The Swiss school streaming maze

If you have done your research, you probably know already that secondary school in most German cantons are divided into ability streams or tracks. But did you know about performance setting? Since secondary schools in some cantons can choose among different options, you may come across a bewildering variety of streaming models!

Swiss education system: Different streaming models

Ability streaming and performance setting in secondary schools

What exactly is the difference between streaming and setting anyway?

Streaming occurs when children are placed in groups according to their general academic ability; a child who is considered to be a strong student across the board may be put into the high stream, or Sek A.

Setting is where children are grouped by ability according to subject. So a child who is achieving highly in maths but is average in languages might be in the top set for maths, and the middle set for French.

Streaming and setting options can look quite different between schools. Some secondary schools opt for a rather separate model, which three separated ability streams from high to intermediate to basic requirements. Others settle on a more cooperative two or three tier system with joint performance sets in single subjects (see image above). To make matters even more complicated, schools in some areas can also decide which (if any) subjects they want to offer in differentiated sets. 

Depending on where you live in a German speaking canton, this can have implications for your child’s performance.

Cantonal variations

The same is true between cantons. Streaming in canton Vaud considerably differs from canton Zürich. When it comes to subject differentiation, there are also major differences between cantons. So, before relocating or moving, be sure to get area specific information or book an appointment with your local education specialist:

Do you want to know more about pathways in secondary school? Read on:

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