Homeschooling in Switzerland

Is it possible to homeschool in Switzerland?

Relocating parents often ask about options for homeschooling in Switzerland. While homeschooling in Switzerland is becoming more popular, it is far less widespread than in the US or the UK. Additionally, Switzerland with its 26 cantons has an array of different regulations regarding homeschooling. As a consequence, legal provisions and hence the number of homeschooled children vary significantly. Parents also need to be aware that homeschooling in Switzerland has to be carried out in accordance with the cantonal curriculum and, with very few exceptions,  in the official language.

Cultural and regional differences

Generally speaking, there is an East-West divide with homeschooling in the eastern part of Switzerland far less prevalent than in western Switzerland. There are also differences between the different linguistic parts of Switzerland. While all francophone or bilingual cantons have registered homeschooled children, homeschooling families are only found in under half of all German-speaking cantons.

In 2022/2023, the bilingual canton Berne was the canton with most homeschooling families (1263). Vaud had 843 homeschooled children, Zürich 613 students and Aargau 246 students. Until recently, St. Gallen did not have a single student taught at home. The exception is Appenzell Ausserrroden. In the tiny Appenzell canton, 34 students from 22 families were homeschooled in 2018 and the canton is considered a stronghold of homeschooling parents. Having said this, Appenzell also recently changed its homeschool regulations.

Some politicians criticise what they call “home-schooling shopping tourism” with parents moving from cantons with a stricter regulation to others, like Berne.

Exceptional circumstances

While homeschooling is generally not allowed in the canton of Ticino, pupils from canton Uri are sometimes given leave of absence for three to four weeks a year to move up to the alpine regions in summer. The canton of Zug has a rather restrictive policy on homeschooling. However, it has granted permission to parents who are based in the canton of Zug but work abroad or to circus families. 

The below graph (Hottiger 2018) roughly summarises the different practices and regulations in Swiss cantons:

 

Qualifications required for homeschooling in Switzerland by canton

(Source: Hottiger 2018)

  • Green: No qualification required
  • Yellow/orange: Qualification required
  • Red: Homeschooling restricted/not allowed

a. No teaching qualification required

Cantons marked in green do not require parents to have a Swiss teaching diploma. These include Appenzell Ausserroden, Berne, Aargau, Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel and Vaud. However, a number of more liberal cantons are currently in the process of revising their homeschool regulations making it harder for parents to homeschool without prior authorisation or a teaching diploma.
Vaud is considered the most liberal canton when it comes to homeschooling. However, note that Vaud is in the process of revising its homeschool regulation, as is Jura and Neuchâtel.

Historically one of the most tolerant cantons regarding homeschooling, Aargau also recently tightened its regulations. Parents now have to show evidence that private instruction meets certain requirements. The curriculum needs to match the learning outcomes in public school. The homeschooling parent has to submit detailed lesson plans including a timetable, teaching materials and learning content. Additionally, they have to keep a teaching record. 

In Berne, parents need authorisation by the cantonal education department. Homeschooling parents need to meet cantonal learning objectives and outcomes for public schools.

Geneva is called a “declarative” canton, meaning it has regulations that allow families to begin homeschooling through a simple declaration. However, the children are monitored by the DIP (Département de l’instruction publique), which ensures the quality of the education provided. The DIP requires parents to submit a timetable with the exact amount of hours spent on each subject per week, who will be teaching them and what curriculum.

In practice, the canton issues a one-year “authorization” and requires parents to have a maturity certificate or an equivalent qualification. Each year, the DIP verifies that the children are receiving the proper education by administering exams.

b. Teaching qualification required

Cantons like Zürich and Valais and Fribourg (marked in yellow) do require a teaching diploma recognised by the department or EDK but the diploma does not necessarily have to be linked to the school stage that is taught (primary, secondary…).  Zürich allows homeschooling for up to one year without the corresponding teacher qualification but parents need to submit detailed lesson plans and other information. Afterwards, a recognised teacher qualification for the corresponding school level is required. Thurgau also required an EDK recognised teaching diploma.

