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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in general upper secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.5Teaching and learning in general upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Curriculum, subjects, number of hours

The schools teach on the basis of curricula which have been adopted or approved by the canton (in some cantons each school draws up its own curriculum). All curricula must be based on the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK)’s framework curricula which apply nationwide.


Baccalaureate schools

The cantonal curricula are guided by the EDK’s framework curriculum for baccalaureate schools (Rahmenlehrplan für die Maturitätsschulen). The framework curriculum lays down the general learning objectives and the educational and intellectual mission of the baccalaureate school from a holistic perspective.

The Ordinance of the Confederation and the identical EDK regulation on the recognition of baccalaureates (MAV/MAR) lays down the baccalaureate subjects. These include basic subjects which all pupils have to complete and an elective section consisting of a specialised subject and a complementary subject, and the baccalaureate essay.

The basic subjects are:

  • first language,
  • a second national language,
  • a third language (a third national language, English or an ancient language),
  • mathematics,
  • biology,
  • chemistry,
  • physics,
  • history,
  • geography,
  • artistic design and/or music.

The cantons can offer philosophy as an additional basic subject.

The specialised subject can be selected from eight subjects or groups of subjects, and the complementary subject from fourteen. Not all subjects are offered at all schools. The cantons determine which subjects are offered at baccalaureate schools.

In 2017 the EDK decided that all cantons needed to introduce information technology lessons (Informatikunterricht) as a compulsory subject by 2022/2023 at the latest. This is not a matter of teaching user skills, but of giving pupils a broad basic education in information technology: they will be introduced to the basic features of programming languages, essential technical backgrounds underlying computer networks, and the security aspects of digital communication, and should thereby develop an understanding of the background to the information society.

All pupils take an introductory course in economics and law as a further compulsory subject.

The MAV or the MAR allocates the following proportions of time to the different subjects:

  • languages: 30% to 40%,
  • mathematics, information technology and natural sciences: 27% to 37%,
  • humanities and social science: 10% to 20%,
  • art: 5% to 10%,
  • 15% to 25% must be allocated to the elective section (specialised subject, complementary subject and baccalaureate essay)..

The cantons fix the weekly teaching periods in line with these specifications.


Upper secondary specialised schools

Upper secondary specialised schools teach general education subjects and subjects oriented towards a particular occupational field. They prepare pupils for tertiary-level vocational and professional education and training (upper secondary specialised school programmes: colleges of higher education), specialised baccalaureate programmes: universities of applied sciences) in the following occupational fields:

  • health or health/natural sciences,
  • social work,
  • educational science,
  • communication and information,
  • art and design as well as
  • music and/or theatre

Most upper secondary specialised schools do not offer teaching in all occupational fields. In most cantons they prepare mainly for the occupational fields of health care, social work and educational science.

The cantonal curricula are based on the EDK framework curriculum for upper secondary specialised schools (Rahmenlehrplan Fachmittelschulen der EDK). The framework curriculum was updated in 2018 and implemented in 2019.

General education teaching in the upper secondary specialised school programme (which confers the upper secondary specialised school certificate) covers the following subjects:

  • languages: first national language, second national language, third national language or English,
  • mathematics and natural sciences: mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics,
  • humanities and social science: history, geography, economics and law, psychology, philosophy and sociology,
  • musical subjects: artistic design and art, music and theatre
  • sport

International foreign language certificates (Fremdsprachenzertifikate) can be obtained in most cases, or corresponding preparatory courses can be attended. In one school, a bilingual upper secondary specialised school certificate can be obtained.

In the upper secondary specialised school programme, which is oriented towards a particular occupational field and confers the upper secondary specialised school certificate, pupils opt for one or two occupational fields and attend appropriate elective subjects in the chosen occupational field. At least twenty per cent of the total teaching time is devoted to specialised teaching in this field.

Writing and presenting an independently prepared paper and completing an internship of at least two weeks are compulsory elements of the upper secondary specialised school programme.

To obtain the specialised baccalaureate learners must, depending on the occupational field, complete various additional requirements in the form of internships (lasting at least 24 weeks and not more than 40 weeks), or designated specific activities (at least 120 lessons), or supplementary general education, inter alia. The Regulation on the Recognition of Certificates from Upper Secondary Specialised Schools and guidelines issued by the EDK define the additional requirements for the various occupational fields. A specialised baccalaureate essay must also be completed and presented either in writing or practically, and defended in writing or orally.


Teaching Methods and Materials

Teachers at baccalaureate schools and upper secondary specialised schools are free to choose their teaching methods; they choose those methods best suited to the objectives, contents and topics in question. The aim is to prepare pupils for ensuing studies in tertiary-level training courses through appropriate teaching forms and methods such as group work, project work, cooperative forms of learning, interdisciplinary teaching and topics. The emphasis is placed on independent working, obtaining and processing information, or the use of information and communication technologies, inter alia.

The teaching materials are not prescribed, the choice is made by the teachers of each school. Pupils and parents or legal guardians pay the costs of teaching materials and school materials.