According to the HarmoS Agreement, compulsory education lasts eleven years. It covers the primary and lower secondary levels. The primary level lasts eight years including the two years of infant school or the elementary cycle. The majority of cantons have adopted the directives of the HarmoS Agreement. At the start of schooling, children are usually 4 years old. Lower secondary level education lasts three years. Pupils requiring special needs education also receive support while either joining a non-special class, a special needs class or a special school. School attendance is compulsory for all children.
|Total||957 154||957 346||900 097||928 281||936 550|
|Primary level 1-21||156 364||156 129||147 932||170 557||170 758|
|Primary level 3-8||473 739||454 092||429 254||477 496||486 813|
|Lower secondary||278 457||298 436||285 781||249 014||247 539|
|Special education programme||48 594||48 689||37 130||31 214||31 440|
1 Kindergarten, first learning cycle Source: FSO – Statistics on pupils and students (SDL)
In 2016/17, almost 937 000 pupils were in compulsory education. 18% of them were at primary level 1-2 (Kindergarten, first learning cycle), 52% at primary level 3-8, 26% at lower secondary level and 3% in special needs education. Girls account for almost half of pupils at each level of compulsory education and pupils of foreign nationality for almost a quarter. The averages for pupils in special education programmes, including classes for pupils speaking a foreign language, however, are very different (35% girls, 48% foreign pupils). The number of pupils in compulsory education fell by almost 2% between the school years 2000/01 and 2016/17. After a stable period between 2000/01 and 2005/06, numbers gradually decreased until 2011/12 when they rose again. These variations are largely driven by demographic changes in the corresponding age groups.
During the 2016/17 school year, foreigners accounted for an average of 27% of pupils in Switzerland. This figure varies greatly, however, depending on the canton. The canton of Geneva has the highest proportion of foreign pupils (43%) and the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden the lowest (almost 9%).