Hallo Basel answers your questions about moving to Basel

Schooling in Switzerland

When moving with children of any age, schooling is often foremost on parents’ minds. Everyone wants to make the best school choice for their child. This page will help you understand schooling in Switzerland. What do you need to know about schooling in Basel?

The school system in Switzerland may be different to that of your home country and/or the country where you lived previously.


In the Swiss school system, school is mandatory for eleven years: two years of kindergarten, six years of primary school and three years of secondary school (approximately between ages 4/5 and 15/16). 

The three segments of schooling in Basel are: 

  • Before the mandatory school period
  • The mandatory school period
  • After the mandatory school period

Local, Private, Bilingual or International?

You will decide whether to send your child(ren) to school in the local public Swiss system, to (private) bilingual school, or to international school based on your own preferences and needs. 

This page gives some information on local public Basel schools and other education options. 

Schooling in Basel

This image is taken from the official Basel Stadt education website

Before the Mandatory Swiss School Period

Kita and Spielgruppe in Switzerland

Children are between 0 and 4 during this stage. 

At this age, children are eligible for Kita (Kindertagesstätte or preschool) or Spielgruppe (playgroup). 

Mostly, playgroups and preschools are run by private institutions, although some have links to the local municipality (Gemeinde). Additionally, some of the bigger companies offer their own Kita or childcare solutions.

As these groups are not mandatory, you must pay to use them. Company Kitas may or may not be subsidized. Parents on low incomes may be eligible for subsidies or vouchers for childcare from their local municipality. 

Tagesmutters (child minders) and private nannies also exist in Swizerland. Your local Gemeinde or pediatrician may have lists of child minders. Childcare and nanny agencies can also be found on the internet. 

Both Kita and Playgroup are intended to prepare children for mandatory Kindergarten. They both provide ways to engage children through play and to get them used to interacting with their peers and other adults. They can be especially useful in introducing children to local language and customs. 

Kita  generally has more structure than playgroups, because they provide programs for longer times (for example the whole day) and usually include meals. 

Playgroup is generally for short periods of time (mornings, for example). They usually do not include meals so you will collect your child for lunch. Normally a child attends only for specific days a week or for parts of the day. Playgroups are entirely privately run. 

Kita can cost between CHF50-200 per day per child. Playgroups can cost between CHF40-100 per day per child. The price difference reflects the different length of ‘a day’ in Kita compared to Playgroup. 


The Mandatory Swiss School Period

The mandatory school period lasts for 11 years and can be divided into three segments:
  • Kindergarten – 2 years
  • Primary School – 6 years
  • Secondary School – 3 years

Schooling in Basel: Kindergarten

The following is a translation (from German) from the Basel school website:

Kindergarten is part of compulsory schooling in the canton of Basel-Stadt and lasts two years. Children usually start kindergarten at the age of five. It prepares your child for primary school in a playful way. Parents will receive the registration form in the mail in December before they start kindergarten.” Kindergartens are mostly within walking distance of your home. 

When your child starts kindergarten depends on their date of birth. To enter Kindergarten in August of year n, your child would be born between 1st August year [n-5] and 31st July year [n-4].
For example, to start school in August 2023, the child would be born between 1st August 2018 and 31st July 2019. 

If your child turns four between August 1st and January 31st, he or she can be admitted to Kindergarten early if his/her level of development corresponds to the requirements of the kindergarten. The appropriate determination will be made by the school psychological service. Information can be obtained from the elementary schools. If a child is not yet ready for kindergarten, entry can be postponed by one year. 

Kindergarten is paid for by the local municipality (Gemeinde). 

Kindergarten is every morning, normally 8:00 to 12:00 and one afternoon from 14:00 to 16:00. If you need childcare beyond these times, you must arrange for that separately, either through the Kindergarten in some cases, or through private provider/Kita.

Non-Swiss/German speaking Children in Kindergarten are given special attention to facilitate their German language acquisition. Learning German can be fun, natural and fast when a child is immersed in the language through play. 

