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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Early childhood and school education funding


3.Funding in education

3.1Early childhood and school education funding

Last update: 27 November 2023



Parents or legal guardians have to pay for childcare services in principle. Child day-care facilities and day-care families are funded chiefly through parental contributions; the public sector and in some circumstances employers pay a share of funding. Thus, most cantons are involved financially in childcare. In the other cantons, responsibility for any joint financing lies with the communes.

The specific form of financial participation varies depending on the canton or commune: cantons and communes may pay recurring or one-off lump-sum contributions (facility subsidisation) to the child day-care facilities. Or they provide their input as a function of the existing childcare worker ratios (subject funding). The payment is either made directly to families (in the form of a contribution, less frequently distributed through care vouchers) or granted to the child day-care facilities (object funding). The less common ‘subject funding’ involves funding models in which financial contributions are paid directly to parents, in the form of care vouchers for instance.

Through the Bundesgesetz über Finanzhilfen für familienergänzende Kinderbetreuung [Federal Act on Financial Assistance for Childcare] (in force since 1 February 2003), the Confederation has created a temporary incentive programme which is designed to promote the creation of additional places in day-care for children. Child day-care facilities, structures for the co-ordination of care by day-care families, and public care facilities complementing school such as all- day schools, day nurseries or supervised midday meals are eligible for contributions as well as innovative projects in the field of pre-school childcare. In addition, cantons receive financial support, which in turn increase subsidies for childcare and thus make the offer more attractive to parents. Finally, it is also possible to finance projects aimed at improving the matching of childcare services to the needs of parents. Between 2003 and 2019 the Confederation spent CHF 373.4 (€ 342.6) millions and thus supported the creation of around 60,100 new care places through this programme. Parliament has extended the incentive programme to 31 January 2023, and approved a new funding commitment of CHF 124.5 (€ 114.2) million for this.


Compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level) and upper secondary level

The Federal Constitution (Article 62) guarantees attendance of compulsory education at state schools free of charge. The cantons and communes have to fund compulsory education at state schools including compulsory pre-school. Attendance at optional pre-school in the public sector is also free of charge.

Upper secondary level schools are almost exclusively funded by the cantons and their communes. The cantons are the main maintaining bodies for the schools. The canton decides whether school attendance is free of charge or whether school fees are charged.

According to the Bundesgesetz über die Berufsbildung (Berufsbildungsgesetz, BBG) [Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act, VPETA)] the Confederation, cantons and private business contribute to funding vocational education and training (VET). The cantons bear the lion’s share of funding. The Confederation pays a share through lump-sum contributions to the cantons which are deployed among others for VET schools, inter-company courses, general-education teaching in Federal Vocational Baccalaureate courses or measures to prepare for VET. The cantons decide how to allocate the funding.

Private business is involved in VET through companies training apprentices or through professional organisations (OdA) providing basic groundwork or carrying out inter-company courses. Attendance at VET schools is free of charge for apprentices. According to a study, in the year 2016 Swiss industry invested a good CHF 5 (€ 4.6) billion in training apprentices. In turn, apprentices generated productive output worth almost CHF 5.6 (€ 5.1) billion in the same period.


Funding and free movement agreements

Intercantonal funding and free movement agreements (Konkordate) grant pupils and students equal access to education institutions throughout Switzerland and regulate burden equalisation between the cantons.

These agreements function according to the following basic principles:

  • free movement: the canton in which an educational establishment is located offers courses of training to students and pupils from other cantons under the same terms as to its own residents;
  • funding: the cantons of origin of the students and pupils pay the canton in which the educational establishment is located a specific fixed amount for the purposes of burden equalisation.
  • For compulsory education and upper secondary level the following intercantonal agreements are in place:

Lower and upper secondary level

  • Intercantonal Agreement on Schools with Specially Structured Programmes for Highly-Gifted Pupils

Upper secondary level (vocational and professional education and training)

  • Intercantonal Agreement on Contributions to Training Costs in Vocational Education and Training (VET School Agreement)

Each canton decides whether to sign a specific intercantonal agreement. As well as these national agreements, regional education agreements also regulate burden equalisation.


Financial Autonomy and Control


Childcare services are not part of the state-school system. Regulations and funding vary depending on the canton and/or commune. Private establishments decide how to use their own funds. The public sector can enter into service agreements with state or subsidised establishments, in which the authority for instance has to approve the budget or parental fee levels, and the establishments have to account for their own finances.


Compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level) and upper secondary level

At cantonal level the cantonal governments and cantonal parliaments are concerned with educational funding (e.g. through legislation or adopting decisions on financial budgets). At communal level the communal executive issues the multiannual infrastructure and financial planning for compulsory education schools and pre-school. Depending on the cantonal rules the local school authority may be concerned with budget issues (drafting the budget, loan management) or the schools themselves may retain powers over financial matters within the framework of school development and increased autonomy.

