to attend kindergarten, but most children do. They are not taught to read and write, but develop their social capabilities. Children may attend kindergarten for one or two years, starting at the age of four, five or six depending on the date of birth (different for the cantons) and the duration of the kindergarten.
Elementary school is mandatory for all children. Schooling starts at the age of six or seven and lasts at least eight, usually nine years. During the last three years of compulsory education Switzerland provides different levels of education.
Secondary school (gymnasium)
Children who perform well in elementary school may transfer to the gymnasium (grammar school) at about the age of 13 or after the 8th or 9th year of elementary school, depending on the track they would like to attend. You may choose different tracks, such as for example the mathematics and science programme or modern languages. All secondary schools lead to the so called Eidgenössische Matura / Maturité fédérale / Esame svizzero di maturità ("federal graduation diploma") which is recognized at all universities in Switzerland and at most universities in foreign countries.
Vocational education and training (apprenticeship)
Vocational education and training (apprenticeship) provides two thirds of young adults in Switzerland with a solid professional basis for lifelong learning and offers a wealth of job prospects. Training in the industry combined with vocational college training is the most common form of basic professional training. Depending on the profession, an apprenticeship takes two to four years. Apprenticeships include all kinds of professions, from tradesman/woman (mechanics, carpenter, baker, hairdresser, etc.) to office worker (secretary, bookkeeper, IT specialist, etc.).
The tertiary level comprises universities (incl. universities of applied sciences and arts and universities of teacher education) and, as a second important pillar, institutions providing professional education and training (PET). The latter are aimed at people with professional experience, enabling them to gain specialist education and additional qualifications such as a diploma from a PET college or federal and advanced federal PET diplomas. Here you find a list of the recognized or accredited Swiss Higher Education Institutions.
Private schools have a long tradition in Switzerland, above all in the French-speaking part of the country. They are primarily attended by foreign children and benefit from a reputation, which extends beyond national borders. Have a look a the website of the Swiss Federation of Private Schools.