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The Swiss School System - Secondary & Middle School

The initial years of public schooling in Switzerland - kindergarten and primary school - are still (fairly) straightforward and probably very similar to what exists in other countries. The whole things gets more complicated for older children.

Education Differences in Secondary and Middle School

As you may know, Switzerland is divided into 26 districts called cantons. According to Swiss law it is the cantons, and not the federal government, that are responsible for a functioning public school system. This leads to a few interesting differences from canton to canton. For example the years it takes a student to reach the Matura (Swiss university entrance qualification) vary significantly from canton to canton. In some places of Switzerland it takes 10 years and in others 12 years.

However, it is not only a difference in years but also in the structures and names of the schools a student passes through on his way to the Matura or before starting his apprenticeship (which is a great option for professional education in Switzerland). In the canton of Zurich a student either goes to the Sekundarschule or the Gymnasium after primary school but only the Gymnasium will eventually allow him to complete his Matura. In the canton of Aargau a student is assigned the Bezirksschule, the Sekundarschule or the Realschule according to his grades and achievements in primary school. Bezirksschule is for the best students, Realschule for the weakest students.

There is also quite a bit of fluidity between school levels. This means that students from lower level schools who excel can switch to a higher level school but must repeat a school year. They complete an extra year of public school but finishing a higher level school usually means better chances in the run for good apprenticeship positions.

Swiss Education System

Names for Secondary and Middle Schools in Switzerland

As you can see, secondary schools in Switzerland have different names and since the Swiss - like most people around the globe - love abbreviations, there are also quite a few short forms for those schools. Here is a short (and probably incomplete) overview of secondary school names in Switzerland:

Bezirksschule (lit. district school)
Bez   (short for Bezirksschule)
Gymnasium (not to be confused with the English gym!)
Gymi (short for Gymnasium)
Oberstufe (general term for secondary level schools)
Realschule (lower level secondary school)
Real (short for Realschule)
Sekundarschule (secondary school)
Sek (short for Sekundarschule)

Secondary School Teachers

In secondary school, most students in Switzerland have to get used to having more than one teacher. As in English, secondary school teachers are called according to their subject and/or function. A few examples:

Fachlehrer (subject teacher)
Biologielehrer (biology teacher)
Mathelehrer (math teacher)
Französischlehrer (french teacher)
Klaesselehrer (classroom teacher)

Secondary and Middle School Subjects

Also, there are a variety of new subjects appearing in secondary school. Many of them get shortened or nicknamed by students. Here is how they are called in Swiss German:

Französisch (french)
Franz (short for french)
Biologie (biology)
Bio (short for biology)
Geografie (geography)
Geo (geography)
Gschicht (history)
Chochschuel (cooking class)
Chotzi (short for cooking class, lit. pukey)

Related Posts:
The Swiss School System - Kindergarten & Primary School
The Swiss School System - University
The Swiss School System - Apprenticeship




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