International schools in Switzerland
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're moving to Switzerland with children in tow, you'll find many quality local Swiss schools as well as a number of private and international schools in Switzerland catering to the needs of expat children and international families.
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.
This guide covers some FAQs about international schools in Switzerland:
- What you need to know about international and method schools in Switzerland.
- Should you choose an international school?
- What international education and qualifications are on offer.
- Admission procedures to international schools in Switzerland.
- A comprehensive list of top international schools in Switzerland.
International schools in Switzerland
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
- Alpine Environmental Education Centre – Winter Term School
- British School Bern
- Ecole d’Humanité
- The International School of Berne: an English-language school offering three- to 19-year-old students the IB programme.
- John F Kennedy International School: The John F. Kennedy International School is an English-language boarding and day school for children between four and 14 years old. The student body is made up of 60 students from over 20 different countries.
- The British School of Geneva: located in the centre of Geneva and follows the English national curriculum from the primary section to the A levels (5–19 years).
- Collège du Léman
- Deutsche Schule Genf
- Geneva English School
- Institut Florimont
- Institut International de Lancy
- International School of Geneva (Ecolint)
- Swedish School of Geneva
- 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.
- Aiglon College
- Beau Soleil
- Brillantmont International School: located in the centre of Lausanne, this family-owned day and boarding school is for male and female students between 11 and 18 years old.
- College Champittet
- La Côte International School
- Ecole Bilingue de Suisse Romande
- La Garenne International School
- GEMS World Academy-Etoy: situated between Geneva and Lausanne, it offers kindergarten to grade 9 (ages 2 to 17). It offers the IB Diploma and plans to add IB primary and middle years in 2015.
- Haut-Lac International School
- International School of Lausanne
- International School of Monts-de-Corsier
- Kumon Leyson Academy of Switzerland
- Lake Leman International School
- Leysin American School in Switzerland
- Lemania College
- Le Rosey: Le Rosey consists of two campuses: Rolle in autumn and spring, and Gstaad in the winter.
- St George’s School in Switzerland
- Institute Montana
- International School of Zug and Luzern: The International School of Zug and Luzern is a day school spread over three campuses in and around Zug. Boys and girls are offered the International Baccalaureate programme.
- ISOCS International School of Central Switzerland
- ICS Inter-community School
- ISZN International School Zurich North
- ISZW International School Zurich West
- The Japanese School in Zurich
- SIS Swiss International School
- Tandem International Multilingual School
- Zurich International School
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Updated 2011; September 2015.