Generally speaking, schools in Switzerland come under the authority of the cantons, which enforce all relevant legislation. The cantons are responsible for both private and public schools. Schools set up by the permanent missions are one exception to the rule. The opening of such schools must follow the procedure outlined below :
- The Department of Foreign Affairs must be informed of a mission’s intention to open a school. The activities of such a school must conform to law and order in Switzerland. The school premises must be on the grounds of the permanent mission. In special cases where it is justified, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs may authorise the permanent mission to install a school at a location other than its own grounds. This authorisation must be made by the Department of Foreign Affairs in a formal manner and may be granted only if all relevant Swiss laws are respected (building code, health regulations, etc.). School premises that are not on the grounds of the permanent mission do not enjoy the privileges or immunities defined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, applicable by analogy to permanent missions based in Geneva.
- Only children of the members of the career personnel of permanent missions may enrol in such schools. Children of the members of permanent missions who are of Swiss nationality or who are permanent residents in Switzerland (B and C permits) are therefore expressly excluded.
- The school may not receive subsidies from any Swiss authority or institution.
- As a general rule, teachers must be hired abroad by the sending State. They must be registered as teachers with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. It will then consider them as members of the service staff of the permanent mission, and will issue them legitimation cards.
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs assumes that all teaching posts will be full time. If this is not the case the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs must be informed of such. Teachers with a legitimation card are not free to seek gainful employment in the Swiss labour market.
The permanent mission is also authorised to recruit teachers of Swiss nationality or persons legally resident in Switzerland who are authorised to work in Switzerland (holders of B and C permits with the right to work). They will not be considered as members of the permanent mission and will not be provided with a legitimation card. Swiss law is fully applicable in all cases. The permanent mission should request information on the relevant legal provisions from the appropriate cantonal authorities.
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs reserves the right to close the school if the above-mentioned conditions are not met or are no longer met, or if the sending State does not allow Switzerland to open such a school, for the needs of its diplomatic or consular members, on the territory of the sending State.
Moreover the Swiss Mission reserves the right to demand at any time a list with the names of children attending such schools.