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Basel may be short on international schools compared to other cities in the Alps, but a small number of good options do exist. Alternatively, you can dive into the Swiss state school system.  

Best schools in Basel Switzerland

Education in Basel 

While the international schools are an extremely popular choice for children of all ages, many expats choose the Swiss school system. Not only does it have a good reputation, but all neighbourhoods have one nearby - usually within walking distance. This is both great for the school run and integrating into the local community, as well as enabling your child to pick up Swiss-German and German. Plus, they’re free. 

After completion of kindergarten, at age 6 or 7, children start six years of primary school (Primarschule). Each class has the same teacher for the first three years so it is important that they like your child, otherwise you’re pretty much stuck. This is the stage at which children will start learning reading and writing, maths, history and geography (Swiss) and sports (but no school sports teams). A new teacher takes over each class (maximum 25) for years 4-6. French lessons start in the 3rd year and English lessons in the 5th. Note that some international families grumble about the lack of creativity in the curriculum. 

Next up are three years of secondary school (Sekundarschule), where students are streamed according to ability and achievements. Either A-Zug (standard level), E-Zug (extended level) or P-Zug (high demands). There is very little flexibility as regards moving between streams once the teacher's decision has been made. 

After secondary school, subject to their level of achievements at school, students have one of three options. First, an occupational apprenticeship (Berufslehre) (two to four years). Second, professional high school (Fachmaturitätsschule). Third, high school (Gymnasium) (four years), ending with the Swiss Matura exam and the option to study at a university. 

Lessons in state schools are in Swiss German, with written work in high German. Young children often pick up the language easily but older children will be assessed for several weeks before the school decides which year to put them in. If your children don’t have the foggiest about German, they will probably need extra help - but most schools run an immersive 'German as a Second Language' programme. Most families who use the state school system arrange for out-of-school English classes to keep up English spelling, reading and writing. A popular organisation providing classes for English speakers in Swiss schools is Ahead with English based in Therwil. 

The state school year starts in the middle of August and ends in the middle of June. Note – especially if you are a dual income family – that schools don't have a fixed school start and end time. Typically, there is school in the mornings but only two afternoons per week - which changes depending on which class, group or activity your child is involved in. Parents with several children can have a nightmare of a time juggling their schedules. 

A third option – if international or state schools don’t appeal – are the Swiss private schools, although they are very expensive and the options are often some distance away – at least the public transport in Basel is typically Swiss: fast, frequent and punctual. 

Choosing a school in Basel 

The best-known international schools in Basel are the English-speaking and the bi-lingual English/German, although there is also a French alternative, among others. Some families also choose a boarding option just over the border in Germany. These schools all provide the security of a universally recognised education system and qualifications, so you don’t have to panic if you move back home or want another international school abroad. 

Due to the small number of available options, private schools often have a waiting list so register your child as soon as possible.    

A key factor in choosing whether or not to go down the Swiss state school route is how long you intend to stay in Switzerland. Remember, nowhere else in the world speaks Swiss German except Switzerland and even then, it differs slightly from canton to canton. Also bear in mind the transition away from the Swiss state system which can be problematic if, for example, your child is around 6 or 7 as they would only just be starting to read or write (although a tutor could help). 

A fourth option is moving over the border to France so that your children can attend the local free French school system (starting from age 3) especially if you have a good command of the French language. Many expats do this eg in Hegenheim, Hunigue, Hagenthal, St.Louis etc. 

Special education needs in Basel 

All students within the public Swiss system are entitled to learning support, and for visible and physical disabilities Swiss schools are mostly dependable and caring. However, there are reports that for some invisible learning disabilities, like dyslexia and dyscalculia, there is not enough consistent screening and testing in the early years, and not enough ongoing support in learning and for exams. 

Parents with children in the public system with suspected learning issues are generally advised to take the initiative and actively approach schools to have them checked, and once diagnosed, proactively work with the school to ensure their children are getting the support needed. 

Children with special needs are, wherever possible, taught in regular classes with supplementary educational support. Special state and private schools are also available. 

