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Switzerland (German: die Schweiz French: la Suisse, Italian: la Svizzera, Romansh: la Svizra), officially the Swiss Confederation (Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin, hence its ISO country codes CH and CHE), is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe where it is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.
Switzerland is a landlocked country whose territory is geographically divided between the Alps, the Central Plateau and the Jura that yields a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). The Swiss population of approximately 7.7 million people concentrates mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found. Among them are the two global cities and economic centres of Zürich and Geneva. Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita gross domestic product, with a nominal per capita GDP of $67,384. Zürich and Geneva have respectively been ranked as having the second and third highest quality of life in the world.
The Swiss Confederation has a long history of neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and was one of the last countries to join the United Nations. Switzerland is home to many international organisations, including the World Economic Forum, the International Olympic Committee, the Red Cross, the World Trade Organization and the second largest UN office. On the European level it was a founder of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Agreement.
Switzerland comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, and Italian, to which the Romansh-speaking valleys are added. The Swiss therefore do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnic or linguistic identity. The strong sense of belonging to the country is founded on the common historical background, shared values (federalism, direct democracy, neutrality) and Alpine symbolism. The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291; Swiss National Day is celebrated on the anniversary.
The education system in Switzerland is very diverse, because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system to the cantons. The Swiss constitution sets the foundations, namely that primary school is obligatory for every child and is free in public schools and that the confederation can run or support universities. Swiss people have voted on May 21, 2006 to reform the education system in one common program for all the cantons. Because of its diversity, there are many private international schools in Switzerland that encourage respect for all cultures.