At upper secondary level the canton often agrees a service agreement with the schools on the services to be provided and approves an overall budget. The school administration/ school management is responsible for implementing the service agreement and for compliance with the budget. It deploys the funds and must account for them on a regular basis.


Fees within Public Education


Childcare services are fee-paying services. Most cantons have rules governing parental fees which aim to ensure childcare services remain accessible for all parents or legal guardians. The rates may be fixed at cantonal or communal level. In principle the rates apply to subsidised or state child day-care facilities. They are staggered in line with parental income.


Compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level) and upper secondary level

Attendance of compulsory education and pre-school in the public sector is free of charge.

The cantons lay down whether students have to pay school fees to attend a general-education upper secondary level school, or whether attendance at a state school is free of charge. Where cantons do impose school fees these are around CHF 500 to CHF 800 per year. Students who attend a school in another canton usually have to pay school fees. The cantons can also reach agreements on attendance of a school outside the canton, thus exempting non-cantonal students from paying school fees.

The teaching at vocational education and training schools (VET schools) is free of charge in accordance with the Bundesgesetz über die Berufsbildung (Berufsbildungsgesetz, BBG) [Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act, VPETA)]. Apprentices must pay school fees to attend a VET school in another canton. Since it may be necessary to attend the VET school outside the canton of residence, due to a lack of training places for the skilled trade in question, the VET school agreement grants apprentices equal access (no school fees for apprentices from other cantons which have acceded to the agreement) and regulates burden equalisation between the cantons.

VET apprentices receive an apprentice wage for the work carried out in the training company. This is set out in the apprenticeship contract. There are no legal rules governing rates. For many professions, however, the professional associations lay down guidelines.


Financial Support for Learners’ Families

Generally speaking, the following instruments of state support are available to families for their children:

  • Family allowances

    Under the Bundesgesetz über die Familienzulagen (FamZG) [Federal Act on Family Allowances] all salaried employees and low-income individuals who are not in gainful employment are entitled to family allowances, as are self-employed persons. To this end all cantons pay a monthly allowance of at least CHF 200 (€ 183) per child for children up to the age of 16 years, and a monthly training allowance of CHF 250 (€ 229) for children aged 16 to 25. The cantons can also provide for higher family allowances.

  • Tax deductions 

    Parents or legal guardians can claim tax deductions for minor children, or for adult children if they are still completing vocational education and training and are in need of support. At federal level this amounts to a flat-rate amount of CHF 6,500 (€ 5,963). At cantonal level, the amount and conditions vary.

  • Supplementary allowances for families

    At political level debates are being carried out on the introduction and organisation of supplementary allowances for families. Supplementary allowances for low-income families are regarded as an effective means of reducing family poverty. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Social Affairs (SODK) has issued recommendations to this end. These Empfehlungen [recommendations] support ongoing or planned cantonal supplementary allowances for families and work towards a future federal solution.




In state and subsidised private child day-care facilities parental rates are staggered in line with parental income. The public sector can either pay care contributions to the child day-care facility or it may grant income-dependent contributions or care vouchers directly to the parents or legal guardians. All cantons offer tax deductions for childcare costs. The maximum amount of these deductions may vary depending on the canton.


Compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level) and upper secondary level

Attendance of compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level) in the public sector is free of charge. Teaching aids are provided free of charge as a rule. In certain subjects (e.g. handicrafts/textile design) some contributions may be levied. Depending on the canton school materials (including notebooks, writing utensils, etc.) may be provided by the public sector or be paid for in part by parents or legal guardians. Parental contributions are therefore limited to funding certain materials and any meal costs and expenditure on out-of-school activities (e.g. excursions). Care services outside lesson time (including supervised midday meals and periods before and after lessons) normally have to be paid for. Parents or legal guardians are responsible for travel to and from school. The public sector (canton/commune) pays the cost of transport when the journey to school is too long and/or too dangerous and the children therefore have to take some form of transport. The costs are paid up to the nearest state school of the corresponding school type. Financial assistance in the form of grants and loans relate almost exclusively to the post-compulsory sector.

At upper secondary level the costs of school materials, teaching aids, transport and of special events are borne by pupils or parents or legal guardians. In vocational education and training (VET) the training companies may pay for food, accommodation and travel expenses or school materials, if stipulated in the apprenticeship contract. Pupils may apply for educational allowances.


Financial Support for Families of Pupils with Special Educational Needs

The free compulsory education guaranteed by the Federal Constitution also covers children with special needs. The general instruments of state support for families also apply (see above).

