Differences between the UK and the Swiss Education System

While there are some similarities between the two school systems, there are also some key differences that Expats coming from the UK should know about.

Primary Education

In the UK, primary education begins at the age of five and lasts until the age of eleven. Children are taught a range of subjects, including English, Maths, Science, and Art.

In Switzerland, primary education lasts for six years and begins at the age of six. Children are taught a range of subjects. Depending on the canton, these may include German, French, English, Mathematics, and Nature and Society.

Secondary Education

In the UK, secondary education begins at the age of eleven and lasts until the age of sixteen, when students sit their GCSEs. At the age of sixteen, students can choose to leave school or stay on for another two years to study for their A-levels. Most students opt for A-Levels and specialise in 3 subjects for their final exam. Students need high grades in their exam to get into a top university.

In Switzerland, secondary education lasts for three to four years, depending on the canton. In most cantons, secondary students are grouped into different ability streams and attend separate classrooms. The majority of students pursue vocational education and training and only a minority continues with an academic education after secondary school.
In some cantons, top achievers can join a selective grammar school straight after primary, in others after two years in secondary school.
Those who attend a grammar school have to study 13 subjects up to their final year and sit six final exams. Students with a pass grade overall will be admitted to any university and any programme (except for medicine) regardless of their grade score.

Main difference between the two systems

In terms of differences between the two systems, one major factor is that the Swiss system is more focused on vocational education and training, while the UK system is more focused on academic achievement. Additionally, the Swiss system is more decentralised, with cantons having a greater degree of control over their education systems than is the case in the UK.

Do you have more questions about the Swiss education system? Book an online consultation with you local school expert!

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