Expats will find an assortment of schools in Geneva, which includes free public schools, often pricey private schools and even pricier international schools. Regardless of where expats send their children, they're guaranteed a quality education in Geneva.
Space at schools can be limited and new arrivals will need to register their children as early as possible.
Many of the private schools in Geneva have waiting lists and only accept students close to the start of term, so it’s best to register at several. Deadlines differ between schools, so expats should check with each individually.
Public schools in Geneva
Swiss public schools are free, and compulsory education in Geneva is from four years old until the age of 15. The language of instruction is French, while students start learning German at eight years old and English at the age of 10. Some schools also offer extra French classes to bring foreign children up to speed with the rest of the class.
School days in Geneva differ. All children attend school on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8am until 11.30am, and then from 1.30pm until 4pm. But there's no school on Wednesdays until children start cycle d’orientation (a version of secondary school) at age 12. For parents who can't look after their children on Wednesdays or during lunch times, some schools offer canteen lunches and after-school care, but it's best to check directly.
Local schools are usually easily accessible to the communities they serve, and often offer a pédibus service where volunteer parents take children to school on foot. Public schools are most popular with expats who plan on living in Switzerland long term, have children who speak French or German, or have very young children.
Private schools in Geneva
Private schools in Geneva teach in French, English or both, and offer various curricula including the American Advanced Placement, Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate Diploma, Swiss Maturité, Brevet des Collèges and French Baccalauréat Général.
Most private schools are well equipped and have high teaching standards, but costs are usually high – expats should keep this in mind when negotiating their salary.
Many of the most prestigious private schools are religious, so it’s important for parents to check whether a school's philosophy is compatible with their own.
Expats should also consider the distance between school, work and home since rush hour traffic in Geneva can make it difficult to be on time. Some private schools have a bus service, but this can be expensive.
International schools in Geneva
Expats will also find private schools that have specific languages and national curricula. These are typically referred to as international schools, but in Geneva, any school that teaches in English and follows an international curriculum could be called an international school.
Many expats prefer these schools because they allow students to continue with the teaching language and curriculum of their home country, which is a good option for those living in Geneva for the short term.
Special needs education in Geneva
Pupils with special educational needs will, as best as possible and within the regular classroom, have their needs met in Geneva. Mainstream schools in Switzerland recognise that all children are different, whether it is their abilities, learning style, rate of development, preferences or beliefs. Swiss schools aim to support those children with special educational needs so that all children are able to integrate into and participate in society.
Special needs education, which is set down in law, applies to affected children from birth to their 20th birthday. It gives them the right to special schooling and support from specialists. Children with disabilities often attend regular schools in Switzerland, on a full-time or part-time basis.
Tutoring in Geneva
Tutoring is a valuable tool to assist students in their education, particularly expat children adapting to a new environment, language and curriculum. Even for children in international schools, tutoring is useful for gaining confidence, or for assistance in particular subjects such as maths, science or French. Good companies in Geneva include Tutorsplus and Tutor24.