What You Need to Know About Relocate to Switzerland

Compared to the U.S., the best Swiss universities only costs 500 CHF (515 USD) per semester. However, cheaper in this case doesn’t mean inferior. Both private and public schools share the same high standards. Swiss education standards are among the highest in the world. Public schools and state universities are responsible for educating more than half of the country’s population. International schools are pricey and are recommended for students who move from country to country and who are after specific credentials.


Switzerland has very high education standards even when compared to its neighboring European countries. In fact, it is very hard to differentiate public and private schools when it comes to educational standards. It is a fact that only 5% of Swiss nationals prefer to enroll their children in private institutions. It can be daunting however, to navigate through the best of the best schools so to speak, so it might be optimal to hire a relocation expert who has information on all the data you may need to make an informed choice.

All schools in Switzerland are strictly regulated at a federal level through the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. However, most of the schooling structure and decisions are at the discretion of the cantons and municipalities.

How is the Education System in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s educational institutions are known to be the best in the world and consistently rank among the Top 10 Globally.

Homeschooling is not the norm in Switzerland and some cantons even forbid it. If you have plans to homeschool your children, do ensure that your locality allows it.

Parental participation is extremely encouraged and foreign families are supported by the school to ensure that they adjust well in their new environment. Don’t be alarmed from receiving a call or letter from your Child’s school as this is expected.

Education and the healthcare in Switzerland is decentralized. This means that each locality or canton may determine slight differentiators in their process and curriculum. For one, if the canton is predominantly German, Italian, or French, then that would definitely mean some variations in modes of instruction. While there might be slight changes between cantons, the high quality of education is guaranteed throughout Switzerland.

In primary school, students are taught together but as they progress, they are separated according to talents, interests and academic inclinations. Required education in Switzerland could range from 9 to 11 years depending on the canton. In most localities, primary school begins at 6 years old, and lasts for 8 years. Secondary school lasts for three years but some cantons extend this to four.

The canton may determine its own school year, but most schools open in August or September and therefore end in May or June.

School Ages in Switzerland

School ages may vary depending on the canton, but here is a general idea of school ages and levels in Switzerland.


4–6 years old

Primary School

6–12 years old

Lower Secondary

12–15 years old

Upper Secondary

15–18 years old

Grading System in Switzerland

Grades in Switzerland are computed on a six-point scale with 1 being the lowest.




Very good












Very poor

Public schools are free and are funded by the state. While your child may be allowed to enroll at any point, it might be best to check with your canton. Most localities will require the following documents prior to enrolment:

  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Proof of health and accident insurance
  • Resident permit

Main Differences Between Public and Private Schools

There is very little difference between public schools and private schools. The main difference is the language of instruction. Canton schools typically hold classes in German, French, Italian or Romansh. If your child doesn’t speak any of these, then its best that s/he go to an international school which uses English as a mode of instruction.

Another difference is the cost. Public schools are free but private schools can range from 9,000—30,000 CHF (9,090—30,300 USD) for day classes; 70,000—90,000 CHF (70,700—90,900 USD) for boarding school.

Private schools have much smaller classes while an average public school would have at least 20 students.

Daycare and Kindergarten

Daycare- Daycares or crèches are found in French-speaking cantons, Krippe or KiTa are located in German ones. Typical age for daycare is between 1 and 6 years old- just before they begin kindergarten. Be prepared to spend though, as the prices range from 60­–150 CHF (60–150 USD) per day, and even higher. In fact, Swiss families typically spend 30% of their income on childcare.

Nursery (Pre-school)- Nursery or pre-school is held before the child enters Kindergarten. To attend, the parent must apply in writing. While the exact Nursery programs are set by each locality, they are held from 08:30–12:00, break for lunch, and return from 13:00–15:30. Please check with your canton to find out if your child is required to attend Nursery or better yet, hire a relocation expert to help you navigate through the Swiss Education system.

Kindergarten- This is the beginning of the mandated education in Switzerland. How long your child stays in Kindergarten also varies depending on the canton so do make sure you check before choosing the area you want to live in.

Primary School- Depending on your canton, elementary school may last for 7 to 8 years beginning with Kindergarten. In this setting, the children learn together but upon graduation, they may be asked to take an exam to assess their track in secondary education.

Secondary School-The kind of secondary education your child receives is dependent on your canton’s regulations. Some cantons like Zurich, give an option to the student to enroll in a langgymnasium—a 6-year school which helps students prepare for their chosen careers.

Upper Secondary School

There are six types of upper secondary or matura schools to choose from:

  • Math and Science (Matematisches und Naturwissenschaftliches Gymnasium)
  • Modern languages (Neusprachliches Gymnasium)
  • Classical languages (Altsprachliches Gymnasium)
  • Secondary School of Economics (Wirtschaftsgymnasium)
  • Secondary Music and Art school (Musisches Gymnasium)
  • Secondary School of Sports (Sportgymnasium)

All pupils in these schools must pass an entrance exam. This is considered very difficult to pass, as it includes subject matters not taught in school. At the culmination of one’s Swiss education, you have to pass a matura exam as a prerequisite for graduation. The exams typically cover:

  • Basic subjects (math, various sciences, history, geography, arts)
  • Major subject depending on their concentration
  • Essay question
  • First national language (depending on canton)
  • Second national language
  • Third national language (typically either English, Latin, or Greek)

International Schools

Switzerland is known for some of the best international and public schools. While international schools are known for their strict discipline, they are also known for having very high educational standards.

Requirements for international schools may vary, but the typical requirements are:

  • Previous school records
  • Residence permit
  • Health and accident insurance

International school tuition fees vary depending on the school and child’s age, but this would range from 30,000–40,000 CHF (30,300—40,400 USD) annually.

Switzerland’s Top International School

  • TASIS The American School in Switzerland
  • Surval Montreux
  • Le Régent College
  • Institut auf dem Rosenberg

Best Universities for International Students in Switzerland

The most popular international university in Switzerland is Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI). Over 60% of its students are foreign and represent over 100 countries.

Bachelor’s degrees are taught in the canton’s language while Masters programs are conducted in English.

Some of the Best Universities for International Students in Switzerland

  • University of Geneva
  • University of Bern
  • University of Basel
  • University of Zurich
  • University of Lausanne

How Much Does It Cost to Study in Switzerland for International Students

International students will mostly likely pay the same tuition as a Swiss student, but there are some places where foreign students pay more, such as the universities in Bern, Fribourg, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, St Gallen, Zurich and Lugano.

Swiss University fees are reasonable though, compared to their neighbors and even the US—an average undergrad tuition for instance is between 850–1,310 CHF (860–1,320 USD) per year, while a Master’s degree tuition will be closer to 1,600 CHF (1,610 USD).

The cost of living however, may be steep for a student’s budget and can cost over 15,000 CHF (15,130 USD) extra.

Language schools

Switzerland has many official languages and it might be best for you to pick up one or too. Whether you are interested in French, German, Italian or English, make sure that you chose a language that is used widely in your canton to make the most out of it. It is quite affordable to learn a new language in Switzerland, as it would not go beyond a couple of hundred francs. However, if you’re more comfortable with English, you will be pleased to know that it is commonly used in business and in the workplace.

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