Shelves filled with books.
Education is a driver of innovation and is often regarded in Switzerland as the country's 'greatest commodity'. © Pixabay

The Swiss education system is split into three levels and in essence gives pupils and students the choice between two main channels: one based on an academic education, as in many other countries; the other vocational, leading directly to a qualification as a skilled worker.

The education system is split into three levels: primary, secondary and tertiary. Compulsory schooling comprises the primary level and the lower-secondary level, and is usually completed by the age of 15.

The upper-secondary level comprises basic vocational education and training (VET) or the general academic route. Basic VET is referred to as the 'dual' system, combining classroom education at a VET school and practical training in a firm. Two thirds of young people in Switzerland opt to pursue such an apprenticeship. The other third choose the academic route via a baccalaureate school or an upper-secondary specialised school to prepare for the tertiary level.

Professional vocational education and training (PET) and higher education institutions form the tertiary level in Switzerland. PET prepares students for a specific profession and also offers courses for experienced professionals who wish to undertake further training or specialise in their field. Universities of applied sciences, teacher training colleges, federal institutes of technology and universities offer a wide range of courses.

Education in Switzerland is mainly the responsibility of the cantons, which harmonised their school systems in 2009 under an education concordat. Despite this harmonisation, significant differences exist between the education systems of individual cantons. The federal authorities and the communes assume those tasks that cannot be reasonably resolved by the cantons. The education system thus reflects Switzerland's federal state structure.

Education – facts and figures

Over 44% of the Swiss population has a tertiary-level qualification. A varied and flexible education system provides the basis for this successful outcome.

Compulsory education

Children in Switzerland attend kindergarten from the age of four. This marks the start of their compulsory school education, which generally lasts 11 years and consists of primary and lower-secondary education.

Secondary schooling

Baccalaureate schools and upper-secondary specialised schools are general secondary schools that prepare young people for entry to higher education institutions/universities or higher vocational education.

Basic vocational education and training

The dual system, which combines learning in the workplace and in a vocational school, produces skilled workers with vocational qualifications that are actually in demand.

Universities and other higher education institutions

Higher education institutions in Switzerland follow the internationally accepted study model of bachelor, master and doctorate levels.

Higher vocational and professional education and training (PET)

A Swiss speciality – training courses for the specialisation and continuing education and training of professionals.