Structure and permeability
The Swiss education system consists of general and vocational qualifications, which are federally recognised formal qualifications. The high degree of permeability is an important feature of the Swiss education system. Transitions between different educational levels and types are possible at any time. Some transitions may require additional efforts such as supplementary courses.
As laid down in the Swiss Constitution, the equal recognition of general education and vocational pathways is achieved in society. Responsibility for the Swiss education system is shared by education institutions on the one hand and the three policymaking levels (Confederation, cantons and communes), on the other. Within the scope of their powers, they have jointly ensured the high quality and accessibility of the Swiss education area since 2006. Responsibilities for regulation, funding, implementation and supervision vary depending on the educational level and institution concerned.
Federal and cantonal competences
The cantons have authority over all matters that are not entrusted to the Confederation. It is the cantons that bear most of the responsibility for education. At cantonal level, each canton has its own school and education legislation. Cantonal governments are responsible for the strategic management and administration of education. Cantonal education authorities perform implementation and administrative functions. They are subdivided into departments and offices (e.g. Department of Education, comprised of the Office of Compulsory Education, the Office of Upper-Secondary Education and Training, and the Office of Higher Education). In the case of issues requiring a common solution, the cantons coordinate amongst themselves. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education plays an important role in this respect.
At the federal level, education matters are handled by the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER). The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) within the EAER is the federal government's specialised agency for national and international matters concerning education, research and innovation policy. SERI has 280 employees and an annual budget of around CHF 4 billion.
Marketing and promotion of VPET
The Swiss VPET system enables young people to enter the labour market and it ensures that there are enough qualified workers and managers in the future. The VET and PE sectors are closely aligned to labour market needs and are an integral part of the education system. The VPET system is divided into two sectors: upper-secondary level vocational education and training (VET, ISCED-2011: 34/35) and tertiary-level professional education (PE, ISCED-2011: 6/7). Education and training are centred on the competences that are actually in demand as well as on occupations and professions for which there are existing job vacancies. With its direct correlation to the labour market, VET contributes to low youth unemployment rates (ILO rate 8.6 % for 2014, Eurostat NEET rate 7.3 % for 2014, SECO unemployment rate 3.6% in August 2015) in Switzerland. For international comparability the ILO youth unemployment rate is useful. Nevertheless for the analysis of the youth unemployment it might be too broad as this quota includes youth that is still in training as well as searching for a second job. The NEET rate includes young people neither in employment nor in education and training. The national quota released by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Swiss Federal Statistical Office only includes young people who officially apply to receive unemployment benefits in Switzerland.
Differences between the various education systems around the world make it difficult to assess the value of a particular training programme or compare it with others. The importance of vocational and professional education in Switzerland and the large number of people taking such programmes also make it necessary to ensure that VET and PE qualifications are more transparent and readily comparable, also on an international level. To enable Swiss vocational and professional qualifications to be more readily compared with those of other European countries as well as to facilitate job mobility, the Federal Council decided in August 2014 to introduce a national qualifications framework for VPET (NQF VPET) along with the simultaneous issuing of certificate supplements and diploma supplements. The Federal Council created the legal basis for implementation of the NQF for VPET qualifications and for certificate and diploma supplements by means of an ordinance on 1 October 2014. This framework covers approximately 730 formal VET and PE qualifications.
- NEET rate: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/en/web/products-datasets/-/EDAT_LFSE_20 (in English)
- SECO: Die Lage auf dem Arbeitsmarkt, 2015: https://www.admin.ch/gov/de/start/dokumentation/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-57158.html (in German, French and Italian)
- Figure: Swiss education system (EDK 2016): http://www.edudoc.ch/static/web/bildungssystem/grafik_bildung_d.pdf
- Figure: Structure of the national education system (Eurydice 2016): https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/fpfis/mwikis/eurydice/index.php/File:EN_key_2016.png
- Figure: Diagram overview of the Swiss education system (Source: SERI, 2016): https://www.sbfi.admin.ch/dam/sbfi/de/dokumente/berufsbildungssystem.pdf.download.pdf/berufsbildungssystem.pdf