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Education & Schools

Zurich - Education & Schools


Most expatriates remain divided over sending their children to international or local schools in Zurich. The main hurdle for most parents is the language of instruction. If your children are young, they may be able to fit in easier, and learn a new language without too much difficulty. If your children are older, your children will be expected to have an adequate grasp of German in order to follow the lessons.

In terms of curricula, there are little or no major differences between a Swiss school and an international one. Except there are no equivalent high schools or college in Switzerland, unlike in the US. Education for children, including foreigners, is compulsory for nine years. Compulsory schooling consists of primary level and lower secondary level in all cantons. All local schools are free. Most communes will arrange to ensure that all children can attend their local school nearest to their home. A useful factsheet on education in Zurich for international students is available for download here.

Local primary schools in Zurich are not uniform – school hours do not start and end at the same time each day. Children in primary school also generally lunch at home. Children start compulsory school at either 6 or 7 years of age. Click here for more information about primary school education. There are also separate links for lower secondary, upper secondary, tertiary and continuing education available at the same website.

International schools in Zurich are exclusive and of excellent quality. Many international schools are accredited with British or American diplomas and certifications. Some schools concentrate on deportment (the traditional 'Swiss finishing school'), while others have a religious basis, or concentrate on outdoor activities. Click here to download a pdf summarizing the international schools located in Zurich. Details on website links and curriculum are available.

The school year in Zurich (and Switzerland) begins between mid-August and mid-September each year. The dates of the school holidays vary from commune to commune.

There are 20 universities, colleges and institutions of higher education options in Zurich canton. Swiss education institutions at the tertiary level are known for its specialty education in banking and finance and hospitality. In Zurich, there is the University of Zurich (founded in 1833 and the largest university in Switzerland), and ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich – founded in 1855 and has connections with 21 Nobel prize winners).

Childcare options for pre-school children in Zurich are usually operated by private institutions or local communes. Children can attend the local nursery school or a year or two before starting compulsory education but there are specific times for enrolment each year.


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