Education in Switzerland
Switzerland has exerted a deep influence on European and international education for centuries. The academic excellence of Swiss universities, including those at Basel (founded in 1460), Lausanne (1537), Zürich (1833), and Geneva (1559), as well as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (1855) in Zürich, has attracted numerous foreign students. Education, particularly religious education, has been inspired in part by John Calvin, who settled in Switzerland in 1536. Modern education has been largely influenced by the 18th-century Geneva-born philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. The theories of Johann Pestalozzi, the 18th-century educational reformer who advocated that children should learn from their own experiences, have contributed to the development of education throughout the world. In recent times, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget became widely recognized for his insights into the learning abilities and habits of children.
The Swiss constitution of 1848 provided for free and compulsory education. Under the constitution of 1874, as amended in 1902, the federal government confined its efforts to higher education; the cantons and half-cantons were required to establish free, compulsory elementary schools with subsidies, but without control, from the federal government. These schools are taught in the local official language, but students may also study the other national languages as well.
Most cantons provide secondary schools for youths aged 12 to 15, gymnasiums (college-preparatory schools), and teacher-training institutes, in addition to various institutions of higher learning and special schools. Illiteracy is negligible. In the early 1990s primary schools in Switzerland had a total yearly enrollment of about 420,100 pupils; secondary, vocational, and teacher-training schools had a combined attendance of some 601,800 students; and institutions of higher learning had an aggregate enrollment of approximately 146,300 students.