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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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For members


Why teachers in Swiss schools are worried about falling education standards

Switzerland is seeing a drop in standards at its state schools, especially in German-speaking regions of the country, teacher's associations warn and it's all to do with staff, or the lack of them.

Why teachers in Swiss schools are worried about falling education standards

Switzerland’s teachers’ association has warned of worsening school education standards because of a lack of certified staff.

Association president Dagmar Rösler told a news conference that an increasing number of primary schools have had to bring in supply staff who are not qualified to be a teacher. “The quality of our education is in danger”, she said.

“The new school year starts with a further worsening of the shortage of qualified staff. This is hardly surprising and the schools are paying for what the politicians have failed to do for too long”, Rösler said.

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

She added there is a need to train new teachers, reduce overtime work, and provide new teachers with financial support. In addition, Switzerland needs to “make the profession more attractive”, according to the educator.

Where is the situation worse?

Rösler said the situation was worse in the German-speaking cantons in Switzerland and that schools were having trouble recruiting teachers to fill vacant positions ahead of the new term.

In Bern, for example, there were still 500 positions vacant in May 2022. The situation, which was already bad, was worsened by the Ukraine refugee crisis. As schools resorted to “emergency solutions”, they ended up hiring insufficiently qualified stern.

Rösler said: “In the canton of Bern, about 1,500 out of 15,000 teachers are insufficiently qualified. Moreover, two-thirds of the professionals working in education settings in the canton of Aargau do not have appropriate qualifications”.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

“Teaching is a demanding and complex task that requires basic training. Where this is lacking; the remaining experienced teachers have to provide support”.

“What is meant to be a relief turns into the opposite”, she said.

Rösler warned that the knock-on effect could see parents opt to place their children in private schools or homeschool.

What needs to be done?

David Rey, president of the teachers’ workers’ union SER, said that the emergency measures taken must become the norm and that recruited persons who are inadequately trained “must not be offered permanent employment”.

He added that “false solutions” such as having more kids in the same class just place an additional burden on the teachers.

READ ALSO: Zurich mandates organic food for hospitals, schools and cafeterias

For the professionals, the cantons need to recruit and hire more qualified people. They also ask governments to support the career start with a reduced workload to avoid “burnout” among young teachers.

“We must ensure that people stay in the profession for the long term with attractive working conditions, salaries that meet requirements, opportunities for further trending and protections against excessive work”, Rey said.