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STEM education for primary and secondary students in Switzerland

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Last update on November 19, 2018

STEM education in Switzerland for both primary and secondary students is among the highest quality in the world, with renowned programmes and innovative education methods.

The standard and quality of education in Switzerland is generally high, and this is also true of the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A recent study showed that Swiss students “have high STEM potential compared with their peers in other countries.” This was true, the study found, across all 26 Swiss cantons.

Children on ipads

STEM learning in Switzerland starts early, in school and beyond

Switzerland, driven partly by a shortage of skilled specialists in technology and information technology, is committed to realizing this potential.

“Anyone who wants to understand today’s world and find their way, be part of the discussion and have a say, needs an understanding of scientific concepts and basic knowledge of technology, ” as explained in a report (in German) on promoting STEM in Swiss schools. 

The American School in Switzerland (TASIS), located in Lugano, offers a renowned science department as part of its intensive academic courses, which introduce and encourage curiosity in computer programming, engineering and more.

Various projects in schools, as well as extracurricular activities, aim to capture children’s interest early on and nurture their enthusiasm throughout the school years. Parents can use this list of STEM-related activities (in German, French or Italian), which can be sorted by age, type of user, related subject area, type of activity and location, to find appropriate activities. Switzerland is also home to some beloved attractions that naturally integrate fun with science and technology, such as Swiss Science Center Technorama, Kindercity and the Swiss Museum of Transport.

Moreover, some studies and programmes especially target girls and women, as they have been found to be underrepresented in STEM studies and careers. There are a number of efforts to ensure that girls’ talents have as much opportunity to flourish as boys’ talents do. One initiative is Swiss TecLadies, run by the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW). Another is a teaching unit developed at the STEM learning centre of Zurich’s highly rated Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich), using new methods to improve students’ understanding of physics – with the side effect of shrinking the gender gap.

“Our research shows that when good students don’t understand physics, it’s mostly due to the teaching methods,” Elsbeth Stern, professor of Empirical Learning and Instruction Research at the ETH said in a statement.

Experiment with bananas

Excitement and expertise in STEM at international schools in Switzerland

Families with students in international schools in Switzerland can also find abundant opportunities to promote their children’s education in science and technology, such as the American School in Switzerland (TASIS). TASIS seeks to foster students’ natural curiosity and promote learning, preparing students for the demands of universities in the US, the UK and elsewhere as well as competitive job markets ahead.

Creativity, engagement and challenges are some of the catchwords shaping the school’s science activities, which include learning tools such as Raspberry Pi for computing and programming, the invention kit Makey Makey and the Drawdio, a pencil that allows students to “draw” music. Another tool to boost students’ skills and confidence is a scheme to accomplish increasingly challenging achievements, similar to the Boy Scouts of America’s merit badge system.

“We’re used to seeing kids get awards for athletics and the arts, and we wanted to find a way to recognize their achievements in science,” said TASIS Middle School teacher Amy Bloodworth.

kids working on a laptop

Learning STEM subjects in school brings benefits in all fields

“The long-term goal is enjoyment of science, and that enjoyment springs from understanding science—applying it, comprehending it, and being able to think for themselves,” said TASIS High School Science department chair Alec Ogilvie. “Who knows what jobs will be out there in 20 years? Whatever line they follow, whether it is in science or other fields, they’ll benefit from being able to logically decipher data and understand trends and patterns and connections.”

Children and teacher looking at a computer screen

The approach seems to work: Recent TASIS graduates who have excelled in the sciences have moved on to Ivy League colleges, Cambridge and other top international universities to pursue degrees ranging from neuroscience to medicine to computer science.


Images provided by TASIS.