International schools in Switzerland

International schools in Switzerland

Comments14 comments

If you're living in Switzerland, here's a list of top international schools in Switzerland and information to enrol your child into the Swiss education system.

If you are moving to Switzerland with children in tow, you will find many quality local Swiss schools as well as a number of private and top international schools in Switzerland catering to the needs of expat children and international families. Some international schools teach bilingual or multilingual education, and typically international schools offer international education diplomas so your child can continue their education back home or in another international school abroad.

This guide covers some FAQs about international schools in Switzerland:

International schools in Switzerland

With a reputation for high teaching standards and strict discipline, Swiss international schools are among the best in the world. Some 44 international schools in Switzerland are part of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS). They can be primary and secondary, day and boarding, and offer different teaching methods such as Montessori and Kumon or a variety of curricula including international, Swiss, UK, US, German, French and Japanese education.

In addition to the British and American schools in Switzerland, there are other foreign international schools which use curriculums set by the education authority of the home country as the foundation for the education, with classes in the home language plus English, French or German. For example the Swedish School of Geneva is trilingual.

Method schools in Switzerland

There are some international method schools in Switzerland which offer programmes in their own teaching philosophy alongside more conventional and widely accepted academic courses. For example, the Japanese Kumon school in Leysin is accredited by the Japanese Ministry of Education which means students are eligible for entry into Japanese universities but it also offers the American College Preparation programme.

There are many Montessori schools and some Steiner-Waldorf schools in Switzerland, and although independent schools, come under the supervision of individual cantons. For more information, see Rudolf Steiner Schulen Schweiz and The Association Montessori (Switzerland).

Should you choose an international school?

International schools offer a multicultural learning environment alongside students from all over the world. If your child has already started their education in your home country they may be able to continue with the same curriculum at an international school, or study an international curriculum – such as the International Baccalaureate ­­– that will be recognised all over the world.This is generally a more important consideration for older children who have already started difficult classes, or for families that relocate often.

Both local and international school systems in Switzerland offer excellent facilities and educational opportunities for students. Considerations for choosing between a local or international school include length of stay in Switzerland, age of student, priority of local integration, language preference, and scheduling. Swiss school options tend to be most appropriate for younger students, who can maintain their English in the home environment, and for students who do not require an equal development of both languages on a written level. It is recommended that families choose one system for all children to maintain compatible daily and vacation schedules. We explore all the schooling options in our guide to Swiss schools: local, private, bilingual and international schools in Switzerland.

Lessons are usually taught in English and/or in French, German or the native language of the school (eg. Japanese), avoiding the problem of having to learn courses in a new language. The classes at Swiss international schools are small and the standards of education and the facilities are usually excellent. International schools also offer full-day schooling (unlike many state schools), which is helpful for working parents.

International education in Switzerland: Exams and diplomas offered

Most international schools in Switzerland offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or one of the other four other IB programmes: Primary Years, Middle Years and the Career-related. Many offer the UK national curriculum leading to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and GCE A levels, while some offer the US High School Diploma/Advanced Placement (AP), Swiss Matura/Maturité, the German Abitur and the French Baccalaureate. Many Swiss international schools offer a combination of the above. There are a few international schools that offer the national curricula of their home country, for example, the Swedish School.

The International Baccalaureate diploma (IB)

The International Baccalaureate originated at the International School of Geneva, and as of May 2015 some 3,000 schools in more than 143 countries offer this diploma – some 41 of them in Switzerland. There are four programmes: Primary Year, Middle Years, Diploma and Career-related. The IB Diploma (which is aimed at students aged 16–19 years) requires pupils to study six subjects over two years. These subjects are studies in languages and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics and the arts, and there are different courses within each subject group. Students also have to take an additional course in philosophy (‘theory of knowledge’ or TOK), contributing to a creativity, activity and service (CAS) programme and writing an extended 4,000-word essay. The IB programme is recognised as a university admission level qualification around the world. For more information, see Expatica’s article Study abroad: the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the official website of the International Baccalaureate.

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and GCE A Levels

The IGCSE is a UK-based qualification administered by different exam boards such as EDEXCEL, OCR, AQA, WJEC and CIE. It is equivalent to school years 10 and 11. IGCSE requires students to study and take exams across a range of subjects including maths, English, sciences and humanities. Students who complete IGCSEs have the option of studying for their A Levels, which are recognised by universities in the UK, North America and Europe.

High School Diploma and Advanced Placement courses

Some schools offer an American program leading to the High School Diploma and includes preparation for the College Board SAT exams. Students choose from a selection of Advanced Placement classes and can work towards the university entrance qualification the Advanced Placement International Diploma (APID).

Applying to an international school in Switzerland

Apply directly to the school as soon as possible as many schools have waiting lists. Admission procedures vary from school to school but it is advised to apply early to secure a place, otherwise your option may not be available at the time of your move. However, you might be able to gain admission part way through a year as the student population in international schools can be transient.

