Compulsory education covers about 90% of the schools. Schools at upper secondary and tertiary levels are fewer and on average larger than in compulsory education. A school’s educational level is defined by its student population and the educational programmes in which the students are enrolled.
In autumn 2020/21 there were in Switzerland 5 444 schools at primary level 1-2 (kindergarten/first learning cycle), 4 610 at primary level 3-8 and 1 619 at lower secondary level. The average size of a school is 30 pupils at primary level 1-2, 110 pupils at primary level 3-8 and 160 pupils at lower secondary level. 55% of the schools in compulsory education are located in an urban commune.
At upper secondary level, 374 schools were offering vocational education and training and 280 general education. There are approx. 600 pupils in a vocational school and 370 pupils in a general education school. Most schools at this level are distributed in an urban commune (88%). Switzerland’s education and training offerings are completed by the tertiary level (professional education and higher education institutions) with 420 educational institutions.
The number of schools, their distribution by educational level and their territorial breakdown vary from one canton to another. These differences reflect the distribution of the population across Switzerland. Five cantons alone account for more than half of the compulsory education schools (ZH, BE, AG, SG, VD), and two cantons for one third of the upper secondary level schools (ZH, VD).
In sparsely populated regions like rural areas, distances are longer to reach schools than in more densely populated regions, such as urban areas. Thus, the accessibility of schools, as measured by the distance travelled on the road from the place of residence to the place of education, varies according to the level of education and the region.
Statistical sources and concepts