As part of the restructuring of financial equalisation and the division of tasks between the Confederation and the cantons (NFA), the responsibilities for services for people with disabilities were restructured and funding clarified. Since 2008 the cantons have borne the full operational, legal and financial responsibility for the education of children and young people with special needs (0-20 years old) and for special education measures. Prior to this, a substantial share of special education measures was co-funded by disability insurance (IV).

The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) has drafted an Interkantonale Vereinbarung über die Zusammenarbeit im Bereich der Sonderpädagogik [Intercantonal Agreement on Cooperation in Special Education (Special Education Agreement)] for the fulfilment of tasks by the cantons within the framework of this restructuring.

The cantons organise transport and pay transport costs for children and young people who, due to their disability, cannot move independently between their home, school and/or the place in which they receive therapy. Parents or legal guardians may be asked to pay a financial contribution for the meals and care in day-care centres or for in-patient accommodation of children.

The funding of services at in-patient establishments outside the canton and at external special education establishments outside the canton is guided by the Intercantonal Agreement on Social Institutions (IVSE). The IVSE regulates the situation of people who have to use special care or institutional assistance outside their canton. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Social Affairs (SODK) is responsible for coordination.

Disability insurance (IV) services may be applied for under the Disability insurance (IV) services may be applied for under the Bundesgesetz über die Invalidenversicherung (IVG) [Disability Insurance] or the Verordnung über die Invalidenversicherung (IVV) [Ordinance on Disability] in the event of a physical or mental condition caused by birth, illness or accident that is expected to lead to incapacity for work. For upper secondary level students and for VET apprentices disability insurance pays the additional costs arising as a result of their invalidity. Thus the Confederation participates through disability insurance in costs relating to accommodation, transport, meals or the costs of teaching essential knowledge and skills or for personal tools and workwear.

Special contributions (incapacitation allowances) may be paid to children and young people who are dependent on special care and attention as a result of their invalidity.


Financial Support for Learners

Since compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level) in the public sector are free of charge, and the public sector pays for, or at least pays a share of, the costs of teaching aids and school materials and urgent transport costs to the school location, educational allowances (grants, loans) relate almost exclusively to the upper secondary and tertiary levels (less than 1% of the total grant amount goes to pupils in compulsory education). In principle the funding of education or training in the post-compulsory sector is down to parents or legal guardians and trainees or students themselves. If the education or training cannot be fully funded from own resources even with the support of parents or legal guardians, trainees and students may apply for educational allowances in the form of grants and loans. Only education or training leading to a state-recognised qualification is funded as a rule. Assessment of the contributions and the criteria for receiving training contributions are laid down in cantonal grant laws. In order to harmonise the cantonal grant legislation, the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) has drawn up the Interkantonale Vereinbarung zur Harmonisierung von Ausbildungsbeiträgen (Stipendien-Konkordat) [Intercantonal Agreement on the Harmonisation of Education Contributions (Grant Agreement)]. The Grant Agreement lays down minimum standards and principles for awarding education contributions. The Grant Agreement has been in force since 1 March 2013.

In 2018 the cantons allocated CHF 364 (€ 333.9) million for education contributions. 95% of this was paid in the form of grants, and 5% in the form of loans. Unlike grants, loans have to be repaid at the end of the education or training course. The share of grant recipients in all persons in post-compulsory education was 7.5%. In 2018 61 % of all grant recipients were upper secondary-level students and apprentices. 53 % of grants are paid out in the upper secondary level. The average annual grant amount at upper secondary level was CHF 6503 (€ 5966) (FSO 2019). Since educational allowances come within the responsibility of the cantons, there may be differences depending on the canton. 


Private Education


Private non-subsidised child day-care facilities fix their own charges. The cantons/communes rarely have fee regulations which apply to private child day-care facilities. As a rule the full price must be paid. However, an income-related payment system may be applied.


Compulsory education (primary and lower secondary level) and upper secondary level

The regulation (approval, supervision etc.) and, where applicable, support of private schools falls within the responsibility of the cantons. The cantons may support private schools through public resources or pay contributions to the school fees. The contributions to private schools may be linked to certain conditions (e.g. activity in the interests of the canton, easing the burden on state schools, public need, compliance with quality requirements, heavy demand).

Private schools which offer courses of education on behalf of the state, closing gaps in the state school system for instance, receive considerably higher payments, in some cases even coverage of the full costs.

If children attend a private school, then the commune/canton does not have to reimburse the transport costs, even if the children travel the same route as they would to a state school.

Depending on the cantonal school legislation pupils who complete their compulsory schooling at private schools may use state school services including the necessary examinations (e.g. school health services, speech therapy). Private schools set their own school fees.