Rotary Jugendaustausch - School




Switzerland has a unique school system. The reason for this is that the individual cantons bear the responsibility for education. More or less each canton has its own school system up to the secondary school level II.

Pupils attend kindergarten from 4 – 6 years of age. At 6-7 they start primary school.  After 5-6 years of primary school they move on to different levels of secondary school level I. Having completed the mandatory schooling at the age of 14 – 16, about 20% of the students change to a (college-type) “gymnasium” or “canton school “(secondary school level II) which they complete after another 4-5 years with a diploma allowing them to attend university. About 70% of the Swiss students, however, opt for vocational training after the mandatory school years. Such an apprenticeship includes working as well as attending school.

A typical class on the secondary school level II has 20 – 30 students. Each subject is taught by a different teacher and students change classrooms for every subject. The class mainly stays together. The main subjects are math, German, French, English and/or Italian, Spanish, Sciences like physics, chemistry, biology, then history and geography, economics and law, music, arts and general sports.

To study at Swiss high schools, laptops are meanwhile essential and required. Only some schools offer the option of borrowing one there. If you do have your own laptop, you should bring it with you to Switzerland. If you do not have your own, it is highly recommended to clarify before you leave for your exchange year, if you can count on the support of your family, your club or the school in this regard.

Inbounds attend the „canton school“ or „Gymnasium“ (secondary school level II). The general course level is quite high and demanding for all students. Swiss students have at least 36 lessons per week. Inbounds are expected to attend about 30 lessons per week. The lessons take place 5 days a week and are spread throughout the day from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm. In addition, students have homework to do. At the beginning, this curriculum is very tiring for inbounds but they soon get used to it.

Graduation is not possible for inbounds. The school year in Switzerland does not substitute for or correspond to a school year at a high school in the home country. Generally speaking, inbounds cannot get credits.

At the time of arrival in Switzerland, inbounds should not have finished high school at home yet. Increasingly, Swiss schools turn down students who have already graduated. In the past such students did not participate in their school lessons and they skipped classes, their only interest being to have a “fun year”.

Too many unexcused absences can result in school dismissal and lead to an “early return”.

Sports at Swiss schools cannot be compared with sports at high schools in the U.S. or Canada. In Switzerland, spare time activities for young people such as sports and music are offered in the evening or on weekends by privately organised teams and clubs, not through schools as it is the case in many other countries. In almost every Swiss community there are music orchestras and a variety of sports teams (soccer, tennis, volleyball, etc.). We suggest that inbound exchange students continue to play their instrument / practise their favourite sport within such a local team. Host parents and Rotary host clubs will help to make the necessary contacts.