International schools in Switzerland

International schools in Switzerland

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For parents living in Switzerland, here's a rundown of what you need to know about international schools in Switzerland, a list of top schools by city, and information about how to enrol your child in the Swiss education system.

If you are moving to Switzerland with children in tow, you’ll have your pick of 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 they typically offer international education diplomas so your child can continue their schooling back home or in another international school abroad.

This guide covers all the basics of 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 include primary and secondary schools, day and boarding, and offer various teaching methods such as Montessori and Kumon and 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 curricula 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, with instruction given in French, Swedish and English.

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 Kumon Leysin Academy of Switzerland, which has bilingual education in Japanese and English, is accredited by the Japanese Ministry of Education, which means students are eligible for entry into Japanese universities, and also offers the American College Preparation programme.

There are many Montessori schools and some Steiner-Waldorf schools in Switzerland, and although independent schools, they 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?

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 the length of stay in Switzerland, the student’s age, 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.

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.

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

Regardless of whether you decide for local or international education, it’s better for families to choose one system for all children to maintain compatible daily and vacation schedules. For more information, you can see our guide to Swiss schools: state, private, bilingual and international schools in Switzerland.

international schools in switzerland

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 August 2018, nearly 5,000 schools in more than 150 countries offer this diploma – almost fifty in Switzerland alone. There are four programmes: Primary Years, 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 language 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. A Levels allow students to specialise in subjects they are passionate about, developing the research and independent study skills they will need later at university. Good A Level grades open doors to universities worldwide, even giving credit for certain courses in US colleges.

High School Diploma and Advanced Placement courses

Some schools offer an American program leading to the High School Diploma and include 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

Admission procedures vary from school to school but it is advised to apply to the school as soon as possible, as many schools have waiting lists. Otherwise, your option may not be available at the time of your move. However, it may be possible to gain admission mid-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: state, private, bilingual and international schools in Switzerland.

List of top international schools in Switzerland by location

















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3 Comments To This Article

  • 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??

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