Since 1874, Switzerland has had compulsory schooling for anyone aged 7 to 15 years. The school system is essentially decentralized to the cantons and the municipal level. Therefore, there are 26 different educational systems. Kindergarten most places last from kids are 7 until they are 13 years old. Then there are two different types of lower secondary school, depending on the children’s abilities and interests. This is followed by the higher secondary school (Gymnasium/Collège) required for admission to universities or 3 or 4 year vocational education. Private schools of all levels exist throughout the country.
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|Land area||41,277 km²|
|Residents per km²||203.6|
|Official language||German (63.6%), French (19.2%), Italian (7.6%), Romansh (0.6%)|
|Income per capita||$ 62,100|
|ISO 3166 code||CH|
|Time zone UTC||UTC + 1, daylight saving time UTC + 2|
|Geographic coordinates||47 00 N, 8 00 O|
There are 10 universities at Canton level. The oldest are Basel (founded 1460), Lausanne (1537) and Geneva (1559). In addition, there are two federal technology institutes and 7 universities of applied science (Fachhochschulen), and different colleges.
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In April 2012, the Government will introduce a quota system for workers from Central and Eastern European Member States in the EU. The country uses an exception clause in its agreement with the EU on free movement. The EU criticizes Switzerland’s decision.
In August, the Swiss authorities arrested Erwin Sperisen and imprisoned him for 3 months. Sperisen had dual Swiss-Guatemalan citizenship and was Guatemalan state police chief in 2004-07. He was charged in Guatemala with a series of murders during his time as police chief and had therefore fled to Switzerland.
In November 2012, the Ecopop environmental group collected enough signatures to be able to carry out a referendum on limiting population growth to 0.2% through strong restrictions on immigration.
In June 2013, Parliament rejected a proposal to provide North American tax authorities with information that could lead to tax evasion in the United States. The superpower had previously threatened Switzerland to deny its banks access to dollar markets unless the country complied with the wishes of the United States. On the other hand, it was decided (with 78.5% of the vote) to change asylum legislation, so that the process was speeded up, while the possibility of seeking asylum at the country’s embassies abroad was in turn abolished.
In a referendum in September 2013, voters declined to abolish military service.
By a very narrow majority (50.3% versus 49.7%), Switzerland decided in a referendum in February 2014 to abolish the free movement of labor between the EU and Switzerland, which had otherwise been introduced in 2000. The proposal was tabled by the xenophobic right wing. Following the vote, the EU decided to exclude Switzerland from the Erasmus and Horizon 2020 programs – the Union’s largest education and research programs to date.
At the referendum in May, the country decided to say no to the purchase of the Swedish JAS 39 Griben fighter jet, no to the introduction of a minimum wage and yes to a life-long ban on pedophiles to work with children.