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All children living in the Canton of Zurich have the right to education in Compulsory Public Schools (Volksschule). After the compulsory period of education, the students transition into secondary level II. Afterwards, students have access to a wide range of university education on tertiary level.

Compulsory Period of Education

In the Canton of Zurich, compulsory education generally begins at the age of 4. Children who are 4 years old by July 31 (cut-off date) enter kindergarten at the beginning of the next school year. The compulsory education period is 11 years.

Compulsory public schools are free of charge and politically as well as denominationally neutral. All children domiciled in the Canton of Zurich have the right to attend compulsory public school, comprising kindergarten, primary and secondary school.

During the compulsory period of education, children and young people receive basic education qualifying them for access to vocational education and training (VET) or to continuative intermediate schools.


Kindergarten is the entry level of compulsory public school and takes 2 years to complete.

Primary School

After kindergarten, kids pass on to primary school. It is divided into lower level (grade 1 to 3) and middle level (grade 4 to 6) and takes 6 years to complete.

After grade 6 of primary school, the students have two different options. They either pass on to secondary school or change over to baccalaureate school (Gymnasium). To change over to long-term baccalaureate school, the students need to pass an admission examination.

Secondary School

After primary school, students pass on to secondary school, which takes 3 years to complete. During this time, students acquire the skills to successfully transition to a Vocational Education and Training School (VET School) or they enter Intermediate School after having passed the admission examination.

Bridge-Year Programmes

Bridge-year programmes are available to young people wo do not succeed in transitioning to vocational education and training right after the compulsory period of education.

Secondary Level II

After having completed the compulsory period of education, young people have the option between vocational and general education schools.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

Vocational education and training (apprenticeship) takes 2 to 4 years to complete. The practical professional knowledge and skills are taught in a company (in-company training), the academic knowledge and skills are taught in VET Schools (= dual system). Graduates of VET schools obtain a federal diploma (Federal VET Certificate (EBA) or Federal VET Diploma (EFZ)). The Canton of Zurich provides for apprenticeships in over 200 professions.

In addition, the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate is open to young people performing well at school. This degree can be attained during vocational education and training (BM 1) or after graduating from VET School (BM 2). The Federal Vocational Baccalaureate qualifies the graduates for studies at universities of applied sciences or alternatively for studies at a university by means of completing the «Passerelle» (university / ETH entrance qualification).

Vocational Intermediate Schools

Business schools (HMS) and IT schools (IMS) are so-called vocational intermediate schools. They combine general education with the focus on a specialised stream and an apprenticeship. Business and IT schools require passing an admission examination. Graduates of vocational intermediate schools obtain the Federal VET Diploma (EFZ) (commercial employee or IT professional) or the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate.

Specialized Intermediate School

The specialized intermediate school (FMS) provides general education and promotes personal development, allowing for an individual focus on future occupational fields and vocational training. It is suited for students who want to obtain broad general education and prepare for higher education in a chosen occupational field. After a foundation year, the students can emphasise on a certain occupational field.

Baccalaureate Schools

Students can either transition to baccalaureate school right after completing primary level (long-term baccalaureate school, duration: 6 years) or after completing 2 or 3 years of secondary level (short-term baccalaureate school, duration: 4 years). Young people performing well at school can transition to long-term baccalaureate school after grade 6 (primary school) or to short-term baccalaureate school after grade 10 or 11 (secondary school). In order to do so, students have to pass the Central Admission Examination (ZAP).

Successfully completing baccalaureate school leads to the award of the baccalaureate diploma, which is recognized across Switzerland. It qualifies for studies at all Swiss universities and the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH).

Tertiary Level

After secondary level II, students pass on to tertiary level and in the Canton of Zurich, that level comprises a variety of academic or practice-oriented studies.

Higher Vocational Education

The Federal VET Diploma is the basis for higher vocational education. Students of higher vocational education can earn one of the following federal diplomas:

  • Federal Diploma of Higher Education (after passing the final apprenticeship exams)
  • Advanced Federal Diploma of Higher Education (after passing the College of Higher Education examination; next level of the Federal Diploma of Higher Education)
  • College of Higher Education Diploma (HF Diploma); with a HF Diploma, there is also the possibility to complete a bachelor's degree at a university.


There are several ways to get admitted to universities in the Canton of Zurich. Depending on the kind of university, a different diploma might be necessary.

  • Universities of Applied Sciences (FH)
    • Federal Vocational Baccalaureate or Specialised Baccalaureate
    • Baccalaureate and 1 year of professional experience
  • Universities of Teacher Education (PH)
    • Baccalaureate
    • Federal Vocational Baccalaureate or Specialised Baccalaureate with the additional entrance examination «Passerelle»
  • Universities University of Zurich and Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)
    • Baccalaureate
    • Federal Vocational Baccalaureate or Specialised Baccalaureate with the additional entrance examination «Passerelle»

This list is not exhaustive, there are numerous other ways. You can find more information here:

Quaternary Level

In the Canton of Zurich, there are numerous possibilities for further education and training after completing an apprenticeship or graduating from university.




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