An attractive school system


In Germany, competence in educational matters lies mainly with the sixteen Länder. Education systems, school programs and forms of schools therefore diverge. The Permanent Conference of the Ministers of Culture of the Länder (KMK) guarantees the conformity or the comparability of the courses and their diplomas. During the 2016-2017 school year, nearly 11 million students were educated in the 43,322 general and vocational schools where 798,180 teachers work. In addition, some 990,402 students are enrolled in the 5,836 private general and vocational schools. Schooling is compulsory for all children from the age of 6 and for nine years. The promotion of pre-school education, preparing children for primary school, is a high priority of education policy. Around 20,000 full-time schools are now part of the educational landscape. Attendance at these schools is expected to provide greater equality of opportunity, especially for children from backgrounds with little schooling.

Attendance at public schools is free. The school system has a vertical structure with three levels: elementary school, middle school and high school. In general, all children go to primary school, going from first to fourth class (and from first to sixth class in Berlin and Brandenburg). Then come three streams of secondary education: the Hauptschule stream (from 5th to 9th or 10th class), the Realschule stream (from 5th to 10th class, diploma: secondary school certificate) and the high school stream (from 5th to 12th or 13th class, diploma: baccalaureate). These three courses are offered in separate schools or in schools offering two courses, or three like the Gesamtschulen, thus allowing greater mobility between the different courses. The designation of these schools varies according to the Länder, only the high school bears the same name throughout the country. In 2017, some 440,000 students obtained the baccalaureate or the upper secondary education diploma. For children who need a specific pedagogy, there are specialized schools corresponding to their handicap. But joint learning of children with and without disabilities must become the rule, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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The 140 German Schools Abroad stand for excellent education in 72 countries. Some 22,000 German pupils and 60,000 non-German pupils learn there together. These schools are generally run by private organizations but financially and personally supported by the Center for German Schools Abroad (ZfA). Since 2008, the “Schools as Partners for the Future” (PASCH) initiative, coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been working together with the ZfA and the Goethe-Institut towards an even denser network of German language learners. . It networks nearly 2,000 schools around the world where more than 500,000 students learn German.

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