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Duration and structure of compulsory education

Compulsory education lasts for eleven years and is free for all children. It comprises two levels: primary and lower secondary. The first primary years are either two years of kindergarten or a first learning cycle.

In some cantons in German-speaking Switzerland, the first learning cycle involves two years of kindergarten combined either with the first year of primary school or with the first two years of primary school.

In the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the first two kindergarten years are part of the ‘cycle 1’ or ‘cycle primaire 1’.

In the canton of Ticino, there are seven years of primary school and four years of lower-secondary level (scuola media). In addition to two years of compulsory kindergarten, children aged three can attend an additional voluntary year.

There are very few German-speaking cantons in which kindergarten is not compulsory or in which attendance is compulsory for only one year.

Communes responsible for school

Local councils are responsible for ensuring that all children can attend a local state-run school. The local school authorities can answer any questions about school.

Primary level

The first level of compulsory education is primary level, starting either with two years of kindergarten or three or four years’ first learning cycle. Children generally start their compulsory education when they are four years old. Primary school lasts eight years; seven in the canton of Ticino.

Lower-secondary level

The second level of compulsory education is lower-secondary school. It lasts three years except for in the canton of Ticino.

Pupils are taught according to ability (streamed) in all or in some subjects. This is organised in a number of different ways: separate forms, or mixed-ability forms with streaming for some subjects.

Further information on cantonal school structures

Website of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education