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Swiss State Schools
Swiss state schools enjoy an excellent reputation and are open to all children living in Switzerland irrespective of their residence status. They are free of charge. About 95 per-cent of the children in Switzerland attend public state schools.
The school system is regulated by the canton, which means that there are differences between state schools within Switzerland. Currently efforts are being made to approximate compulsory school in all cantons. The following information is valid only for state schools in the canton of Zurich.
Moving to Zurich with School-Aged Children
Children aged 4 to 15 have to be registered with the relevant school council, which depends on your domicile. You need to have registered as a resident with the local authorities before being able to register your child with the school council. It is recommended to contact the local school council as soon as possible in order to discuss the enrolment of your child and resolve possible questions. Contact details of school councils can be found on the websites of communities and schools.
After contacting the school council, the latter will assign your child to a particular school. The school will decide which class is appropriate, ideally it will correspond to the age of your child. The class teacher supports the child in its social and educational integration.
If your child doesn’t speak German, it’ll have to attend classes in German as a second language in addition to regular school classes.
Some schools have “admission classes”, which children from a different school background attend for a maximum of one year in order to learn German and prepare their transfer to a regular class.
Compulsory school lasts 11 years in total and consists of two years of kindergarten starting at the age of four, six years of primary school and three years of secondary school. The school year starts in mid-August. It is possible to attend either a state school, a private school or receive private lessons.
School Hours and Holidays
School days are Monday to Friday from 8am to noon. Afternoon lessons are individual from class to class and sometimes from child to child.
In the canton of Zurich, there’s a maximum of 13 weeks of school holidays. The holidays take place in February, in spring (Easter), in summer (weeks 29 to 33), in autumn (weeks 41+42) and at the end of the year (Christmas/New Year).
Out of School Services
The school administration or class teacher will be able to inform you about the out of school care at your local school. This is usually provided for lunchtimes, afternoons or early mornings and subject to a charge. There are also different programs for the school holidays.
There are private schools for every school level in Zurich, starting from kindergarten. Private schools may follow other curricula than the state curricula and certain admission criteria may apply. They are subject to a fee. Schools need to be approved by the cantonal Department of education in order to be able to run. The canton of Zurich publishes a list with all approved schools according to age groups.
Bilingual and International Schools
Bilingual schools are private schools following the curriculum of the Canton of Zurich but teaching in two (or more) languages.
As with public schools, international schools enjoy a good reputation in Switzerland. If your child has already started its education, if you're frequently relocating and don't plan on staying in Switzerland long-term, it may be worthwhile considering an international school for your child. These follow an international curriculum and lead to an internationally recognized certificate (International Baccalaureate).
International schools in the canton of Zurich include:
A list of bilingual and international schools in the Canton of Zurich can be downloaded below.