School attendance is required in Switzerland through the ninth grade, comprising primary school and secondary level I.
Most children (according to the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education, around 95 percent) attend public schools during their nine years of mandatory schooling. Public schools are nondenominational and free of charge. Children are assigned to schools near their homes.
Children learn two foreign languages. The first depends on the language spoken in their canton and will be either French, Italian, or German. The second foreign language taught is English.
A summary of the school attendance requirements in Switzerland and in the Canton of Bern.
Attending kindergarten for one or two years is optional. After their sixth birthdays, children are required to enroll in Volksschule, divided between six years of primary educations (Primarstufe) and three years of secondary level I (Sekundarstufe I). During the first six years, all children are taught together. For secondary school, they are separated (sometimes only in certain subjects) into academic and vocational tracks. Secondary schools differ as to their precise organizational system.
In German-speaking parts of Canton Bern, the first foreign language to be taught is French, in the fifth grade. English follows in grade seven.
Students completing the vocational track (Realschulniveau) generally commence an apprenticeship after graduation. Those on the academic track continue to secondary level II (Sekundarstufe II) at a middle school (Mittelschule), which may be either university prep (Gymnasium) or a vocational college (Fachmittelschule). A degree from the Gymnasium is known as Matura and entitles the bearer to enroll in a university or institute of technology, while graduation from a vocational college (Fachmaturität) qualifies students to attend a school of applied sciences (Fachhochschule).
To qualify for university takes 12 years, from first grade through Matura.
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