For more information on choosing and applying to international schools in Switzerland, see Expatica's guide to Swiss schools: local, private, bilingual and international schools in Switzerland.

List of top international schools in Switzerland






St Gallen


  • International School of Schaffhausen: this school offers all three IB programmes – primary years, middle years and diploma programme – and takes children from 3 months to 18 years old.







Expatica ask the expert

Need advice? Post your question on Expatica's free Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.

Expatica forums
Want a local opinion? Ask experienced expats on Expatica's forums for advice.

Updated 2016.

Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.

If you believe any of the information on this page is incorrect or out-of-date, please let us know. Expatica makes every effort to ensure its articles are as comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date as possible, but we're also grateful for any help! (If you want to contact Expatica for any other reason, please follow the instructions on this website's contact page.)

Captcha Note: Characters are case sensitive
The details you provide on this page will not be used to send any unsolicited e-mail, and will not be sold to a third party. Privacy policy .

14 Comments To This Article

  • Nynez posted:

    on 30th November 2016, 11:56:31 - Reply

    I am writting back to an old post. but i also would like to share our experience in Swiss International School in Zug. When we made the decision to put our kid in this School, we believed that the private education would be better, as they have only 10 Kids in the class (comparing to 24-28 or more Kids in local School). unfortunately what we learned is that teachers are coming and going very often. They look not very happy in this School, which makes not pleseant atmosphere. the Level of teaching leaves a lot of gaps...and as I can understand that German is not at the same Level (as it is bilingual School), I can`t understand why even math is not tought that Kids would have higher Standard. Also, all promisses regarding gym class and place for lunch every year are postponed. I know it seems small issue, but still after few Years of being prommised something ist getting to the Point that I dont trust this School anymore. Another big lie was regarding extra Support in language. It was promised that Kids who German is not good will be having an extra Support untill they are at the Level that they would be at local School. Unfortunately this was not true. School gives up to 18 month of Support to help (and now this is what it has been said to aprents)"survive Kids in language"...for me it`s not good enough, as than Kids have a lot of Problem for example in math, where they can`t understand a math question as the Level of language is so low. Also, the biggest Problem in this School is the bullying issue. Kids from secondary School are mixed with Primary, the teachers whenever I come to pick up my child for lunch, are Standing far from Kids and don`t pay any Attention to what is Happening. I recomend every parent who wants to put their child in SIS in zug to reconsider this Option. And definetely the promissed things you got are not going to be fulfilled. I wish you luck. Thank you
  • Louise posted:

    on 26th February 2016, 04:53:26 - Reply

    Please include academia Basel. Our Kids attend the bi-Lingual and college sections and we couldn't be happier.
  • geometrydash posted:

    on 6th January 2016, 08:26:01 - Reply

    Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.

  • Amit posted:

    on 16th June 2015, 07:05:31 - Reply

    Thank you for the good info. It will help me alot as am also now trying to look for a good school for my son to continue her study in Geneva, Switzerland. I am currently working in IB World Academy.

  • jlbahanba posted:

    on 2nd February 2015, 15:03:41 - Reply

    Thanks for the comments. It is clear that schools pay for the ranking. This those not mean the school is not good. The thing is till what level mareting and promotion should be admitted in education ? I'm from the education system so there is no doubt about it. Just have a look at the top ranking and look WHO is awarding the position of the school...
  • Megan posted:

    on 16th April 2014, 14:56:13 - Reply

    Our daughter attends Primary at the Swiss International School in Zürich (SIS Zürich) and my husband and I are very happy with both the educational and day care services offered by the school.
    We are both working parents and it is a great relief to know that our daughter can spend her days in a safe environment with her friends. When we first moved to Switzerland, we looked at several schools and also considered sending our daughter to a public Swiss school. But since she only knew very little German at the time, we thought that starting primary school in a foreign country was enough of a transition and challenge for her without the difficulty of being surrounded by a strange language all day. But we also wanted her to be able to meet local kids and learn the language of her new home and not just speak English with children of other expats at a purely English international school.
    The bilingual programme at SIS and the proximity to the city centre finally tipped the scale in favour of SIS Zürich: all subjects are taught by native speakers in both English and German, and classes are made up of children with Swiss or international backgrounds. We were worried at first that the language challenge might be too much for our daughter, but luckily she enjoyed great support from her teachers, she was well integrated into her class from day one and made friends very quickly.
    It was amazing to watch how fast she picked up on German words and expressions and by now she probably speaks the language better than we do!
    Teachers and other SIS staff were also very helpful and welcoming during our first few months in Switzerland and supported us and our daughter whenever something was new or difficult.
  • ursula posted:

    on 18th March 2014, 00:03:38 - Reply

    sorry, that you had such a bad experience with your child. But doesn't SIS stand for Swiss International School? Than way would it be strange to you that SIS asks for a teacher to have the mother tongue in German? Granted Swiss German is not High German, but we all had to learn High German. To me this sounds like it is a normal request.
    Hope you found a school for your daughter where you and her are happy!
  • Anita posted:

