Two-year Kindergarten is seen as the traditional form of pre-school education for children between the age of four and six. Attendance is optional, however practically all the children at this age attend pre-school institutions. For children with a foreign language background attendance the second year of Kindergarten before school start is mandatory.
In terms of administration Kindergarten is an integral part of the municipal schools along with the primary schools; there is a joint school management. In some municipalities school integration is going beyond this stage with the cooperation across school levels and age groups.
Children who are impeded in their development are entitled to attend a remedial education Kindergarten (special Kindergarten). On the parents' application the local authorities decide whether the child should attend a mainstream Kindergarten (with integrative schooling) or a special Kindergarten. The specific educational situation of the child and his school needs are also taken into consideration. Responsible bodies of the municipal schools (Kindergarten and primary schools) are the municipalities who finance infrastructure, further staff and normally 50% of the teaching staff.
Compulsory education is nine years commencing at the age of six, encompassing the five-year primary school stage and the continuing four-year lower secondary school stage. The latter is a system with three distinct school types. Transfer to the appropriate schools is based on school performance following a fixed ratio: Oberschule (25%), Realschule (50%), and baccalaureate school (25%). All school types of the lower secondary schools are for general education and follow joint and binding curricula. It is the objective of the lower secondary schools to prepare the students of the age groups 11 to 16 for attendance at the vocational schools and at other upper secondary schools. A special programme supporting sports is with the integrated sports school that offers individual and performance oriented training along with mainstream education. There is a strong focus on permeability between school types. If satisfying the necessary criteria students have the opportunity to change the school type after every school year without taking an exam, or after a successful examination. Further instruments are the joint curricula and the coordination of learning materials across the school types. On finishing lower secondary school the students fulfil the requirements for compulsory education at the same time.
Post-compulsory upper secondary level
Upper secondary school comprises both general education and vocational education and training.
For young people who do not enter upper secondary level directly after completing lower secondary education, optional temporary solutions are available. In Liechtenstein there is beside other possibilities the Voluntary 10th School Year which prepares young people in an interim year with needs-oriented programmes for schooling and vocational education at upper secondary level.
The major part of the students, i.e. around 55%, start vocational education and training (VET) at upper secondary school in the form of an apprenticeship that usually lasts for three to four years. In this dual system students attend a VET school along with the practical training in the host company. The three-tier system completes this sort of education with courses organised by various federations – so-called introductory courses – training basic practical skills. The leaving certificate (certificate of proficiency) entitles to attend programmes of advanced vocational education at tertiary level.
In the course of the apprenticeship or after finishing it apprentices have the opportunity to attend Vocational Baccalaureate School giving access to higher education. Schooling within vocational education and training is mostly done at vocational schools in Switzerland. Vocational Baccalaureate following the apprenticeship can be taken at Vocational Baccalaureate Schools. This sort of education is offered in Liechtenstein at the Berufsmaturitätsschule Liechtenstein.
A rather small part of the apprentices (10% to 15%) follows a full-time school-based programme at a vocational school in either Switzerland or Austria. Professional skills are acquired at school and the students perform additional practical trainings within and outside of the school programme. These programmes also offer the additional option of a vocational baccalaureate (specialised baccalaureate).
Around 30% of the students follow a general education upper secondary level programme at the Gymnasium. This baccalaureate school prepares for higher education at university level and lasts for seven years – starting after primary school until baccalaureate certificate; it covers lower and upper secondary education. Gymnasium is completed with the baccalaureate certificate giving unrestricted access to higher education at university level. Complete schooling until baccalaureate certification lasts for 12 years.
Based on the various paths of education and types of baccalaureate certificates Liechtenstein arrives at an average rate of 40% of baccalaureate certificates (including general education baccalaureate, vocational baccalaureate, and specialised baccalaureate).
According the Liechtenstein Constitution private schooling must be approved by the Office of Education. It can be allowed as long as the teacher has the required professional qualification and teaches according to the parameter of the curricula. The private education is initially limited to one year and can be extended to one year at a time if approved. In case of doubt the Office of Education can review knowhow and skills of the pupil on the basis of the curricula.
The tertiary sector in Liechtenstein covers the following types of education: Education programmes within higher education (tertiary A) Courses within programmes of advanced vocational education outside universities (tertiary B). Higher education is regulated by the Higher Education Law. Admission to courses in higher education is accomplished through a baccalaureate (baccalaureate certificate, vocational baccalaureate, specialised baccalaureate).
Higher education covers the following levels:
- Bachelor's degree (180 ECTS, minimum length 3 years)
- Master's degree (120 ECTS, minimum length 2 years)
- doctorate (minimum length 3 years)
Because of the small size of the country the range of education programmes in higher education is rather small and includes only two recognised institutions: University of Liechtenstein and the Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein (UFL). Besides other Swiss cantons Liechtenstein is responsible for OST - Ostschweizer Fachhochschule, for University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education (Interkantonale Hochschule für Heilpädagogik (HFH)) in Zurich, and additionally participates in inter-cantonal funding agreements for Swiss universities and for universities of applied sciences.
According to the 2021 education statistics, 1,213 students from Liechtenstein were enrolled in general tertiary education (excluding continuing education) at universities of applied sciences and universities in 2020/21. 72.9% were enrolled in degree programmes at Swiss institutions and 14.1% at Austrian institutions. 9.1% and 4.0% of students were registered in Liechtenstein and Germany respectively.
The sector of advanced vocational education is in principle regulated in the relevant details of the Law on Vocational Education and Training. This sector covers programmes at advanced vocational colleges, and (advanced) professional certification. Admission is accomplished through completed vocational training (see above). Liechtenstein does not have institutions of this kind. Students from Liechtenstein therefore attend courses at Swiss or Austrian institutions. Liechtenstein is however co-responsible for the neighbouring Swiss centre in Buchs/SG for vocational education and training, as well as continuing adult education (Berufs- und Weiterbildungszentrum Buchs BzB); Liechtenstein further participates in the costs for programmes of advanced vocational education by means of inter-cantonal funding agreements.
General adult education and continuing education and training
Adult education is primarily a responsibility of the individual person and takes place outside of the formal education system regulated by the state. It is organised as general adult education or (professional) continuing education and training. There is a clear distinction in general adult education between continuing education and training or school-based continuing education reflecting practical and legal requirements.
General adult education is thought to be part of the non-formal education sector with its own clear structure and organisation. State support of aesthetic and artistical education, including sports, is focused on special public institutions in the sense of a wholistic educational mandate: these include Liechtenstein Music School (Liechtensteinische Musikschule), Liechtenstein School of Arts (Kunstschule Liechtenstein), and Sports School (Sportschule Liechtenstein). State support is organised in close cooperation with the relevant federations that play a major role in Liechtenstein in this respect. Sportschule is an integral part of the regular lower secondary school. Both Musikschule and Kunstschule are set up as foundations under public law in their own right.