If you’re planning to settle in Geneva with your family, chances are that education will be a key issue that you’re considering. While the city’s education system is excellent, there are a few things to bear in mind when selecting specific schools. Read on to find out what they are.
About the Swiss education system
First, it’s helpful to learn a little about how education works in Switzerland. There are at least nine years of compulsory schooling, which is usually made up of the primary and lower secondary levels, but can also include pre-school in 15 of the country’s 26 cantons. Each canton is responsible for setting the curriculum and learning hours of each of their state schools, so you’ll find that the subject material in Geneva’s schools will be different to that in, say, Bern.
From the upper secondary level onwards, pupils are able to choose from either general education covering a range of subjects (this includes the baccalaureate schools), or more specialised vocational training. The former is the best option for those planning to go to university to do an academic degree rather than pick up a professional qualification. School days can be fairly long compared with what you might currently be used to, and there also tends to be more homework to complete outside of school hours.
State or private?
The first choice you will have to make is whether to send your child to a state-run or private school. If you choose the former and have a particular school in Geneva in mind, you will need to ensure you move nearby, as places tend to be allocated according to where the child lives. The main advantage of going down the state school route is the fact that it’s free, so this is worth considering if, for example, your relocation package doesn’t include school fees.
However, it’s Switzerland’s private schools that have largely earned the country’s reputation as a nation of educational excellence, so if you’re keen to give your child every possible opportunity and can afford the fees, this is the way to go. Figures from Lloyds TSB International put the average yearly school fee in Geneva at £14,810, making the city the tenth most expensive in the world, so this is something to think about very carefully.
Whichever option you settle on, you’ll find plenty of useful online resources to help you decide on a particular school. Among these is the official government website for Swiss education.
Monolingual or bilingual?
Another key consideration is the language your child will be taught in. Going to an English-speaking school might seem like the safest option, but just consider the potential advantages of sending your child to a bilingual school, especially if they’re particularly young and can therefore absorb a new language more easily, or if you intend to stay in Geneva for a long while.
It’s worth thinking about international schools, which teach in either English or both English and French and offer a curriculum that bears in mind the international nature of the pupils. The International School of Geneva is the oldest such institution in the country and a popular choice for expats, but there are several others to look at, too – head to The Good Schools Guide International to see what your options are.
All in all, your choice of school will be largely dictated by finances as well as personal preference, but Geneva’s fantastic reputation for education should go some way towards making the process a little easier!
This is a sponsored post by Lloyds TSB International. What are your experiences of choosing a school in Geneva? Let us know in the comments below.
it’s my belief that one of the most important issues to take into account when choosing a school is its proximity to your home. It’s important for children to play as well as learn, so having friends nearby they can play with outside of school hours is ideal.
Absolutely, and I nod my head as an expat mum having to drive around 100km back and forth everyday…not very wise but the school is worth it, although we’re now hoping to find a prpoerty closer to the school. Thank you for your precious feedback, a positive comment from you is always a great boost 🙂 thanks Michela
I think it’s important to stay flexible and most of all attentive to each child’s reaction and experience in a school I know of a number of families in which their children go to different schools, even though they are close in age. Finding the school that truly fits your child’s personality and interests should be, I think, the most important goal. Thanks for the post, it’s good to see the private/public debate being raised!
Hi Anne, thanks so much for reading and leaving your comment: yes each child is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution…but I hope to find a school that will work for all my 3 kids, as it would really change my life to have only 1 drop-off station for them all ! Thank you & pls stay in touch kindest regards Michela
Hi- Can anyone comment on whether any of the international schools offer special education support for learning disabilities? My kindergarten age son will have difficulty picking up a new language quickly and I do not speak French.
thank you for your message – yes most international schools offer learning support, is there a specific school you had in mind ? Here’s the link to Ecolint’s special educational needs programme: http://www.ecolint.ch/learning-ecolint/special-educational-needs; there are also specialist schools in the area: ASK in Geneva http://www.allspecialkids.org/wp/ and Oakhill School in Nyon http://www.oakhill.ch/
Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to help !
Kindest regards and thank you for reading, Michela
Thanks to all the mums for the comments. I am going through this internal debate right now having 2 kids in 2 different schools systems and countries. I would like to have 1 location and 1 set of holidays but they are happy as they are and it is hard to choose which child to submitt to the change…. So right now as crazy as it may seem they still are in 2 different systems, scholls and countries…..
