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Education in Geneva

Are you considering living in Geneva? International and welcoming, this city has a lot to offer both in terms of facilities and infrastructure. With this InterNations Guide, you will find an overview of the key aspects of expat life, including education and transportation.

Primary School — Cycle Primaire et Cycle Moyen

Swiss state schools provide excellent and free education to all children legally residing in Switzerland. There is no nation-wide curriculum, so all questions with regard to schools and educations are decided by the individual cantonal authorities.

Compulsory education starts with kindergarten or nursery schools for children aged four. Primary education is divided into two cycles of four years each (cycle primaire and cycle moyen). Subjects taught include French, German, mathematics, geography, history, music, sports, as well as information and communication technologies.

Secondary School — Cycle d’Orientation

Secondary school starts with ninth grade. It is divided into a compulsory stage and a period of further education. The first stage is called cycle d’orientation and caters to pupils aged 12 to 15.

Following this, children who wish to remain in school can choose one of three options which best suits their talents. Students can attend, Collège, for instance, which prepares them for university. While a formation professionnelle, on the other hand, takes place at vocational schools, and, after four years, allows students access to further vocational training at highly specialized centers. Finally, the écoles de culture générale lets pupils pursue four years of general further education.

Introduction Classes and Language Courses

So-called classes d’accueil are available for children who are new to Switzerland, both in primary schools and at the first stage of secondary school. Every year, hundreds of pupils attend these classes which are offered in addition to the normal curriculum. The object of these classes d’accueil is to teach a basic knowledge of the French language to foreign students and ensure they meet a general standard of education.

For more information on the classes d’accueil, please contact the Bureau d’accueil de l’enseignement primaire or the Direction générale du cycle d’orientation, respectively.

In consultation with the Direction générale de l’enseignement primaire, some foreign consulates also offer courses de langue et culture d’origine in primary schools. These classes are supposed to encourage children to pursue the language and culture of their home country, in order to develop a sense of duel identity and belonging.

Enrollment for Expat Children

Enrollment for primary school begins in March while school usually starts in late August. Parents must enroll their children at a school within their community, preferably the one closest to their domicile. The child’s identity card, or passport, plus resident permit must be produced at enrolment.

In order to enroll your child into stage I of secondary school, please contact the Direction générale du cycle d’orientation from the January of the year your child is supposed to start school. In most instances, foreign children need to pass a test to determine their academic level before they can be admitted.

International or Private School: Which One Is Better?

The education offered at Swiss private schools is not necessarily better than at state schools. Private schools in the Geneva area are also under the control of the Départment de l’instruction publique, de la culture et du sport. This department offers a search function with detailed information on registered establishments on its website.

For obvious reasons, many expats chose to send their children to an international school. They ease the transition from one country to another, especially if your job takes you and your family to different countries all around the world. Most international schools offer a bilingual or multilingual education as well as internationally recognized programs such as the International Baccalaureate.

Geneva happens to have the oldest international school in the world — the International School of Geneva was founded in 1924 and has been growing steadily ever since. Teaching takes place at three different campuses in and around the city. Another renowned international school in Geneva is the Collège du Léman.

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Would you like to learn more about education in Switzerland? Read our detailed guide on Family, Children, and Education in Switzerland.


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