Swiss 16-year-olds face an important choice at the end of their three compulsory years in lower secondary school. When moving on to upper secondary level, they can either enrol in vocational education and training (VET) or they can, if their marks are good enough, go to a baccalaureate (pre-university) school, known as collège or Gymnasium.
More than two-thirds of students in this age group take the vocational route with around 300 registered apprenticeships to choose from. Almost all Swiss school leavers go on to upper secondary level.
Most VET programmes are dual-track, combining part-time classroom instruction at a vocational school with a part-time apprenticeship at a host company, with more days of the week spent at the workplace. The system allows young people to acquire professional skills that are in demand, and paves the way into the labour market.
But this does not mean their education is necessarily over when the apprenticeship is completed in three or four years.
When that upper secondary level is completed, there is the option to move directly to tertiary level professional education, or to begin at a later stage. This route provides professionals with additional skills and prepares them for highly technical and managerial positions. It includes around 400 federal examinations as well as more than 50 study programmes at colleges of higher education.
Students who are not ready to begin an apprenticeship or go to baccalaureate school when they finish lower secondary level at 16 have the option to do a 10th school year, a pre-apprenticeship or attend a school that prepares young people for enrolment in VET.
For more information on vocational and professional training, see the in-depth document at this link from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovationexternal link.