The secondary education system is divided into two levels. Lower secondary is the final stage of compulsory education, but more than 90% of pupils continue on to upper-secondary level.
Lower-secondary follows on from primary level. Children are generally around 12 years old when they start lower secondary, and in most cantons this education takes three years. Performance at the end of primary school, teachers' recommendations (often with the inclusion of the parents' opinion), and in some cases a transition examination, determine the particular performance level to which the pupil is assigned in lower-secondary education. The transition procedures differ according to canton and model. Tuition is generally given by specialists in the given discipline.
Over 90% of young people in Switzerland continue on to upper-secondary level, where they can choose between vocational education and training or general education. Upper-secondary programmes run for between three and four years.
The majority of young people (two-thirds) in Switzerland opt for the VET route, where they learn their chosen trade. In most cases, this involves serving a part-time apprenticeship and taking classes at a trade school. The technical term for this model is “dual vocational education and training”.
General education programmes are dispensed primarily by baccalaureate schools and prepare pupils for entry to university.