Education — Switzerland

State schools are free. Children are normally admitted to the school in their catchment area, which is often the school closest to where they live.  

If you wish to send your child to a school other than the one corresponding to your commune or country of residence, you must apply for a "dérogation" (special dispensation).

Overview by age

4-8 years 8-12 years 12-15 years 15-19 years > 19 years
Primary level Secondary level Post-secondary level

"Cycle Élémentaire"
1P, 2P, 3P and 4P

"Cycle Moyen”
5P, 6P, 7P and 8P

State lower secondary ("level I") education: Orientation cycle

State upper secondary ("level II") education: post-compulsory secondary schools Schools of higher education ("hautes écoles"), universities, Federal polytechnic schools, higher technical schools, etc.


In Switzerland, owing to its federal system, the distribution of responsibilities for education and training between the different Federal, Cantonal and Communal authorities is relatively complex and depends on the level of education. Compulsory education lasts eleven years and comprises two levels: primary and lower secondary ("level I"). In some cantons, it is also compulsory to attend kindergarten for one or two years (from 4 to 6 years). In the canton of Geneva, schooling is compulsory between the ages of 4 and 18.

The school year lasts 38 weeks and runs from the end of August to the end of June.

The education system consists of several levels:

  • primary ("école primaire")
  • lower and upper secondary ("cycle d'orientation", secondary school)
  • post-secondary (schools of higher education ("hautes écoles"), universities, Federal polytechnic schools, higher technical schools, etc.)

Classes are taught in the language of the region concerned, i.e. French, German or Italian.
During the period of compulsory schooling, all pupils are taught at least 2 further languages.
In the French-speaking part of Switzerland, induction classes are available for children who do not have French as their mother tongue.

International schools

The Canton of Geneva has many private schools, including international schools which prepare pupils for national and international exams. In Switzerland, international schools are private and fee-paying.


If you require guidance in choosing the right type of education for your child, you can contact the "Office pour l'orientation, la formation professionnelle et continue".