Schooling in Basel

Schooling in Basel: Primary School

After Kindergarten, a child continues at Primary School (Primarschule) for six years, generally between ages 6/7 and 12/13. Your child’s primary school is also likely to be near your home.

Primary School provides more formal education on a wide variety of topics with formal report cards. In the third class, most children begin learning French as an additional language and then in the fifth class, children start learning English also. 

School times are every morning from 8:00 until 12:15. For the first two years, children will also attend school one afternoon a week from 14:00 to 15:45.* From the third year onwards, the children will attend 2 or 3 afternoons from 14:00 to 16:30.*

In Switzerland, children mostly come home to eat lunch even on days when they have afternoon school. Additionally, children in Switzerland walk to and from school independently after the first few days of term. 

*Timetables, including start and end-time will be individually confirmed by the school. These times are indicative of a typical school week. 


Schooling in Basel: Secondary School

After successfully completing Primary School, Secondary School is mandatory for three years.

Secondary School prepares children for either vocational education or continued general education. Each child is evaluating during their final year of primary school and depending on the educational level he/she achieved, each child is enters one of three levels of Secondary School:

  • A-level which is geared towards vocational education
  • E-level which is geared towards more complicated vocational education
  • P-level which geared towards higher general education and university

During the three secondary school years, it is possible for a child to change levels based on their academic results and aptitudes.

Schooling in Basel: High schoolers

After the Mandatory Swiss School Period

After three years of mandatory Secondary School, students can choose from several options: 

  • Vocational education of Internships/Apprenticeships (Berufliche Grundbildung)
  • Commercial and ICT training schools (with or without internships)
  • Specialist Schools which prepare students for scientific university courses
  • Academic Schools (Gynamsium or Baccalaureate) which prepare students for continued general education or university

Apprenticeships and Guilds

Switzerland still relies on a ‘guild-system’ where someone learns a trade under the guidance of experienced ‘guildsmen/women’. Under this system, the apprentice attends school part-time, while also working in their chosen vocation under the direction of an experienced person.  The apprentice’s salary starts low salary while they begin to study, but increases each year until the apprentice has finished their apprenticeship. This ‘guild-system’ also applies to other technical or professional vocations for which higher level education may be required.

Schooling in Basel: International Schools

There are several international schools in the Basel area, and many in Switzerland as a whole.

International schools are run independently from the Swiss school system although some  follow a calendar similar to the local schools. The International Schools in Basel offer several different curricula and programmes including the International Baccalaureate, English iGCSEs and British A-levels, and the Swiss Matura. Some international schools are completely bilingual (German-English) while others are bilingual in the primary years. Two schools offer programmes from pre-school to age 18: International School of Basel and Swiss International School.  Academia International School, following its bilingual kindergarten and primary school (see below), offers a program from age 12-18.

Other international schools offer education from pre-school to end of primary school with approved transfer to the Swiss school system (direct entrance to secondary school without separate examinations): Academia Bilingual School, ELA Basel, Ecole Francais de Bale

There are also international and multi-lingual school options not too far away in Germany and easily reached by public transport.. 

As is usual for private institutions, the costs of international schooling must be paid either privately or as part of an employment package. 

There are various websites set up to list and compare international schools in Basel and in Switzerland (and throughout the world) and these can offer helpful information too.  

A Personal Choice

Where to send your child to school is a personal choice and one that only you and your family can make for yourselves. What is right for you might not be right for your neighbour. 

You may like to ask yourselves some questions to help you think through the various options available. Questions might include:

  • How long will you be in Switzerland? Where will you likely move to next? 
  • Swiss education is one of the best in the world and offers a very tailored approach if your family stays here a long time.
  • What about cross-culture and multi-cultural environments? Both will exist in Swiss and International schools but in varied ways. 
  • What kind of language acquisition is important to you?

Still Have Questions?

If you still have questions about schooling in Basel, we at Hallo Basel we can point you to the answers.

Ask us a question and we will email you back, completely free of charge. No strings attached. We are not affiliated with any school or system, we simply offer a helping hand from those a few steps ahead on a similar journey.