Switzerland has some of the best schools in the world. Both local and international school systems in Switzerland offer excellent facilities and educational opportunities for students. Considerations for choosing between a local or international school include length of stay in Switzerland, age of student, priority of local integration, language preference, and scheduling. Swiss school options tend to be most appropriate for younger students, who can maintain their English in the home environment, and for students who do not require an equal development of both languages on a written level. It is recommended that families choose one system for all children to maintain compatible daily and vacation schedules. International schools offer students either nationally or internationally recognized qualification. The IB and GCE (A Levels) are both internationally recognized and are almost always prerequisites for entry into top universities.
Since Switzerland has no natural resources, education and knowledge have become very important resources. Therefore Switzerland claims to have one of the world’s best education systems. Because the cantons are responsible for educational services (kindergarten, schools, universities), education may vary significantly between cantons. For example, some cantons start to teach the first foreign language at fourth grade, while others start at seventh grade. This can turn moving with children between cantons into a nightmare.
Switzerland has a largely decentralised education system. Each canton has its own independent education department. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Education is a united body of Swiss cantons aimed at standardising the system. Education is divided into four sections: pre-school or kindergarten, primary, secondary, and tertiary or higher education. In the majority of cantons, English is taught beginning at the primary school level. Although private schools exist, the majority of students attend state-run schools. School education in Switzerland is compulsory until the age of 16.
Depending on the canton, the main language spoken in the classroom is German (in its Swiss varieties), French, or Italian. Traditionally, the second language would be one of the remaining two official languages of Switzerland. In recent years, however, there has been a trend towards teaching English as the first foreign language at school, followed by a second national language. While the different cantonal education departments enjoy complete autonomy when it comes to policies and funding, the basic school system and the various types of schools are more or less the same across the country.
Elementary education starts with nursery school or kindergarten for children aged between three and five. Kids who have reached the age of six start with free and compulsory primary education. After about six years of primary education, pupils proceed to stage I of secondary education. There are different types of schools for stage I. So, from year seven to ten, children follow either the vocational option or a more academic path until they have completed compulsory education. Stage II of secondary education again offers different schools for different purposes. It lasts three to four years, leading either to subject-specific qualifications for certain professions or to the Swiss high-school diploma. The latter entitles its holder to attend university.