Switzerland is home to state schools, private schools, bilingual schools, and international schools. The latter in particular cater mainly for non-Swiss students. Education in Switzerland is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15 years of age. And in 2019 there were over 950’000 students enrolled in the Swiss school system, with around 95% of students attending state or public schools.
And while most state schools are free, depending on Canton, parents may still have to pay for certain extras including: materials, school trips and after school activities. Additionally, all parents have to purchase health and accident insurance for each child.
In addition to state schools, there are also 240 private schools and 44 International Schools operating in Switzerland, forming part of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS).
A overview of Swiss private and international schools:
- There are different types of private schools which vary in curriculum and facilities. Almost all private schools in Switzerland can be described as being “very prestigious”. Switzerland is home to some of the world’s most expensive private boarding schools, such as “Le Rosey” in Rolle near Geneva which costs over CHF 100’000 per year to attend.
- Switzerland ranks only 111th in the world in terms of number of pupils attending private schools vs state high schools at 9.73% – only one ranking above the Central African Republic. This might seem surprising, especially as Switzerland has the 3rd highest GDP in the world at over US$ 81’000 per capita
- Expatriates living in Switzerland often choose to send their children to International schools due to the fact that their children can receive a similar education to the one they would receive at home. The international schools practice several teaching methods with a variety of curricula available including Swiss, UK, French, German, Swedish and Japanese education.
- The International Baccalaureate program is also taught in International Schools in Switzerland and originated at the International School of Geneva. Today nearly 5’000 schools in more than 150 countries offer this qualification.
- In terms of extra curricular activities, some of the top boarding schools in Switzerland offer courses in horse riding, skiing and even skydiving as part of the curriculum. Others have royal family members as students.
International boarding school fees vary greatly depending on reputation, location, curriculum, infrastructure and additional services and extras available. The total cost is also dependent on other options selected such as sports, food and extracurricular activities such as study trips and of course insurance.
The main cities of Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux, Zurich, Zug and Basel and their surrounding areas are the most popular locations for international schools. Berne, the Swiss capital, has only one international school compared to Geneva with 15.
The minimum cost for a Swiss boarding school is around CHF 40,000 per year for tuition and boarding, while the maximum can be as much as CHF 140’000 for the same. For non-boarders, probably one of the lowest fees for a primary student is the SIS Swiss International School at about CHF 24,000 per year.
But given Switzerland was ranked most expensive country in the world to live in in 2020, it should come as no surprise that the 7 most expensive international schools in the world are all located in Switzerland. Here are some examples:
- The Institut auf dem Rosenberg in St. Gallen – home to students of 50 different nationalities and with average fees of CHF 140’000 enjoys an enviable reputation for quality. According to the school website “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.” The school limits the number of students to 260 and an average class size of 8 with the teacher-student ratio of 1:2.
- Ranked second in terms of cost is Collège Alpin International Beau Soleil in Ollon in the Swiss-french canton of Vaud (French part). Its cost is more than CHF 120,000 annually, and it includes skydiving in its list of extra-curricular activity.
- Aiglon College, located in Chesières in the Swiss-french Alps describes itself as “one of the worlds most distinctive boarding schools” accepts children from ages nine to 18. Rather than a standard five day school week Aiglon runs a six-day educational programme. The list of foreign languages taught include French, Spanish and Italian, Russian, Japanese and Arabic. Tuition starts at just over CHF 100’000 per year.
- Located in the German part of Switzerland is Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz in the Canton of Graubuenden – with around 300 pupils, including 220 Boarders. And according to the International Schools Data Base – Boarding fees for first year start at around CHF 80’600.
These are just a few examples of exclusive international schools in Switzerland. Of course there are less expensive options, especially if the child is not a boarder.
There are also numerous other websites offering advice and comparisons regarding international schools. Some ones to mention:
- Expatica – International Schools in Switzerland: https://www.expatica.com/ch/education/children-education/international-schools-in-switzerland-102095/
- International School Parent:
- World Schools: https://world-schools.com/the-best-international-schools-in-switzerland/
In addition to the aforementioned list of exclusive International schools, a fairly recent addition is the Lucerne International School. This new age education centre targets students from the Swiss system, the International Baccalaureate (IB) system and the Cambridge International system, helping them transition seamlessly to Swiss and International Universities is the Lucerne International School. https://www.lucerneinternationalschool.ch/pathway-to-universities/why-lucerne-international-school/
While this School is focused on 21st Century learning its fees rank as one of the least expensive in Switzerland starting at CHF 18’000 per student per year.
Finally, it is worth mentioning, that if you are moving to Switzerland soon and want to place your child in a Swiss International School, expatriates living in Switzerland can deduct various costs from their income including in most cases private International school fees. This has to be proven however, by furnishing copies of the school enrolement contract.