Language teaching

Switzerland has four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Therefore, in a multilingual country, the coordination of language teaching is particularly important. In March 2004, the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education adopted a national strategy for further development of language teaching. The most important contents of the strategy are incorporated into the Intercantonal Agreement on Harmonisation of Compulsory Education (HarmoS Agreement), which is to be implemented by the start of the 2015/2016 school year at the latest:

  • Two foreign languages (a second national language and English) are taught from primary school level onwards.

  • Teaching of the first foreign language begins in primary school grade 3 at the latest (grade 5 according to the HarmoS counting method*) and the second foreign language in primary school grade 5 at the latest (grade 7 according to the HarmoS counting method*).

  • The cantons Ticino and Grisons can deviate from this staggered arrangement if they teach a third national language as a compulsory subject.

  • Which language is to be taught first is coordinated regionally.

  • The national educational standards define the fundamental competences which must be achieved by all pupils.

  • During compulsory education, needs-oriented optional teaching in a third national language is provided.

Supportive measures in the language of schooling are provided for children who are native speakers of foreign languages and these children are given the option of attending courses in their language and culture of origin.

* New method of counting educational levels according to the HarmoS Agreement: The HarmoS Agreement (article 6) prescribes a two year pre-school attendance. Thus, compulsory education lasts 11 years. Pre-school and primary school level last 8 years. Lower-secondary education lasts 3 years. According to this counting method, grade 1 of primary school becomes grade 3, grade 2 becomes grade 4 and so on. This is to be implemented by the start of the 2015/2016 school year at the latest.

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Last update of this page: 08.08.2017

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