Exploring Academic Pathways: A Guide to Swiss Boarding Schools Curricula

Tailored Learning for Global Success: Understanding Your Options

Swiss boarding schools are renowned for their high-quality education and offer a variety of curriculum options to cater to different learning preferences and goals. These curricula are meticulously crafted to provide students with an enriching educational journey that aligns with their future aspirations. Each curriculum has its own unique characteristics and advantages and emphasizes different areas such as language proficiency, critical thinking, and preparation for higher education. With a focus on holistic development, Swiss boarding schools aim to equip students with a comprehensive skill set that prepares them for success in an increasingly globalized world.

The International Baccalaureate: A Gateway to Global Education

"The greatest advantage of the IB, for me, was the possibility to take certain exams one year in advance. Since school was sometimes a source of anxiety, this option allowed me to work more calmly."

Myriam Piguet - IB Alumni (Geneva)

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is internationally recognized for its comprehensive and demanding academic standards. A distinctive feature of the IB Diploma is its emphasis on developing global awareness. The curriculum encourages students to explore international issues, fostering an understanding of different cultures and perspectives. This global-minded approach prepares students for active participation in an interconnected world.

The IB Diploma encompasses a broad and balanced curriculum, ensuring students engage with a diverse range of subjects. The core components include: 

Furthermore, assessment is not solely based on examinations but includes coursework, projects, and other evaluative methods. This holistic approach provides a comprehensive view of students’ abilities.

In the final two years of high school, students enrolled in the IB Diploma Program can study a broad range of subjects, including languages, sciences, mathematics, humanities, and art.

In 2024, Swiss boarding schools continue to frequently recommend the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, in recognition of its rich program content and international reputation. This recommendation is likely to endure due to the IB’s alignment with evolving global education standards and the delivery of a skill set tailored for success in a rapidly changing world. Indeed, this program is not only recommended by the Swiss boarding schools, but also the most popular choice among students because of its global educational approach. In addition, for students aspiring to enter leading institutions such as the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), achieving an IB score of at least 37 is a requirement, reflecting the competitive nature of admissions to these prestigious universities. This high level underlines the rigor of the IB’s academic framework and its effectiveness in preparing students for the challenges of higher education.

In essence, the International Baccalaureate program offers a challenging and comprehensive educational experience that goes beyond traditional academic learning. It emphasizes the development of critical skills, a global perspective, and a commitment to service, preparing students for success in higher education and beyond.

The Swiss Matura: Tailoring Education to Global Standards

The Swiss Matura (Maturité Suisse) is a comprehensive and renowned national educational program in Switzerland. Aimed at students in their final years of secondary school, generally aged between 16 and 19, the Swiss Matura is renowned for its emphasis on multilingualism and for the role it plays in preparing students both for further study and for an understanding of Switzerland’s cultural diversity.

Indeed, even though the specific language requirements may vary by canton and school, the program typically entails:

This linguistic diversity reflects Switzerland’s unique cultural landscape. The Swiss Matura offers a comprehensive educational experience, covering a range of subjects in sciences, humanities, languages, and mathematics. This diversity ensures that students receive a well-rounded education, providing a solid foundation for their future academic and professional projects. One of the primary objectives of the Swiss Matura is to prepare students for admission to Swiss universities. Indeed, the program aligns with the academic requirements of higher education institutions in Switzerland, facilitating a seamless transition for students pursuing further studies.

While primarily designed for Swiss students, the Swiss Matura is recognized internationally. The program’s adherence to high academic standards and its focus on multilingualism contribute to its recognition by universities and institutions globally.

“IGCSE Courses are designed to allow pupils to achieve high quality academic and personal skills. They develop pupils' confidence, responsibility, reflection, innovation, and engagement in acquiring knowledge.”

Director - St George's International School

The British Educational Approach: From IGCSE to A-Levels

The British program, which includes the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and Advanced Levels (A-Levels), is a widely recognized educational pathway offered in some Swiss boarding schools. IGCSEs allow students to explore different subjects before narrowing down their focus for A-Levels. This exploration fosters a well-rounded educational experience. Indeed, the IGCSEs form the foundation of the British Curriculum, covering a wide range of subjects, including core disciplines such as Mathematics, English, and Sciences, as well as optional subjects like History, Geography, Languages, and Creative Arts. Students typically undertake IGCSE examinations in various subjects, providing a broad and balanced education.

