Swiss education system
The production of knowledge and talent is Switzerland’s most important resource. Switzerland enjoys a high quality and permeable education system, which also lies under the responsibility of the 26 cantons. Together, the cantonal education ministers form the
Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), which plays an important role in discussing and coordinating education policy. The system is therefore at the same time flexible, i.e. cantonal specificities can be taken into account, and well-coordinated. For compulsory education e.g., the school starting age, compulsory school attendance, the duration and objectives of the levels of education and the transitions between the levels of education have been harmonised.
Upper-secondary education is then divided into two main paths: general secondary upper-education, leading to the baccalaureate and Vocational Education and Training (VET). Around two-third of Swiss pupils chose to embrace the VET path, which is of high quality and enjoys a good reputation. The majority of Swiss VET programs follow a dual-track approach that combines practice with theory, i.e. students share their time between a company where they are hired and school. The Swiss VET system is based on cooperation between the confederation, i.e. the
State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the cantons and the professional organisations. A strong asset of the Swiss education system is that there is no ‘dead-end path’, i.e. bridges between VET and higher education exist.
On average, 90% of young people in Switzerland complete upper secondary education at the age of eighteen or nineteen and either start working or continue their education at a higher education institution. Switzerland counts ten cantonal universities, two federal institutes of technology, nine universities of applied sciences and fourteen universities of teacher education. Also situated at tertiary-level, Professional Education and Training (PET) provide already qualified workers with further professional qualifications that enable them to handle challenging specialised or managerial tasks.
Switzerland is an attractive destination for foreign students, with 1.1% of the world’s total student population enrolled in Swiss higher education institutions in 2010. Moreover, outgoing mobility, be it for study or internship purposes, is increasing since the official association of Switzerland to the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) and Youth in Action (YiA) programme in 2011. The body designated to manage the most important part of these European programmes at Swiss level is Movetia.
The Swiss Confederation in 2012 has expressed its wish to get associated to the European Programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport (Erasmus+) from 2014 to 2020. On the Swiss side, the dispatch for EU education has been passed in both chambers of the Parliament. Following the adoption of the initiative against mass immigration on 9 February 2014, the negotiations between the EU and Switzerland on the association of Switzerland to Erasmus+ have been suspended. You will find the latest update on the status of Swiss institutions in these programmes here.