My wife and I are going to live in Geneve for 3 months (mid-Sep to mid-Dec). Our daughter is 4 years old (to be completed next June 5) and our son is 2 years old (completed last December 30). We expect our children to be part of a learning environment. Considering the period of our stay in Genève, do you know if it would be possible to our children engage in some school? Thank you for your help and information. Paulo, May/14.
Dear Paulo, thank you so much for your message and apologies for the late reply. While you would definitely be able to enrol your eldest child in an international school, it might not be the best solution for such a short stay. Many school require a one-off joining fee which cannot be refunded on top of the normal school fees, so you would end up paying a lot of money for just a few months of attendance. As your child is so young, a different solution, a nursery or Montessori creche might work out best. Your daughter would still be able to learn, and the cost for your family would be more reasonable considering your short stay. Please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com if you require further info. Good luck on your move, enjoy your stay in Geneva! Kindest regards, Michela.
Hi. I have a 12 year old daughter. I would like to move to Geneva but wouldn’t be able to afford the fees for a private school. What is your opinion on her attending a state school in Geneva? I don’t know anything about them at all and if they have international students in them as well as local children. Thank you for taking the time to answer this question.
thank you for your message. Please take a look at my reply to Andre, exactly on the same topic: http://www.genevafamilydiaries.net/expat-life/schools-geneva/
just scroll down to the bottom of our post where all the comments are and you will find our reply to Andre.
All state school in Switzerland are of a very high standard, so you can’t go wrong there!
I hope it will be useful, but please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further queries. Best of luck on your school search, please let us know how it goes.
many apologies, I forgot to reply to your query about international children in Swiss state school! Yes absolutely, there are many international children within the Swiss school system as many expats choose not to go down the route of international private school and prefer the state system. Rest assured that your child will make many new friends both from Switzerland and from other countries, including English-speaking ones. Best of luck!
I have a very similar questions as Karen. I am planning on moving with my family to Geneva. Having 2 school age children (13 and 9 years old) who speak German and English, I am looking for a good state school.
I suppose that it will be still possible for my kids to learn French at their age and then to progress to the University level.
Would you, please, suggest any good reputation schools around the Geneva region?
Many thanks in advance.
thank you for your message. Yes, your children will be able to integrate in a Swiss state school even at the age of 9 and 13, as most of them offer very effective French intensive courses to allow foreign children to master the language in order to catch up with their peers and be able to join their class year as fast as possible. All state schools in Switzerland are of a very high standard so the choice will depend on you: where your place of work will be and where you will be living. My main advice would be to avoid long commutes to school and work as much as possible, when they talk about quality of life it very much means making the most of the wonderful community spirit that you find in every Swiss village and commune in the Geneva and Vaud area. Plus your children will be able to make local friends and not travel far for playdates etc.
Every school year is different and it very much depends on each individual teacher as well, this is why it’s impossible for us to recommend or pinpoint one single state school out of all the existing ones in the Geneva and Vaud area.
best of luck on your search, please let us know how it goes!
Thank you for your comment! What do you think about Nyon, as a place for living for internationals? I am trying to find a cycle d’orientation school + a public college in this area, however, I have not been successful until now…
Hello, I have a question regarding school hours in the public primary schools in Geneva. Also, do schools offer extended care hours? Thanks
most schools offer after-school care at a reasonable price but there are different criteria and waiting lists for each school in each “commune” so you need to check with the one of your choice. Best regards & good luck with your move!
I am going to move to Geneve at the end of this year to do PhD. I have a 3 years old son (at that time) and he will come with me. I am wondering about the kindergarten for my son. Do you know the price of the private one? (you know, the PhD salary is not so high and it’s also difficult to find the state kindergarten). Thank you so much
thank you for your message and congratulations on your imminent move to Geneva! It is impossible for us to give you this kind of information, you will need to contact nurseries directly for details of their prices, terms and conditions. You can also check with your University to see if they provide any assistance in finding childcare or if any other student in the same situation might be looking for someone to nanny share. Best of luck and enjoy your move to Geneva!
Hi, i have a question please. i am planning to move to Geneva and i have 3 years old son.
looking for the “low cost” schools but i’m also looking for “international curriculums” English and French in case we moved somewhere else after a few years.