Cantons marked in orange ask for a teacher diploma for the school level parents want to teach in (Kindergarten, primary, secondary). These include Appenzell Innerroden, Glarus, Graubünden, Luzern, Sankt Gallen, Solothurn, Schwyz and Basel Land. 

c. Homeschooling limited or restricted

Cantons in red do not authorise homeschooling except for exceptional circumstances. These cantons usually also ask for a teaching qualification (not included in the graph).
Zug is rather restrictive and according to a school official, no requests for homeschooling have been granted in the past years. Ticino and Uri are the most restrictive cantons. Restrictions also apply in Schaffhausen and Nidwalden. 

Requirements for at-home teaching

20 out of 26 cantons ask for a formal teaching qualification and these usually have to be recognised by the Swiss educational department EDK. Be warned that recognition by the EDK is a lengthy and costly process! Teachers need to meet the specific language and subjects requirements. Apart from proof of proficiency in the national language, primary school teachers have to demonstrate that they have been trained to teach 5 subject areas to the recognised level. Teachers from another EU country will find it a lot easier to get their qualifications recognised than those coming from countries outside the EU.

Online schooling

This is where it does get confusing! According to a ruling by the federal court of 2011, online schooling is banned in Switzerland. The ruling states that remote learning is not compatible with the constitutional right to adequate primary education. There is no direct interaction with teachers, so the argument goes, and children are not able to develop any “social competence”.

However, in practice, there are a number of cantons who either explicitly recognise online schooling as an option or who do not ban it outright.

Not an easy path!

To conclude, depending on where you live in Switzerland, homeschooling might be an option. However, with very few exceptions, parents who want to homeschool need to follow the cantonal school curriculum and the national language in that canton. This supposes a considerable hurdle for parents coming from abroad, which probably explains why the percentage of non-Swiss homeschooling parents is very low. 

In cantons that allow homeschooling, educational consultants can assist parents with everything from teacher recruitment to drafting timetables and reports for inspections. So, before you embark on your homeschooling adventure in Switzerland, be sure to find out about requirements in the canton of you choice or consider working with an educational consultant specialised in homeschooling!

Read more about homeschooling regulations in Switzerland:

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12 thoughts on “Homeschooling in Switzerland”

  1. Hello,

    I am a resident in Geneva with my two children who are 4 and 6 years old. I wish to now homeschool both of them, I understand that I need permission to do so. But, could you tell me where I can apply please?

    Kind regards,
    Isadora Bucher

    Reply
    • Dear Isadora, Geneva is not the easiest canton to homeschool and you need to meet a number of requirements. Check this link for more information. If you need more guidance, I would recommend an online consultation to discuss requirements and procedures in more detail.

      Reply
      • Can you clarify for me, please? Geneva is in green above… the least restrictive to homeschooling. How is it “not the easiest” if it’s the lowest restrictions?
        We’re American (homeschoolers) and looking at a possible move. So understanding this beforehand will help us make more informed decisions.
        Thanks!

        Reply
  2. Hello, my 4 year old started school in August in the canton of vaud and hates it. He has immense anxiety about it and is not adapting well. It’s really hard to see him so distressed so I’d like to home school him and with the international school curriculum if possible? And would I be able to start this now as he’s already completed 2 months at school or would I have to wait until August 2023?
    Thanks in advance!
    Caroline

    Reply
    • Dear Caroline, I am sorry to hear that your son is having a hard time. There are options for homeschooling in Vaud, but you need to meet certain requirements regarding curriculum and language. I would be happy to help you understand the process. Please send me an email to: info@swisseducationconsulting.ch to discuss how I can best help. Kind regards Stefanie Busse

      Reply
  3. Of course, as with every land, there are some difficulties as a outsider.
    The language barrier can be a bit intimidating, and
    it can take some time to get accustomed to the Switzerland way of life.
    But overall, I feel very blessed to be living in the Swiss Confederation and experiencing
    all that this beautiful country has to offer.

    Reply
  4. Hi I currently go to an online school, it follows the British curriculum and is called Kingsinterhigh, we were thinking of moving to Geneva would we be allowed to continue online schooling?

    Reply
    • That depends whether you will be teaching the child yourself or whether you get an external teacher. However, depending on where you move to, requirements for parents wanting to homeschool their children themselves can be very strict

      Reply

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