Cooperation in the education system

Key terms: HarmoS / Coordination in the higher education sector / Coordination in the area of universities of teacher education / Governance of vocational and professional education and training

The main responsibility for education resides with the cantons. In post-compulsory education (Baccalaureate schools, vocational education and training (VET), tertiary level professional education and universities), the Confederation and the cantons bear responsibility jointly, according to their respective competences. Coordination and cooperation are of central importance to the coherence of the Swiss education system. The Federal Constitution obliges the Confederation and the cantons to cooperate with each other, and also obliges the cantons to cooperate with one another. Since 1970, intercantonal cooperation has been based on the Intercantonal Agreement on Education Coordination.

Cooperation between the cantons

Cooperation between the cantons occurs at the cantonal, regional, or Swiss-wide level, depending on the educational level and the respective task. Cantons can cooperate on various issues and coordinate their efforts. Tasks where uniform solutions are called for Swiss-wide (e.g. school structures, educational objectives and recognition of educational qualifications) are regulated at the national level by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), which comprises the 26 cantonal ministers responsible for education, culture and sport. The EDK performs tasks which the cantons and regions cannot perform alone. Tasks which call for regional cooperation (e.g. linguistic regions' curricula) are handled by the EDK's regional conferences. In general, the cantons' cooperation is regulated within legally binding intercantonal agreements (or concordats).

Cooperation cantons - Confederation

The cantons and the Confederation work together in areas where both are responsible. The EDK is the Confederation's contact partner. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) within the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) bears responsibility for matters regarding education on behalf of the Confederation.

With regard to universities, the Confederation and the cantons, as well as the cantons amongst themselves, operate corresponding coordination bodies and have enacted joint agreements.

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Last update of this page: 26.07.2021