Lower secondary level is part of compulsory education; it prepares pupils for vocational education and training (VET) or an upper secondary level general education school.
Upper secondary level is part of the post-compulsory sector. It comprises both vocational and professional education and training courses and general education programmes:
- general education programmes include courses at baccalaureate schools and upper secondary specialised schools (upper secondary specialised school programme and specialised baccalaureate programme). They do not lead directly to professional qualifications, but prepare for tertiary-level education programmes;
- vocational and professional education and training courses include VET offered in the dual system or at full-time vocational schools. During or after the VET extended general education may be completed as part of the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate. The training courses lead directly to professional activity and prepare for tertiary-level training courses. For young people who do not enter upper secondary level directly after the lower secondary level, interim solutions are available such as bridge-year courses.
Around two thirds of young people in a given school year complete vocational education and training (VET), while one third attend a baccalaureate school or upper secondary specialised school. The Confederation and the cantons have set themselves the goal of ensuring that 95% of all 25-year-olds complete upper secondary education. The Confederation, cantons and professional organisations have adopted various measures to improve the transition from lower secondary level to upper secondary level. The 95% target for those born in Switzerland has now almost been reached, at 94.1%. There is a particular need for action among young people from a migrant background: both non-nationals born in Switzerland and young adults who have not or only completed part of their schooling in Switzerland. They are significantly more likely not to complete upper secondary education (FSO 2019).