Three educational levels
In general, Switzerland makes a distinction between three educational levels built on each other: (1) compulsory education, (2) vocational education and training or intermediate school and (3) higher vocational education, university of applied sciences or university.
In the Canton of Zurich, all children go to school for at least eleven years. The schools are mixed-gender, multi-ethnic and denominationally neutral. Children attend kindergarten from the age of four (for 2 years), followed by primary school (for 6 years) and lower secondary school («Sekundarstufe I») (3 years). Compulsory state schooling is free of charge. Parents are free to choose a private (fee-paying) school for their children at their own expense.
To register your child for school or kindergarten, you can either contact the local authority or the school directly. If you have any questions about the Swiss educational system, the Career and Academic Studies Counselling Service («biz - Berufsinformationszentrum») can assist you.
Vocational education and training and upper secondary schools
Vocational education and training (VET) prepares young people for a specific occupation in a two to four-year apprenticeship, which is a combination of learning the practical skills in a company and attending class at college.
Upper secondary schools («Mittelschulen») prepare young people for academic studies at a university or university of applied sciences. Some of these schools offer a Baccalaureate («gymnasiale Maturität»), and others are Specialised Baccalaureate («Fachmaturität») or Federal Vocational Baccalaureate («Berufsmaturität»).
Higher vocational education, universities and universities of applied sciences
Higher vocational education allows professionals to specialise and expand their skills and normally follows a. a vocational education and training (VET) school (apprenticeship). A Baccalaureate is not required.
In Switzerland, a distinction is made between universities (the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) included) and universities of applied sciences («Fachhochschulen»). Universities of applied sciences teach practice-oriented skills while universities teach theory-oriented skills. A Baccalaureate is required for admission. For university admission in Switzerland with a foreign Baccalaureate Diploma, please contact the university directly. The respective university will inform you about admission terms and recognition of foreign diplomas.
Career choices for young people
Career counsellors assist young people in choosing a career or degree programme. The Career and Academic Studies Counselling Service («biz Berufinformatiozonszentrum») provides individual advice and information.
Scholarships and loans help support students on a low income. Cantonal education grants («Ausbildungsbeiträge») can be applied for by submitting a request.
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