    on 4th May 2013, 16:01:43 - Reply

    Does anyone have any suggestion on the choice between ZIS and Zug International School?
  • Kathie posted:

    on 18th January 2013, 10:06:02 - Reply

    We came from the UK 6 years ago and put our 3 girls into the ZIS in Waedenswil (this is the lower school section). JGaechter posted re this school, but called it the International School of Zurich? The younger kids start slow (and it is slightly americanised), however, after initial worries about english kids learning quicker, I got used to the new style of learning where the children are encouraged to think and research for themselves. By Middle School my kids are doing really well and are very balanced and independent. German teaching may not be the fastest here, but the overall mix is excellent. Even being very English, we would not choose to take them out of this school for a private english education now.
  • gaby posted:

    on 18th January 2013, 00:10:04 - Reply

    Thank you all for this valuable info. JGaechter, I am a teacher planning to visti ZIS in February and I have some questions about benefits of working there.
  • JGaechter posted:

    on 13th January 2013, 22:44:17 - Reply

    I worked for a number of years at the International School of Zurich based in Thalwil for young children and Wadenswil from Grade two it is an excellent school with a wonderful ethos and classes are taught in English with specialist classes for German. They use the Primary Years Programme of International Baccaluareate and advocate inquiry based learning.
  • madhu posted:

    on 11th November 2012, 13:32:44 - Reply

    Kelvin, Thanks for the info. I started my research to put my son in an international school in zurich.
  • Hayati posted:

    on 11th September 2012, 13:43:48 - Reply

    Thank you for the good info. It will help me alot as am also now trying to look for a good school for my daughter to continue her study in Switzerland.
  • Kelvin posted:

    on 21st February 2012, 11:13:29 - Reply

    Don’t make the same mistake I did, I would like to give a small advice to all parents considering putting their kids on SIS (Swiss international school) in Zürich. I have been living in Switzerland since 2008, and last year my daughter asked me if she could come and stay with me. We decided that the best would be to come and study on an international school. After two meetings with the SIS, where my daughter was participating in the first meeting, so they could get an idea of her English level. We trusted that the school was professional enough to judge whether or not she would be able to handle it. After the first week, it was clear that all majors was in German (Swiss German), which absolutely was not what we had been told after our meetings, I mean there is a reason why you chose an international school, first of all to learn, but also to meet different cultures. In the class of my daughter, 90% of the students were Swiss, which to me was a bit strange, but why not then chose a normal school in Switzerland, they are among the best schools in the world. The teacher might have the right education, but when it comes to students, they have absolutely no knowledge. And the impression my daughter got, was that if you did not speak Swiss German, you were a problem for the teachers, and was “black listed” When my daughter started, I took her to the class, and that was the last support she got from an adult on her first day. Nobody was helping her, and she did not get any support form the teachers. Most teachers were not even informed about that a new student was starting, and she did only have very little German knowledge. For lunch, it was the same, no one to help. When she started at the International school of Winterthur, she was connected with a student, who was helping her finding things, and making sure that she was not alone for lunch, or in the breaks. This kind of support means everything for a new student, and don’t have any cost’s for the school. To me it just backs-up my theory, that the Swiss International School doesn’t have any interests in the students, but are more focused on the turn-over. Unfortunally there are other examples of this. My daughter was in the class with another Danish girl, and it was her second year on the school and second year in the same class. She started as my daughter did, and her German also on a very low level, so she could of course not keep up as everything was is in German, so she was really unhappy, but nothing was done, and the school did not offer any help. I my case, I notified the principal that it was not what we signed up for, and that I expected we should find a solution for it. That was after the first week. The second week I did not hear anything from the school, not until I called and asked what the status was on this issue. I in my entire life never expected such an arrogant behavior like this. And that’s what you get for paying more then CHF 25.000 a year!! < So based on my experiencing, my recommendations would be to save your money, and give your kid a German course and then put them on a Swiss school. If you’re just planning on staying a year or two, and would like to have your kid on an international school, I can really recommend ISW (international School Winterthur) the fees are lower, close to Zürich, but most important, they care for our kids!! Your kid is not left alone, language is English, and the level of the teachers is really professional. It is my opinion that SIS is operated very un-professional and I would for sure not give this school my recommendations. If you look at the homepage you will also see that it is a private school, very much focused on profit, and satisfying the shareholders!! When looking at core values of the school, you will see honesty, and respect. They should start with them self, as they don’t know the meaning of those two words. A word that also repeats itself is partnership, but as soon as you as a parent need their help, the partnership disappears. Another thing that is quit interesting for SIS is, if you take a look at their job section, if you would like to have a job teaching at this “international school” you need to have German as your mother tongue how international is that??

    [Moderator's note: this comment refers to not]