The introduction of the chapter describes the overall education strategy and the key objectives across the whole education system. It also looks at how the education reform process is organised and who are the main actors in the decision-making process.
The section on ongoing reforms and policy developments groups reforms in the following broad thematic areas that largely correspond to education levels:
- Early childhood education and care
- School education
- VET and adult learning
- Higher education
- Transversal skills and employability
Inside each thematic area, reforms are organised chronologically. The most recent reforms are described first.
Overall national education strategy and key objectives
The Federal Constitution obliges the Confederation and the cantons, within the scope of their responsibilities, to jointly ensure the high quality and permeability of the Swiss education area. To allow them to carry out these tasks, the Confederation and the cantons have established education monitoring. Based on the current knowledge of the education system (National Education Reports), and taking an overall view of the system, every four years they lay down joint education policy objectives to be addressed at national and intercantonal level.
Currently the Erklärung 2019: Chancen optimal nutzen - gemeinsame bildungspolitische Ziele für den Bildungsraum Schweiz [Declaration 2019: Optimal use of opportunities - joint education policy objectives for the Swiss education area] is in force, based on the third Swiss Education Report 2018. The Declaration 2024, based on the Education Report 2023, ist still in progress.
The development of joint education policy objectives and the identification of educational policy challenges that the Confederation and the cantons intend to meet in a coordinated manner are anchored in the Vereinbarung vom 16. Dezember 2016 zwischen dem Bund und den Kantonen über die Zusammenarbeit im Bildungsraum Schweiz [Agreement between the Confederation and the cantons on cooperation in the Swiss education area].
The 2019 Declaration focuses on strategic objectives to which the national level can contribute or whose achievement can only be guaranteed at the national level. This is possible through coordinated action by the Confederation and the cantons (intercantonal level), or through the action of the individual stakeholders in their respective spheres of responsibility.
The authorities of the Confederation and the cantons orient themselves, in implementing the objectives, by the following principles:
- They act with an overall view of the system
- They rely on findings from research and statistics
- They consider the specific characteristics of a multilingual country
- They are committed to ensuring the equivalent social recognition of general education and vocational education pathways and their international connectivity, i.e. for the dual vocational and professional education and training system, which is regarded as a model of success for Switzerland, for academic excellence, and for collaboration on research activities
- They are committed to ensuring that the available opportunities and potentials for individuals and society as a whole can be used to the best possible advantage
- A successful education system offers people the chance to develop their independence and be successful. It also promotes future-oriented social and economic development in Switzerland.
The joint objectives are:
- In compulsory education, the starting age, compulsory school attendance, the duration of the different levels of education, and the transition from one level to another are standardised and the objectives harmonised. In order to harmonise the objectives, national educational objectives in particular have been adopted in the form of basic competences in the fields of school language, second national language and English, mathematics and natural sciences, and curricula drawn up at regional language level and geared to these competences have been applied
- 95% of all 25 year-olds have an upper secondary level leaving certificate
- Ensuring, in the long term, that the baccalaureate qualifies holders for admission to university without the need for any further examinations
- The profiles of programmes offered at tertiary level are refined
- Measures have been defined which will help reduce drop-out rates at Swiss universities
- Throughout the education system the process of starting, transferring, and returning to education and training is promoted and supported by information and guidance
- The education system anticipates the new challenges of the digitised world of work and society
- Exchange and mobility are anchored in education and are promoted at all levels of education
From the joint objectives, the Confederation and the cantons derive concrete measures for their respective spheres of responsibility. The Education Report 2023 addresses the achievement of the objectives and the effectiveness of the measures adopted.
Topics such as education for sustainable development, political education, the further implementation of didactics in teacher training or activities in STEM fields and health with the aim of counteracting the shortage of skilled workers are not defined as independent objectives in the Declaration 2019, but are also among the areas in which the Confederation and the cantons coordinate their activities.
Overview of the education reform process and drivers
The Confederation and the cantons each have their own responsibilities in the Swiss education area, which is characterised by federalism. While the cantons are primarily responsible for compulsory education, both the cantons and the Confederation have their own specific responsibilities in the post-compulsory education sector (general education schools, vocational and professional education and training, higher education), and they therefore have joint responsibility for these levels of education.
The Federal Constitution governs the particular responsibilities of the Confederation and the cantons and obliges them at the same time, within the scope of their responsibilities, to jointly ensure the high quality and permeability of the Swiss education area. The Confederation and the cantons accordingly lay down joint education policy objectives for the Swiss education area (see above). The stakeholders also define their own objectives for their respective spheres of responsibility.
In the Dispatch on Education, Research and Innovation 2021-2024, the Federal Council formulates the guidelines, objectives and measures of its education and science policy for a period of four years. In order to achieve the objectives set, the corresponding financial resources are also approved.
- Vocational education and training: securing attractive entry and career opportunities in the labour market
- Adult education: increasing participation
- Digitisation: coping with and helping to shape the digital transformation
- Sustainable development and equity: implementing the Agenda 2030
In matters which require a joint solution, the 26 cantons coordinate between each other in the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK). In an activity programme the cantons lay down the issues they wish to address together at intercantonal level in the following years. The EDK has a subsidiary role, i.e. it performs tasks which cannot be carried out by the regions and cantons.
The 2021-2024 activity programme lists the following objectives for instance:
- Compulsory education: supporting the cantons in the implementation of the harmonisation of compulsory education, further developing language teaching, and promoting multilingualism in the national and European framework
- Upper secondary level general education: ensuring, in the long term, that the baccalaureate qualifies holders for admission to university without the need for any further examinations
- Upper secondary level VET: strengthening occupational, study and career advice
- Digitisation: addressing the challenges of digitisation for the education system and promoting the integration of ICT into the education system
- Integration: improving the integration of children with a migrant background in the education system
The individual cantons and language regions also have their own objectives, some of which have far-reaching consequences, but which are not nationally initiated or coordinated. These objectives are not listed here.