The obligatory school system usually includes primary education (Primarschule in German, école primaire in French and scuola primaria in Italian) and secondary education I (Sekundarstufe I in German, secondaire I in French and scuola secondaria in Italian). Before that, children usually go to kindergarten. The minimum age for primary school is about six years in all cantons but Obwalden, where it is five years and three months. The cantons Thurgau and Nidwalden allow five year olds to start primary school in exceptional cases. Primary school continues until grade four or five, depending on the school. Any boy or girl can take part in school if they choose to, but kids are separated depending on whether they speak French, German or Italian.
At the end of primary school (or at the beginning of secondary school), pupils are separated according to their capacities in several (often three) sections. The best students are taught advanced classes to be prepared for further studies and the matura, while students who assimilate a little bit more slowly receive an education more adapted to their needs. This separation can be summarized as follows:
- Pre-gymnasium: this division aims to prepare the students for Gymnasium (German) / gymnase/collège/lycée (French) / liceo (italian) or other schools which deliver a Federal maturity diploma. Students often have the choice between a science stream (with many hours of mathematics, and an introduction to physics and chemistry) and a more literary stream with Latin (and sometimes Greek).
- Intermediate: this division targets intermediate students whose goal it is to go to technical or secretarial schools, for example.
- Pre-professional: This division regroups students who are more interested in manual jobs, and prepares them for an apprenticeship by giving them strong bases in spelling, reading and mathematics.
The purpose of this system is to give every student an education that fits his or her needs and interests, but it is also criticized because it segregates children based on intellectual capacity. Secondary I school continues until grade nine, which marks the end of compulsory school.
Secondary II is facultative, and is spread among many schools, depending of the Student's interest. The more important in term of enrollment are the Gymnasium/Lycées/Collèges which prepare the students for university. They are often separated in several schools, specializing in science and literature or business.
Tertiary education depends on the education chosen in secondary education. For students with a matura, university is the most common one. Apprentices who did a vocational high school will often add a Fachhochschule or a Höhere Fachschule to their curriculum. Switzerland has the second highest rate of foreign students in tertiary education, after Australia.
There are 12 Universities in Switzerland, 10 of which are maintained at cantonal level and usually offer a range of non-technical subjects. Most prominent of these, internationally, are the Universität Zürich and the Universität St. Gallen. The remaining 2 institutions are run by the Swiss Confederation and are known as "Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology". Of these the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETHZ) is renowned as a world leader in Science and Technology education and research.
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETHZ)
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Universität Basel (BS)
Universität Bern (BE)
Universität Freiburg/Université de Fribourg (FR)
Université de Genève (GE)
Université de Lausanne (VD)
Université de Lucerne (LU)
Université de Neuchâtel (NE)
Universität St. Gallen (HSG)(SG)
Università della Svizzera italiana (TI)
Universität Zürich (ZH)
SBS Swiss Business School
European University(EU)