Thank you 🙂
Hello everyone! I will be moving to Geneva in April and am trying to decide on the following:
Is there an important difference between the two campuses for Geneva International School?
I will be working in Meyrin and was initially planning for my 7 year old to attend the Gran Boissiere campus however the Campus des Nations seems much more convenient (traffic etc)
Not sure if any issues or major trade offs if I choose this side of lake vs the other
Thanks for my feedback!!
Dear Jessica, it sounds like you have it all in hand, all you need to do now is book a visit to both campuses to find out which one would be best for you and your child. Only you can decide what’s best for you as a family and it will all depend where you live too, as commuting can be exhausting. All the best, let us know if you have any feedback on the 2 campuses!
Thanks for all the great information. We will be moving to Geneva this summer with two English speaking kids (ages 8 and 5). We would like to put them in bi-lingual school or program, however some of the schools seem to foremost cater for French students learning English — can you offer any insight on this vs programs/ schools set up for English students learning French, and how that might work out for English learners? Recommendations on bilingual schools that cater for English language students learning French would also be appreciated.
(Apologies for responding on this chain vs starting a new comment/ question– I couldn’t see how to start a new comment.)
Hi Kim, you can take a look at our previous posts and comments on this subject, I am sure you will find some useful tips there:
Thank you very much for all of your comments and valuable information.
I will be moving to Geneva at the beginning of August 2016, with my 14 years old daughter who speaks English. She will finish Secondary I in June.
I prefer state school for the beginning, and I wonder if she would be admitted to the state school if we apply for the admission so late – upon our arrival in August.
I am also moving to work in Geneva with my 14 year old . What did you end up doing schooling? I’m panicking a bit as I’ve only just received my job offer and need to move ASAP and start in Jan.
Hello, does anyone know what are those good public schools in GVA? by name… thanks a lot
We are moving to Geneva in summer 2017, and are looking at schools for our 2-year old twins – even though they’d only go when age 4. Since one of us (parents) is German, we’d like to know whether there are public primary schools in Geneva that offer dual-medium French-German schooling.
Alternatively does anyone have personal experience with the German School in Geneva: we are particularly interested in the non-academic offerings at the school art and music, for example).
Thank you all in advance.
I would like to know which schools provided English and French for my 8 year old son. I would like to know if the prices for this kind of school.
If we decided to stay in Ferney-Voltaire will it be possible for our children to go to schools I’m geneva? Is there a lot of difference between education in France and Swiss for expat? Hope you would share with us info on these. Thanks!
Also I would be interested to hear the answer to this question, thanks 🙂
Am moving to Geneva with my daughters of 3 years old. I cannot afford the fees of private school. Is there any state school offering English education as well? So that my daughters can continue their studies in English In case we go back to my native place.
Please can up offer some advice as I am torn between the safest option of a expensive international school for my 14 year old son or putting him into state school across the border in France or in Geneva where I will be working from January (we will be living the French side but still haven’t decided on the best location). My sons level of French isn’t very good and I’m concerned that he won’t be able to progress to Lycée at 15 and will fail the (i think it’s call) Breve exams (like our GCSES in the UK). He wants to be a doctor and while his school gets on the UK really is that great I’m worried that his French won’t be good enough to progress to BAC studies. Do y know many people who have been in a similar situation with a child a similar age. My income ins my that great so want to avoid the fexpensove international school option if possible and and really keen for my son to integrate into the French system as we will be permanent but just really worried about how, at this stage in his learning, it will affect his future for getting into university etc. If he has to do a ‘redoublement’ more than twice for example will this reduce his chances entirely of progressing to university in France or Switzerland?
Also, as we haven’t found anywhere to live yet )this ado depends to as one extent on the proximity of our preferred school) will this hinder me from putting him on a waiting list for the state system?
Would be really grateful for some advice.
(A very paranoid mother!)
Hello! is there any rating of the schools in Geneva please?
We are conducting research on the behalf of a Geneva-based private school and we would like the point of views of parents who plan to send their children or already send (children must be aged from 2 to 18) to a prestigious International school in this area.
The aim is to define your needs and your expectations when it comes to education in a private school.
Please get in touch if you would be happy share your opinion and improve your children’s bright future.