Bilingual education in Switzerland

Private Gymnasium

Bilingual education in Switzerland

Established in 1888, the private Gymnasium guides and supports students starting from the 5th class of the primary school on their educational path to the state-recognised Swiss Matura examination. At this private school, all the education programmes of the Progymnasium, as well as the upper and lower schools of the Gymnasium can be attended bilingually (German/English). 

What was once a school for six students founded by three fathers in 1888, Freies Gymnasium Zürich (FGZ) has become a Zurich institution. Today the distinctive features of the school are its broad range of educational paths, comprising the preparatory classes, Progymnasium, the upper and lower schools of Gymnasium, and the transfer opportunities within the school. The Graduates are well equipped to face the constantly increasing demands of Swiss and international universities. The private School is proud of its students and many alumni enjoy a close lifelong association with “their school”.

Preparatory classes

The preparatory classes have been a tradition for more than 100 years. They offer students the ideal preparation for the rigours of Swiss Gymnasiums. The classes are taught by experienced teachers and lessons are in accordance with the Zurich curriculum. There is a family atmosphere and students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning. In addition, special support programmes are available for children from other school systems and abroad. Students are looked after and supervised all day long and eat their meals in the school’s own canteen.

The new 5th primary class (preparatory class VK5) is for bright and highly motivated primary pupils who are later aiming to enter the (Pro)Gymnasium. Students who join the 5th primary class have two years to acquire solid foundations for educational success in the subsequent Progymnasium or lower school of the Gymnasium.

Preparatory class VK6 follows VK5. Furthermore VK6 is also intended for students from external schools who have completed the 5th primary class and have set themselves the goal of (Pro)Gymnasium. With this in mind the weekly timetable includes two lessons of Latin.

Preparatory class VK7 is available for pupils from external schools after the 6th primary class who would benefit from a transitional year before transferring to the next school level (Gymnasium or Progymnasium). Students in this class also have two Latin lessons a week on their timetable.

Education programmes: “Our Bilingual Way“

In the year 2000, FGZ was the first Gymnasium to introduce bilingual educational programmes in the Canton of Zurich (German/English). In collaboration with a private day school there was a truly bilingual education available from Kindergarten to the Swiss Matura examination for the first time (Our Bilingual Way).

Since 2008, the private Gymnasium also houses the first bilingual lower school of the Gymnasium in Zurich. In the Progymnasium and the lower school of the Gymnasium all the subjects are taught in German and English by experienced teachers. In the subsequent upper school of the Gymnasium (9th to 12th school years) students can choose to follow any of the study profiles (Classics; Modern Languages; Mathematics-Natural Sciences; Economics and Law) bilingually.

The state-recognised house Matura can also be taken in both languages opening the doors to both Swiss and international universities. About 40 percent of the 550 students currently benefit from bilingual education.

You will find further information regarding the education programmes on the FGZ website .

Homework support and school canteen

FGZ attaches great importance to the care and supervision of its students. This includes supervision by teachers during lunchtimes and after regular school hours. For students from the preparatory classes and the first classes of the lower school of the Gymnasium and Progymnasium having lunch in the school canteen is obligatory as part of the day-school structure. The canteen is managed and run by a professional gastronomy group. For years mothers and fathers have helped out at lunchtime fostering valuable meeting and contact opportunities for students, teachers and parents alike.

On four afternoons a week, individual support and supervision after regular lessons are provided. Teachers and students teach organisation and study skills, supervise students doing their homework – students work in small groups or pairs – and are available for individual tuition. Outside school lesson times, the school library provides students with a quiet working place for homework or study.

Theaterwerkstatt drama society, choir and bands

The value and benefits of extracurricular activities are well recognized. Up to 70 students are actively engaged in the Theaterwerkstatt drama society. Established in 1998, the society stages an annual drama production interpreted by students with several performances being presented to a wider public.

A wide range of music activities aims to satisfy the most varied requirements and tastes of the students. The choir performs a diverse repertoire from classical to modern on a project-oriented basis in large concerts – sometimes in collaboration with the Theaterwerkstatt. The wind instrument ensemble «FGZ Horns&Strings» with piano is dedicated to interpreting modern music. And finally there are a variety of rock bands which explore a wide range of music and styles to correspond to individual tastes and interests. They perform regularly at school events, such as opening ceremonies and Matura celebrations.

The benefits of sport

Sport is highly valued as well. Students take part in three sports lessons a week right up to Matura. They are encouraged to try a wide range of sports to improve their physical fitness and to have fun being active and doing sport. Every term the aim is to work together towards achieving new goals. Students become aware that, irrespective of their level of fitness and skills at the outset, each individual can improve with practice and training. This makes it possible to link sport to positive emotions in a way that hopefully lasts a lifetime.

This article has been submitted by Freies Gymnasium Zürich. You will find more information on the website .

Further reading

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