Baccalaureate schools

Key terms: EVAMAR: evaluation of the Baccalaureate reform / Mobility and exchange / Occupational, educational and career guidance

Baccalaureate schools prepare students for further education at tertiary level, namely at a university. There are baccalaureate schools in all cantons. The Confederation and the cantons jointly regulate the recognition of baccalaureate schools. In 1995, the Federal Council's Ordinance on Recognition of Baccalaureate (MAV 95) and the identical Regulation on Recognition of Baccalaureate (MAR 95) issued by the Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) brought about a complete revision of Baccalaureate education. This gave the students a wider variety of options, thereby enabling them to choose an individual educational profile. A new core curriculum, a system with compulsory subjects, one freely chosen main specialism and one freely chosen secondary specialism and the student's obligation to write and present a Baccalaureate essay were introduced. The Baccalaureate reform was evaluated in two stages (2002-2004 and 2005-2008) in the EVAMAR project.

Organisation of Baccalaureate education

The structure and duration of Baccalaureate education vary according to the canton. It takes at least 12 years of schooling at primary, lower-secondary and upper-secondary level to obtain a Baccalaureate.

Enrolment in a Baccalaureate school usually occurs in the last year of lower-secondary level. In general, Baccalaureate school lasts four years. In cantons, where the Baccalaureate programme lasts three years (enrolment after lower-secondary level), preparatory Baccalaureate education must take place in the last year of lower-secondary education. Beyond Baccalaureate schools that last four years (Kurzzeitgymnasium), there exist in various German-speaking cantons Baccalaureate schools in which enrolment already occurs after primary school level (Langzeitgymnasium, duration: six years). The French-speaking and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland do not have any Langzeitgymnasium.

Each Canton stipulates the condition of admission to a Baccalaureate school. There are roughly three types:

  • Admission based on student's average grades, generally for students attending upper-secondary school at an advanced performance level. In case of non-admission, an entrance examination can be taken at the parents' request.

  • Admission based on student's average grades and recommendation of the teacher at the preceding school. In case of non-admission, an entrance examination can be taken at the parents' request.

  • Admission based on an entrance examination and/or student's grades and/or recommendation from the preceding school.

Entrance examinations are generally taken in written form. In some cases, additional oral exams are conducted. Mainly the first language, foreign languages and mathematics are tested.

Adults who wish to catch up on a Baccalaureate can attend a recognised Baccalaureate school for adults (duration: at least three years). It is also possible to obtain a Baccalaureate without attending a recognised Baccalaureate school or a Baccalaureate school for adults: the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) provides the option of taking the Swiss Baccalaureate examination. It's up to candidates to decide how they wish to prepare for the Swiss Baccalaureate examinations. They may either study autodidactically or attend a private Baccalaureate preparatory school.

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Last update of this page: 20.01.2017