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 and method schools in Switzerland
- Should you choose an international school?
- International diplomas and qualifications on offer in Switzerland
- Admission procedures to international schools in Switzerland
- A list of top international schools in Switzerland by location
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 programs 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 program.
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 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 programs: 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) program and writing an extended 4,000-word essay. The IB program is recognized as a university admission level qualification around the world. For more information, see Expatica’s article about 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 recognized by universities in the UK, North America and Europe. A Levels allow students to specialize 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
- Academia International School
- SIS Swiss International School Basel
- ELA Basel – The Swiss British School of Basel
- The International School of Basel: an English-speaking international school supporting students aged 3-19 with education from the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
- British School Bern
- Ecole d’Humanité
- The International School of Berne: an English-language school offering three- to 19-year-old students the IB program.
- John F. Kennedy International School: 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.
- British School of Geneva: located in the center of Geneva and follows the English national curriculum from the primary section to the A levels (5–19 years).
- Collège du Léman: located in Geneva, for students aged two to 18 years old. Teaches the International Baccalaureate (IB) and IGCSE, in French and English.
- Deutsche Schule Genf
- Geneva English School
- Institut Florimont
- Institut International de Lancy
- International School of Geneva (Ecolint)
- Swedish International School of Geneva
- International School of Schaffhausen: offers 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: Brillantmont International School: founded in 1882, in the centre of Lausanne, this family-owned day and boarding school is for boys and girls aged 13-18 with a Summer Course for 10-17-year-olds.
- Collège Champittet
- La Côte International School
- Ecole Bilingue de Suisse Romande
- La Garenne International School
- GEMS World Academy Switzerland
- Haut-Lac International School
- International School of Lausanne
- Institut Monte Rosa
- Kumon Leysin Academy of Switzerland
- 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 International School Switzerland
- Surval Montreux
- Institut Montana
- International School of Zug and Luzern: ISZL serves the international community of central Switzerland by providing a comprehensive education from ages three to 18. As an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, ISZL offers the Primary Years, Middle Years, IB Diploma and Career Pathways program.
- ISOCS International School of Central Switzerland
- ICS Inter-community School Zurich: With a school campus located 15 minutes away from Zurich Center, the Inter-Community School Zurich (ICS) is the longest-established international school in the Zurich area. Their language of instruction is English and all students learn German. Many also study a third language through to Grade 12.
- ISZN International School Zurich North
- Japanese School in Zurich
- Lakeside School Küsnacht
- SIS Swiss International School Zurich
- Tandem International Multilingual School
- International Bilingual School Terra Nova
- Zurich International School