Moving to Switzerland – Schools in Switzerland
If you are moving to Switzerland with youngsters or children of school age, you will doubtless be keen to to find good quality schools to settle them in to. In Switzerland, these are plentiful and the standard of education on offer, is excellent. School classes in Switzerland are predominantly taught in French, which is handy because most English school children have, at least a basic understanding of the language, being as it is the second language taught in most schools in the UK. This, at least as far as your children are concerned, will make your moving to Switzerland, an easier transition.
It is of course important that breaks or interruptions to your children's education be minimised and the Swiss education system takes this into full account. On moving to Switzerland, you will find that the education authorities have put in place an incubator programme, designed to slowly integrate the children of foreign nationals, into not only the language but also, the Swiss way of life. There are even incubator or integration classes available for adults, should the need arise or the help be requested.
There is a wealth of schooling available, designed to cater for those with the full range of abilities from those just beginning to learn the language, to those who are already fluent and these schools are available across the full education spectrum, from government run schools to private schools and from boarding schools to single sex or co-educational schools.
Schooling in Switzerland
Schooling in Switzerland is based upon the French system and takes the children of foreign nationals from kindergarten, through primary or elementary school, into apprenticeships or secondary schooling and from there, on to a university or technical college. Having completed their elementary schooling, which is compulsory in Switzerland, children can elect to go to secondary school or they can start an apprenticeship. If they choose to go on an apprenticeship, they may still rejoin academia at secondary level or go on to a technical college, depending on their level of advancement.
Kindergarten is not compulsory in Switzerland though most children aged 5-6 do attend. Here they are not taught how to read and write, that comes later. Here they will learn to develop socially. They learn to obey rules and have respect for their teachers and other elders.
Elementary or Primary School
Elementary school begins at age 7 and carries the child through to their 15th or 16th birthday. Most usually stay on until they are at least 16 but in cases where the child has not yet decided what he or she wants to do, some will stay on for another year.
In Switzerland, most children begin an apprenticeship on leaving elementary school. Depending on their chosen profession, an apprenticeship can take between two to four years. Apprenticeships can be taken in mechanics, carpentry, baking, hairdressing, secretarial skills, bookkeeping and IT etc and the apprentice is taken on and trained by a local company or organization, but also attends school for one or two days a week. Some companies also lay on classes on their own.
After their apprenticeship and depending on their skill level and education, the young adults can either start in a proper job or join other schools known as technical colleges to further their education.
There are different types of secondary schools majoring on various subjects: A secondary school of maths and science for example, will focus on these disciplines whilst also teaching languages whereas a secondary school of modern language will major on the language(s) chosen but also teach maths and science. The thinking behind this model is that the student has discovered by now, where his or her strengths and interests lie and it is these natural attributes that the authorities and all interested parties, want to encourage the young adult to excel at. All secondary schooling lasts for either 4.5 or 6.5 years and leads to a federal graduation diploma which is recognised by the majority of universities, not just in Switzerland, but throughout the world.
In order to be able to attend any university in Switzerland, a student must have finished secondary school and have been awarded a graduation diploma. Studies at university usually last for 4.5 years. There are currently universities in Basel (BS), Bern (BE), Fribourg (FR), Genf (GE), Lausanne (VD), Neuchâtel (NE), St. Gallen (SG) and Zürich (ZH) as well as the L'Università della Svizzera italiana (TI), the Swiss equivalent of the Open University.
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