In Germany, school attendance becomes compulsory once children reach the age of six. The country has a mix of state-run, tuition-free schools, as well as private and international schools that charge fees. Education policies are determined at the state level, leading to variations in curriculum and school types across different regions.

In this guide, we will explore the structure of the German school system to help you understand the options available for your child’s education.

Primary School (Grundschule):

Most children start their educational journey at primary school, typically at the age of six. Primary school generally spans four grades, except in Berlin and Brandenburg, where it continues until the sixth grade. At the end of primary school, you and your child’s teachers will assess their performance to determine the appropriate secondary school for further education.

Secondary Schools (Weiterfรผhrende Schulen):

The German secondary school system comprises several types of schools, including:

  1. Hauptschule: This secondary general school covers grades five to nine or ten. Graduates from Hauptschule can proceed to vocational training or transfer to the sixth form at a Gymnasium or Gesamtschule.
  2. Realschule: Realschule is a more practical secondary school for grades five to ten. Similar to Hauptschule, students can pursue vocational training or transition to the sixth form at a Gymnasium or Gesamtschule.
  3. Gymnasium: Gymnasium is an academically-oriented secondary school that spans grades five to twelve or thirteen. Students who successfully complete the 12th or 13th grade and pass the Abitur examinations earn a certificate of advanced secondary education, which qualifies them for university studies or vocational training.
  4. Gesamtschule: This comprehensive school combines elements of Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium. It offers an alternative to the tripartite school system and covers grades five to twelve or thirteen.

School Enrollment for Newly Arrived Children:

If your children arrive in Germany and are of school age, the school management, in consultation with the local education authority, will determine their placement. Children who are not yet proficient in German may receive special trial lessons to facilitate their integration into regular classes.

Identifying a Good School:

Parents have the freedom to choose the school their child attends. When evaluating schools, it is important to consider factors beyond academic instruction. A good school will offer a range of extracurricular activities such as theater, sports, language and music clubs, and school trips. Parent involvement should be encouraged and supported.

If your child is not fluent in German, inquire about German classes specifically designed for non-native speakers. These classes, often referred to as “German as a foreign language,” ensure that your child can comprehend lessons and keep up with the curriculum.

Understanding the German school system is essential for parents navigating their child’s education in the country. By familiarising yourself with the different types of schools and their offerings, you can make informed decisions to provide the best educational opportunities for your child.

Remember to consider factors such as extracurricular activities, parent involvement, and language support when choosing a school.

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