Main differences between Swiss state schools and US state schools

Entry and duration
Compulsory education: 11 years (except for Ticino). Usually Kindergarten entry at the age of 4.
Students have to attend school until the age of 16. KG starts at the age of 5.
School systemPrimary school / Primarschule Grades 1-6 (8 incl. 2 yrs of KG)

Lower secondary school /
Oberstufe: Grades 7-9

Upper Secondary /
Mittelschulen: Grades 10-12.
NOT to be confused with US middle school!

Elementary School Grades KG – 5

Middle School Grades 6 – 8

High School Grades 9 – 12.
Junior High School (Grades 7 – 9) Senior High School (Grades 10 – 12).
school and ability levels
Selective schooling after primary, either ability grouping (ability sets in single subjects) or ability tracking (different ability schools) (or both!).
– Most children attend grades 7-9 in one of the 2, 3 or 4 different ability tracks
– Mostly comprehensive schooling.
Differentiation through:
– Ability grouping in single subjects
-Enrichment programs
-Advanced Placement options in high school. 
Finance-Split across cantons, communes
and the federal state (Federal state 17.3 %, cantons 52.2 % municipalities 30.5 %).
Subsidies for less wealthy cantons and communes. 
– Little difference in terms of quality and resources at regional and subregional level.
– Switzerland annually spends 14’922 $ per student p.a.
– Split across federal state and counties.
– Federal state responsible for education budget, different state, different budget!
– County share through property tax, leads to big regional differences 
– Overall 11’500 $ per student p.a.
Private schools
and home-school
5% private schools, under 0.5% homeschooling10% private schools, 4-5% homeschooling
School subjects2 modern foreign languages compulsory from primary school, (1 language in the lowest ability level in secondary)
Only ten out of 50 federal states make learning one foreign language compulsory, usually Spanish
School system and syllabusRegional differences
but overall a unified
school system and similar curriculum 
Range of different organisational systems, federal states set their own standards and districts may set their own curriculum.
CurriculumStandardised curriculum in middle/upper secondary. Very limited subject choiceFrom middle school: Core academic subjects and high number of electives
University entranceDifferent university entrance qualifications – academic, specialised or vocational Matura diploma, IB.High school diploma, IB
School exit certificate and examsExit examination for
students in 4- or 6-yr academic Gymnasium or upper secondary schools (Matura exam). No general exit exam after the end of compulsory school.
High school diploma at the end of year 12. Approx. 50% of federal states have high school exit examinations. 
High school graduation rateOverall matura diploma rate: 40 %.
21,8% academic track/Gymnasium Matura/Maturité), 15,8% vocational university entrance qualification/
Berufsmatura, and 3,3% specialised upper secondary / Fachmatura
High school graduation rate: 82%
School weeks and holidaysSchool weeks per year: 38/39 weeks.
Annual school holidays: 13 weeks

School weeks per year: 36 weeks Annual school holidays: 16 weeks

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