Homeschooling in Switzerland – The Good, Bad and Ugly

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Parents who are moving overseas frequently inquire about options for homeschooling in Switzerland. Also recognized as personal teaching in one’s residence, homeschooling is gaining popularity in Switzerland. The pandemic which caused the lockdown in spring of 2020 had transformed many Swiss parents into educators instantly, and they were forced to help educate their kids at home for some time. Several parents were relieved when things returned to normal afterwards, but some of the others wanted to homeschool their youngsters permanently instead of sending them to a conventional school.

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Homeschooling in Switzerland || My Swiss Story

There are various reasons for homeschooling a child. Overall, the organisation Bildung zu Hause Schweiz reported a significant increase in applications for homeschooling  following the relaxation of the Corona measures. While this method of educating is becoming more popular in Switzerland, it is still far less common than in the United States or the United Kingdom. The legislation for homeschooling varies greatly between countries. Furthermore, each of Switzerland’s 26 cantons has its own set of homeschooling rules and regulations. As a result, judicial provisions and the percentage of homeschooled students differ greatly. Here, the federal level does not govern homeschooling and regulations vary tremendously across cantons.

In this article I will address why this method of education is becoming popular, how you can homeschool, the cantonal differences of homeschooling in Switzerland, and what advantages and challenges this type of education poses for the entire family. Parents should also be fully cognizant that in Switzerland, homeschooling must be done in line with the curriculum of the canton and, with almost no exceptions, in the official dialect.

Homeschooling’s legal foundation and cantonal differences in the country

There is a rule of mandatory education in Switzerland, but no mandatory schooling. The above lays the groundwork for choice of homeschooling, but the restrictions in each canton are vastly different. Despite the fact that some people have already asked for homeschooling to be streamlined and standardized across Switzerland, the national govt has clearly delegated responsibility of making rules for homeschooling to the autonomous regions.  As a result, the scenario varies from place to place. However, one point remains consistent throughout all cantons, and this is the fact that every family who homeschools in Switzerland is required to follow the syllabus and curriculum of the corresponding canton.

1. No teaching credentials are required

Appenzell Ausserroden, Berne, Aargau, Geneva, Jura, Neuchatel, and Vaud are among the cantons that do not require the parents (or guardians taking charge of homeschooling) to have a Swiss teaching diploma. It should be noted, however, that Vaud is currently in the process of amending its regulations to require parents to have an acknowledged Swiss teaching qualification.

2. A teaching certification is required

Cantons such as Zürich and Valais do necessitate a teaching certificate accepted by EDK or the department, however the credential does not need to be related to the level of schooling being taught (primary, secondary…). Zürich permits up to a year of homeschooling without the need for a teacher credential. Following that, an acceptable teacher certification for the appropriate level of education being given, is necessary. Cantons such as Appenzell Innerroden, Glarus, Graubünden, Luzern, Sankt Gallen, Solothurn, Schwyz etc. require a teacher certification for the exact school level in which parents wish to teach (Kindergarten, primary, secondary).

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Homeschooling in Switzerland || My Swiss Story

3. Homeschooling is restricted or limited

Except in extraordinary cases, cantons such as Basel-Stadt, Basel-Land, Zug, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Schaffhausen, Uri, St. Gallen, and Ticino do not permit homeschooling. These cantons typically require a certification as well, which  must be acknowledged by the federal Swiss education authority (EDK) or a known establishment of education outside of Switzerland. Parents must adhere to the formal Swiss education curriculum or the education syllabus of their origin country. The most stringent parts are Tessin and Uri.

4. The necessities for homeschooling

Homeschooling necessities   cantons impose a formal qualification of teaching, which must usually be acknowledged by EDK. Be aware that EDK acknowledgement is a time-consuming and expensive procedure! Educators must meet the linguistic and subject prerequisites. Aside from evidence of competency in the official language, people wanting to teach their children at the primary level must show that they have received training to teach in five core subjects at the acknowledged level. Educators from an EU country will thus have an easier time getting their credentials acknowledged compared to those from outside the EU.

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Homeschooling in Switzerland || My Swiss Story

Homeschooling may thus be an option depending on where you reside in Switzerland. Families who wish to homeschool must, with limited exclusions, adhere to the cantonal education curriculum as well as the official language of that canton. This implies a major barrier for families from other countries as expats, which might also explain why the number of non-Swiss parents who homeschool is so less.

Why homeschooling is becoming popular

Based on a notable Tages-Anzeiger newspaper survey, currently there are more than 2,000 homeschooled children throughout Switzerland, and the number is growing. Over the last five years, the numbers in the best five cantons have either doubled or tripled.

For a variety of reasons, students may find that traditional schooling is not a good fit for them. While a mother in Basel argued in federal court that her local education system did not provide enough for her exceptionally talented son and that her confidence in the structure had been broken, another encounter of a set of parents in Vaud taking their eldest son out of school since he was struggling discovered that it did work for him and they consequently homeschooled the other three children as well.  

Other factors also include unpleasant encounters at traditional schools, such as other children’s bad behavior and bullying, as well as financial reasons, such as the inability to pay for a private and traditional school.

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Homeschooling in Switzerland || My Swiss Story

This is consistent with an academic paper from 2012 by Johannes Reich – one of the very few researches on homeschooling in Switzerland – that, after reviewing judicial decisions and news accounts on homeschooling, comes to the exact ending. Other reasons include parents wanting to instruct bilingually, trying to enjoy educating their own children, and providing for their children’s specific needs.

How to homeschool

First ensure that homeschooling is legal in the canton. A request to home educate should be sent to the relevant Government department. The Swiss education authority sends a form to complete (Enseignement à Domicile in Geneva); on receipt of which the education department (Département de l’instruction publique) issues a letter of approval.

First, you should check to see if homeschooling is allowed in your canton. Then, a plea requet to homeschool must be made to the appropriate government agency. The Swiss Authority of Education sends a form to be filled out (Enseignement à Domicile in Geneva), based on which the department of education (Département de l’instruction publique) gives an approval letter. 

Yearly and weekly plans of studying must be acquired from local authorities (an annual educational schedule may be free to download on the canton’s websites)and a local school may also occasionally provide free teaching materials. The interventions of the authorities differ based on the canton. If official visitors find the educators’ methods are inadequate, they have the authority to order the families to send their kids to a traditional school.

The Pros and Cons of homeschooling

Many homeschoolers appreciate the fact that the education model allows the family to spend more time together. When moving quickly out of one subject to the next during elementary or secondary school, it is easy to lose touch. In homeschooling, in contrast hand, the instructional parent has more time to discuss things in greater detail as well as respond to the child individually. This relieves stress even while preserving the child’s natural interest in learning, which is commonly lost in school.

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Homeschooling in Switzerland || My Swiss Story

In Switzerland, homeschooling by definition, presents multiple difficulties for both children and parents. For instance, this type of education should be taken into account only if family dynamics are undamaged and it is regarded as safe and stable. Besides that, parents should take into account if they intend to invest a long-term commitment to their children’s personal education in this manner, in addition to determining if they do have necessary resources to fund the same. 

There have been questions about the assertion that, when compared to traditional schooling, homeschooling should specifically promote children’s interpersonal interactions. Club activities, amicable relations in the community, recreational pursuits, or connections with the other homeschooling families can all help to ensure this. 

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Homeschooling in Switzerland || My Swiss Story

So if you are considering homeschooling, especially as an expat, getting it started will be a turmoil but the result and the advantages it will provide you and your children with, are worth it!

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