Due to the large expatriate community that makes up Geneva (40% of the population comes from outside Switzerland), the city has a well-established network of public, private and international schools. There are also many boarding schools throughout Switzerland that often suit expatriates who travel a lot with their jobs.
Regardless of what International or type of school you choose for your little one(s), in general, the level of Education is perceived as being of a very high standard.
New arrivals to Geneva should also note that competition for places is often fierce, whether it’s a public, private, boarding or international school. Hence, it is worth applying to serval schools to ensure that you can secure a place. However, spaces do become available throughout the year so it is advisable to be placed on a waiting list and maintain contact with a school if it is your first choice.
It is also recommended that you try and visit each school and meet the Director/Principal to get a feel for what is on offer. In addition to the criteria, you would normally apply to any school in your home country, you might also want to find out:
- What language will the lessons be taught in?
- What language and other support will be available?
- What languages are taught as obligatory or optional?
- What does the curriculum include? Ask to look at a typical timetable to see academic/non-academic ratio
- What examinations are set? Are they internationally recognised?
- If it’s a private school, what do the fees include/not include?
- Are there withdrawal conditions?
Below we briefly discuss the different schooling options available in Geneva.
The language gap means that public schools are best suited to expatriates looking to move to Geneva/Switzerland in the longer term and want to therefore fully integrate their children into Swiss culture and society. Speaking an official language is an advantage, and younger children often adopt the fastest. Schools make some provisions for foreign language speakers, but that can entail intensive language classes, and in some cases, repeating a year. Most schools also offer extra French classes to bring foreign children up to speed with the rest of the class.
Public schools are funded by taxes and attendance is free. However, public schools are managed at Canton (district/state) level, so there can be regional differences. Local public schools are usually easily accessible to the communities they serve, and often offer a ‘pedibus’ service where volunteer parents take children to school on foot.
School days in Geneva differ and working parents with younger students may find public school hours inconvenient. All children attend school on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 am until 11.30 am, and then from 1.30 pm until 4 pm.
There is no school on Wednesdays until children start cycle d’orientation at age 12. For parents who can’t look after their children on Wednesdays or during lunchtimes, some schools offer canteen lunches and after-school care at a cost, but it’s best to check with each school directly.
Many of the private schools in Geneva have waiting lists and only accept students close to the start of term, so it’s best to register at several. Deadlines differ between schools, so parents should check with each school individually.
Private schools in Geneva teach in French, English or both, and offer various curricula including the American Advanced Placement, IGCSE, International Baccalaureate Diploma, Swiss Maturité, Brevet des Collèges and French Baccalauréat Général. Most private schools are well equipped and have high teaching standards, but costs are usually high.
Expats should also consider the distance between school, work and home since rush hour traffic in Geneva can make it difficult to be on time. Some private schools have a bus service, but this can be costly.
Note: Many of the most prestigious private schools are openly religious, so it’s important for parents to check whether a school’s philosophy is compatible with their own.
For expatriates who prefer their children to continue with the teaching language and curriculum of their home country, international schools are a great option. With a reputation for high teaching standards and strict discipline, Swiss international schools are among the best in the world. Some 44 international schools in Switzerland are part of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS).
List of international schools in Geneva
British School of Geneva
Age: 5 to 18
Age: 11 to 15
École Rudolf Steiner
Age: 2 to 19
Geneva English School
Age: 4 to 11
German School of Geneva
Age: 3 to 19
International School of Geneva
Age: 3 to 18
International School of Lausanne
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Swedish School of Geneva
Age: 2 to 18
We hope that this blog has helps you with your decision-making process and helps your tax job relocation to be a smooth process.