The German school system
If your children are six or older, they must go to school. In Germany, education is compulsory. The vast majority of German schools are run by the state. Your children can therefore attend them for free. There are of course parallel private and international schools, but they are paying.
Each of the Länder is responsible for school policy. Depending on the region you and your family will settle in, you will face slightly different school systems. For example, children do not always learn the same things from one Land to another and also partly use different textbooks. Depending on the Länder, there may also be different types of schools. Overall, the following scheme is valid for the whole of Germany:
Grundschule (primary school): For children aged 6, schooling generally begins at the Grundschule. The children go to school there from the first to the fourth class. In the Länder of Berlin and Brandenburg, the Grundschule continues up to the sixth class. Depending on the level of your children in primary school, you can decide, in consultation with the teachers, what type of school they will attend from the fifth class. Secondary schools (weiterführende Schulen) are generally divided as follows:
Hauptschule (general secondary school): classes 5 to 9/10
Realschule (secondary school): classes 5 to 10
Gesamtschule (comprehensive school): classes 5 to 12/13
Gymnasium (middle school, high school): classes 5 to 12/13
Hauptschule and Realschule: Children who have successfully completed their schooling in a Hauptschule or a Realschule can then do vocational training or join a Gymnasium or Gesamtschule.
Gesamtschule: offers an alternative to the tripartite system of education (Hauptschule, Realschule und Gymnasium).
Gymnasium: at the end of the twelfth or thirteenth class, pupils who pass the examination can obtain their baccalaureate (Abitur). This diploma gives them the right to continue their studies in a university or a specialized college. Students who have completed their schooling in a Gymnasium can also choose to do professional training and discover the practice directly.
The German education system
German education system
Schooling for children and young people newly arrived in Germany
Are your children already old enough to go to school when you arrive in Germany? You are certainly wondering how to go about schooling them? It is the administration of the school concerned in agreement with the “Schulbehörde” (National Education) which will decide on the organization of the schooling of your children. As a rule, newly arrived children who, due to their lack of knowledge of the German language, are not yet able to follow lessons continuously at school, have the opportunity to take part in a trial lesson. The goal is to allow children to integrate and follow a traditional schooling as quickly as possible.
How to recognize a good school
You are generally free to decide which school in the city your child will attend. Investigate multiple schools. You will recognize a good school by the fact that it offers, in addition to quality teaching, leisure activities such as theatrical performances, sports, music and language workshops or excursions. The school must also include parents in school activities. So don’t just ask if there’s room and ask about extracurricular activities. If your children do not yet have a perfect command of German, make sure that the school also offers German lessons. These courses are usually called “Deutsch als Fremdsprache” (German as a foreign language). The teachers will make sure that your child understands everything that is said in class and that he does not have to fear bad grades.
More information on the web
Association of German International Schools
Association of International Schools in Germany
Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK)
The German school system