The is very diverse, because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system mainly to the cantons. The Swiss constitution sets the foundations, namely that primary school is obligatory for every child and is free in public schools and that the confederation can run or support universities.
The minimum age for primary school is about six years in all cantons but Obwalden, where it is five years and three months. After primary schools, the pupils split up according to their abilities and intentions of career paths. Roughly 20% of all students attend secondary schools leading, normally after 12 school years in total to the federal recognized matura which grants access to all universities. The other students split in two or more school-types, depending on the canton, differing in the balance between theoretical and practical education. It is obligatory for all children to attend school for at least 9 years.
The first university in Switzerland was founded in 1460 in Basel, with a faculty of medicine. This place has a long tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. In total, there are 12 Universities in Switzerland; ten of them are managed by the cantons, while two federal institutes of technology, ETHZ in Zurich and EPFL in Lausanne, are under the authority of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. In addition, there are seven regional associations of Universities for Applied Sciences which require vocational education and a special Berufsmatura, or a Fachmatura (a graduation by a ) to study. Switzerland has the second highest rate of foreign students in tertiary education, after Australia.
Many Nobel prizes have been awarded to Swiss scientists. More recently Vladimir Prelog, Heinrich Rohrer, Richard Ernst, Edmond Fischer, Rolf Zinkernagel and Kurt Wüthrich have received nobel prizes in the sciences. In total, 113 Nobel Prize winners stand in relation to Switzerland and the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded nine times to organizations residing in Switzerland.Geneva hosts the world's largest particle physics laboratory, the CERN. Other important research centers are the Empa and Paul Scherrer Institute which belong to the ETH domain.
PrimarySimplified Swiss education system
The obligatory school system usually includes primary education (Primarschule in German, école primaire in French, scuola primaria / elementare in Italian and scola primara in Romansh) and secondary education I (Sekundarschule or Sekundarstufe I in German, secondaire I in French and scuola secondaria / media in Italian and scola secundar in Romansh). Before that, children usually go to, but it is not required in every canton. The minimum age for primary school is about six years in all cantons but Obwalden, where it is five years and three months. The cantons Thurgau and Nidwalden allow five-year-olds to start primary school in exceptional cases. Primary school continues until grade four, five or six, depending on the school/canton. Any child can take part in school if they choose to, but pupils are separated depending on whether they speak French, German or Italian.
At the end of primary school (or at the beginning of secondary school), pupils are separated according to their capacities and career-intentions in several (often three) sections. Students who aspire to an academic career enter (also named Gymnasium, or Kantonsschule, a public school by the canton/state) to be prepared for further studies and the Matura (normally obtained after 12 or 13 years of school usually at the age of 18 or 19). Students intending to pursue a trade or vocation complete three to four additional years before entering Vocational Educations which are regulated by federal law and are based on a cooperation of private business offering educational job-positions and public schools offering obligatory school-lessons complementary to the on-the-job education. This so-called "dual system" splitting academic and vocational training has its continuation in the higher education system. While the academic training leads to the matura and free admission to universities, successfully completed vocational education gives access to third level of practical education, the . If in addition to the vocational training the is completed the Fachhochschule may be visited instead. Rather recently introduced is a third, middle path via the Fachmittelschule which leads to a direct access to a Fachhochschule after a successful graduation of a . In some cantons, students with a Fachmatura may also get access to universities after a successful additional year. In the science literacy assessment of PISA, 15-year-old students in Switzerland had the 16th highest average score of 57 countries.
In the lower second level, there are several different teaching and school models that may exist. Some cantons define a specific model, while others allow the individual municipalities to determine which model to follow.
Pupils are allocated to institutionally separate school types, according to their performance levels. The structure is based on the principle of equal capacities among pupils. Generally, each school type has its own adapted curricula, teaching material, teachers and, in some cases, its own range of subjects. In general, there are 2 to 3 school types (4 in a minority of cantons), the names of which vary. In the structure with 2 school types, a distinction is made between the performance-based group at basic level (with the least demanding requirements), and the performance-based group at advanced level. In the structure with 3 school types, there is a performance-based group at basic level, a performance-based group at intermediate level and a performance-based group at advanced level. The requirements of the performance-based group at advanced level are the most demanding and this school type generally prepares pupils for transfer to the matura schools.
The cooperative model is based on core classes with different performance requirements. Each pupil is assigned to a core class according to his or her performance level. The pupils attend lessons in certain subjects in differentiated requirement-based groups (whereby the core classes are mixed).
The integrated model does not use different school types or core classes. Pupils with different performance levels attend the same class and mixing is maintained. In certain subjects, teaching occurs on differentiated requirement-based levels.