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Off to School (Part2 ): Secondary & Middle School

The initial years of public schooling in Switzerland - kindergarten and primary school - are still (fairly) straightforward. The whole things gets more complicated for older children.

As you may know, Switzerland is divided into 26 districts called cantons. According to Swiss law it is the cantons, and not the federal government, that are responsible for a functioning public school system.  This leads to a few interesting differences from canton to canton. For example the years it takes a student to reach the Matura (Swiss university entrance qualification) vary significantly from canton to canton. In some places of Switzerland it takes 10 years and in others 12 years.

However, it is not only a difference in years but also in the structures and names of the schools a student passes through on his way to the Matura or before starting his apprenticeship (which is a great option for professional education in Switzerland). In the canton of Zurich a student either goes to the Sekundarschule or the Gymnasium after primary school but only the Gymnasium will eventually allow him to complete his Matura. In the canton of Aargau a student is assigned the Bezirksschule, the Sekundarschule or the Realschule according to his grades and achievements in primary school. Bezirksschule is for the best students, Realschule for the weakest students.

Swiss Education System

As you can see, secondary schools in Switzerland have different names and since the Swiss - like most people around the globe - love abbreviations, there are also quite a few short forms for those schools. Here is a short (and possibly incomplete) overview of secondary school names:

Bezirksschule (lit. district school)
Bez   (short for Bezirksschule)
Gymnasium (not to be confused with the English gym!)
Gymi (short for Gymnasium)
Oberstufe (general term for secondary level schools)
Realschule (lower level secondary school)
Real (short for Realschule)
Sekundarschule (secondary school)
Sek (short for Sekundarschule)

In secondary school, most students in Switzerland have to get used to having more than one teacher. As in English, secondary school teachers are called according to their subject and/or function. A few examples:

Fachlehrer (subject teacher)
Biologielehrer (biology teacher)
Mathelehrer (math teacher)
Französischlehrer (french teacher)
Klaesselehrer (classroom teacher)

Also, there are a variety of new subjects appearing in secondary school. Many of them get shortened or nicknamed by students. Here is how they are called in Swiss German:

Französisch (french)
Franz (short for french)
Biologie (biology)
Bio (short for biology)
Geografie (geography)
Geo (geography)
Gschicht (history)
Chochschuel (cooking class)
Chotzi (short for cooking class, lit. pukey)

Related Posts:
Off to School (Part 1): Kindergarten & Primary School
Off to School (Part 3): University
Off to School (Part 4): Apprenticeship




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