While fees for private schools are high, generally speaking this does include access to support for SEN.  Some schools offer fully funded in-house learning support on-campus with detection systems in place for children with mild to moderate special education needs eg dyslexia, dysplasia, delayed reading etc (for example ELA and ISB), and for children severely on the spectrum eg autism, ADHD etc there are additional fees and this support may be outsourced. Private schools generally provide guidance for parents to apply for funding from their local Swiss council to assist with covering extra costs.  

Pre-schools, kindergarten and nurseries in Basel 

Childcare in Switzerland is generally split into two phases: daycare centers (crèches or krippen) for children aged 0–4; and preschool nurseries (or kindergartens) for children aged 4–6. The 11 years of compulsory education starts with two years of kindergarten. All children in the Canton of Basel who are 4 years old on or before 31 July start kindergarten in August of the same year. The expectation is that your child will go to the one closest to where you live. If your pre-kindergarten child has insufficient knowledge of German, they can go to a playgroup where they learn German through play.  

However, unlike in England, children won't start learning to read and write during these first two years. Instead of formal learning, the idea is that kindergarten children are prepared for future learning by doing arts and crafts, basket weaving, singing and playing in classes limited to 20, an introduction that many parents like. 

For younger children, spaces at public day care centers are limited, with most only open between 08:30–12:00, with some also opening for a couple of hours in the afternoon, forcing many parents to make alternative arrangements to cover lunchtime or after-school hours. There are a number of private kindergartens and pre-schools that operate in a bi-lingual environment (German and English), offering half-day or full day programmes that provide a friendly and less daunting environment. Some of these such as Montessori-Brigitte-Kindergarten go up to 6 or 7 years old. 

Be warned that most have waiting lists and huge fees. Always make an appointment to visit first so you can get a feel for the place in advance. Also ask for a free trial morning. Insurance for your child is required at all establishments. 

Best schools in Basel

ELA Basel - The Swiss British School of Basel 

Adapted National Curriculum for England; ages 3 months-12; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 300 students

Established in 1993. Classes are primarily taught in English but German is introduced in the final year of pre-school and taught from the start of primary with an increased amount for older year groups.

Click here to read our full review of the ELA Basel - The Swiss British School of Basel

International School of Basel (ISB) 

PYP/ MYP/ IB Diploma; ages 3-19; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,370 students

Founded in 1979 by entrepreneurial American, Janet Galli. The three International Baccalaureate programmes are delivered on separate, purpose-built campuses, all just south of the city. Junior school is in Aesch, middle school is in Fiechen and senior school is in Reinach. Successful IB Diploma results recently, with candidates scoring an average of 35 points against a global 29.8. Dually accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

 Click here to read our full review of the International School of Basel

SIS Swiss International School Basel 

Adapted canton Basel/ IGCSE/ IB Diploma/ Swiss Matura; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 500 students

Part of the SIS (Swiss International Schools) group now operating 16 schools in Switzerland and Germany, with a roll of 3,600 students. Bilingual English/German flagship of the SIS group, opened in 1999 with the options for choosing either the International Baccalaureate or Swiss Matura routes.

Click here to read our full review of the Swiss International School Basel

These schools have been brought to our attention, but until we have more reports from parents, we are unable to consider reviewing them.

Academia International Bilingual School

German/ adapted/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 3-19; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 180 students

Bilingual section of Academia International School (Basel), part of the Academia Group. Delivering an education, half in German and half in English with English predominating in the English-language college (the last four years leading to A Levels). Curriculum based on the Cambridge International Curriculum and that of the Swiss Canton.

Black Forest Academy

Adapted American curriculum/ IGCSE/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 6-18; co-ed; day and boarding; independent; private non-profit; 300 students

A Christian school, founded in 1956. Located in the German village of Kandern, close to the Swiss border and the city of Basel. Teaching in grades 1-4 is bilingual but from grade 5 onwards, the instruction language is English. Approximately 50 per cent of 9th to 12th grade students are boarders. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA).


Montessori; ages 3-7; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned

A member of the International Montessori Association. Opened in 1979.

For more information on the schools above, please go to each school’s individual entry on the Good Schools Guide international search.


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