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SCHOOLS

Reader question: When do children in Switzerland go back to school?

The summer vacation is almost over for schoolchildren in Switzerland. Depending on where in the country they live, school has already started or will begin soon.

Reader question: When do children in Switzerland go back to school?
Summer vacations are finished in many Swiss cantons. Photo by Arthur Krijgsman on Pexels

Just as neighbours Italy and France are in the midst of their summer holidays, Swiss schoolchildren will begin their annual trudge back to school beginning from Monday.

In fact, on August 15th, which marks Italy’s sacred ‘Ferragosto’, when virtually the entire country shuts down for the holidays, kids in 13 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons will be already back in class.

The exact ‘back to school’ dates are determined by each canton; some have shorter academic years (and longer summer vacations) than others, and vice-versa.

For instance, Ticino children are the luckiest in Switzerland in terms of the length of summer holidays: from June 16th to August 28th.

Shortest holidays, on the other hand, are in canton Aargau, where kids are off only from July 18th to August 5th.

This is an overview of ‘back-to-school’ schedule for some cantons (last dates of holidays):

  • Basel-City: August 13th
  • Basel-Country: August 14th
  • Bern: August 19th
  • Geneva: August 21s
  • Vaud: August 21
  • Zurich: August 20th

Other cantons’ school schedule is listed here.

READ MORE: Why teachers in Swiss schools are worried about falling education standards

De-centralised system

If you are wondering why the length of summer holidays in Switzerland varies so widely, it is that, although they are mandated to last between four and eight weeks, individual cantons are responsible for determining their duration.

The reason for this disparity is that while the federal government — and specifically the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) — is charged with overseeing Switzerland’s education system, each canton sets its own public-school calendar, curricula, and other educational criteria.

Why are summer holidays for schoolchildren in Switzerland shorter than in many other countries?

It may seem that Swiss kids are disadvantaged in comparison to their French and Italian counterparts when it comes to the time they get off from school in the summer.

However, they also typically get several more weeks off , which are spread throughout the year: one to two weeks (depending on the canton) in the autumn, over Easter and Christmas, and in February.

The next school holidays are two weeks in October.

Are there any Covid-related requirements in place at schools?

There are currently no mask requirements in public places in Switzerland, including in schools.

However, that could change if the epidemiological situation in the country worsens, as some health experts are forecasting for fall and winter.

READ MORE: Geneva’s private universities charge high fees for unrecognised diplomas, probe reveals

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SCHOOLS

How much do international schools cost in Switzerland?

Tuition for private (as opposed to public) education in Switzerland is not exactly cheap — in fact, it is the most expensive in Europe, a new study shows.

How much do international schools cost in Switzerland?

Switzerland is the most expensive country in Europe for international education, a new study carried out by International Schools Database, which compares fees and tuitions in cities across the world, reveals.

Ninety-four schools in 10 Swiss cities are geared specifically to students whose parents are foreign nationals and want their children to get an international education that is recognised abroad more widely than a solely Swiss schooling is — especially outside the EU.

Classes are typically conducted in English, though some schools have sections (or lessons) in a national language as well.

This map shows where these schools are located in Switzerland. 

How much do these schools cost?

The fees vary from one school and region to another.

However, the study showed that costs are highest in Zurich, Geneva and Lausanne / Vaud, regions that are not only most expensive overall, but also have (along with Basel) the highest concentration of foreign residents.

These are just some examples of costs in these three cantons:

International School of Zurich: from 25,900 francs to 36,600 francs (from $28,330; 26,158 euros to $40,000; 37,000 euros).

St. George’s International School, Montreux Vaud: 27,300 francs to  36,700 francs ($29,000; 27,500 euros to $40,000; 37,000 euros).

International School of Geneva: from 25,000 francs to 35,830 francs ($27,300; 25,250 euros to $39,000; 36,190 euros).

You can see costs of all of Switzerland’s international schools here.

Exactly how much more expensive are these schools in comparison to elsewhere in Europe?

The study has analysed schools in 31 cities in 20 European countries.  It found that “the median price of Zurich, the most expensive city in Europe, is six times higher than the least expensive city (Copenhagen).”

Outside of Switzerland and London (another expensive location), median prices range from $10,000 to $20,000 per year (9,100 francs; 9,230 euros to 18,288 francs; 18,450 euros).

Why are these schools more expensive in Switzerland?

The cost of living is higher in Switzerland (and particularly in Zurich, Geneva and Vaud), but also teachers and other staff earn more money than their counterparts in other countries.

All these higher costs are, obviously, reflected in the tuition fees.
 

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