The transition from IGCSEs to A-Levels involves an increased emphasis on independent learning, critical thinking, and research skills, preparing students for higher-level academic challenges. In fact, A-Levels represent a more specialized phase of the British Curriculum, with students choosing a smaller number of subjects to study in-depth. This specialization allows for a deeper exploration of chosen subjects. A-Levels are recognized by universities globally as a robust preparation for higher education. Students completing A-Levels often find themselves well-prepared for the academic rigors of university life.

To illustrate the progression from IGCSEs to A-Levels and to help visualize the differences and focuses of each stage, the following table provides a comparison of key aspects:





Foundation and exploration of subjects

Specialized and in-depth study of subjects

Core disciplines

Mathematics, English, Sciences and optional subjects

Chosen subjects based on student’s focus


Broad knowledge base

Independent learning, critical thinking and research skills

Preparation for

A-Levels studies  

University-level education and higher academic challenges  


2 years (generally taken at ages 14-16)

2 years (generally taken at ages 16-18)

The American High School Diploma: A Stepping Stone to U.S. Higher Education

The American High School Diploma is a recognized diploma that follows the standard structure of the American secondary education system. Delivered by some Swiss boarding schools, this diploma is tailored for students from the United States or those aspiring to apply to American universities. It typically spans a four-year duration, covering the final years of secondary education. The curriculum is organized into credits, with students earning credits upon successful completion of courses. The standard requirement for graduation is a specified number of credits.

The curriculum includes core subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies, ensuring a well-rounded education. Students have the flexibility to choose elective courses based on their interests and career aspirations. This allows for a degree of personalization in the educational experience.

Furthermore, American High School Diploma programs emphasize the importance of extracurricular activities, including sports, arts, clubs, and community service.

While designed for students with aspirations to study in the United States, this diploma is recognized globally. It opens doors to higher education institutions worldwide.

Leysin American School

Bilingual Programs

Student St george's

Indeed, bilingual options within the IB framework allow students to pursue the program in multiple languages. This enhances language skills while maintaining the academic rigor of the IB curriculum. Students often have the flexibility to choose the languages in which they wish to study. Common language choices include English, French, German, Italian, and sometimes additional languages based on the school’s offerings.

Bilingual programs offered by Swiss boarding schools reflect the multilingual and multicultural environment of Switzerland. These programs, often integrated into frameworks like the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Swiss Matura, emphasize language proficiency, cultural diversity, and a global perspective.

Students Brillantmont

The French Baccalauréat

Reflecting recent changes and the dynamic nature of educational standards, the French Baccalauréat, as offered in the French-speaking parts of Switzerland, has adapted to the evolving landscape of academic requirements. Until 2022, a score of 12 out of 20 was sufficient for admission to the University of Geneva and HEC Lausanne. However, with the reform of the French Baccalauréat, the threshold has been raised to a score of 14, acknowledging the rigorousness of the new baccalaureate structure. This shift not only illustrates the increasing standards of higher education but also signifies the Swiss commitment to maintaining a competitive edge in global education.

Curriculum options
HEC Lausanne Campus

The French Baccalauréat itself is a well-rounded program that allows students to specialize in streams such as Scientific, Literary, or Economic and Social, depending on their interests and career goals. The curriculum’s strong focus on the humanities, science, and philosophy fosters a comprehensive understanding of various academic disciplines and promotes critical thinking. The inclusion of oral examinations further allows students to demonstrate their proficiency in verbal communication and analytical thinking.

In conclusion, Swiss boarding school programs are meticulously crafted in line with the Swiss educational ethos, which emphasizes academic rigor, critical thinking and a holistic approach to learning. Offering a wide range of educational pathways, these programs respond to the specific abilities and aspirations of each student, preparing them to triumph in a dynamic, globalized world. The variety of curriculum options not only enriches the educational pathway, but also serves as a gateway to prestigious universities around the world. Through in-depth academic work and a focus on global development, students are prepared to meet the rigorous entry criteria of elite higher education institutions. Indeed, the esteemed diplomas from Swiss boarding schools are a powerful tool, opening a world of opportunities and helping students reach their highest potential and establish themselves in their chosen careers.

As Switzerland is a multilingual nation, these schools also support language learning in all curriculum options, guiding students in the acquisition of one or more languages, an essential skill in today’s world. It is imperative that each program is carefully studied to ensure that it matches the individual needs of the student, fostering not only academic skills, but also linguistic versatility.

To explore these training possibilities further and get personalized advice, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are committed to helping you navigate the path to academic performance and personal fulfillment.