Education System in Germany

Education System in Germany

Image Source: Foto von Max Fischer von Pexels

When does school start?

In Germany elementary education begins at the age of six with primary schooling. It is compulsory for all kids to join school when they come of age and to ensure this public schooling throughout Germany has been kept free of cost. Unless you want to put your kid to an international or private school that has a fee. Generally, the primary school year begins from the start of August, so once your kid is 6 they can begin school in August after their 6th birthday. But kids are also given a choice to start school during the year.

Is there a daycare system for kids before school?

All kids from the age of one to five years have the opportunity to be part of a daycare facility or also a kinderkrippe/ kindergarten. This is not compulsory to attend but all kids have the right to have a place. But if you’re both working parents and consider daycare then it’s best to register for the way ahead of time because it can be hard to find a place in them.

One can search for Kitafinder+your cityname to know the nearest available KITA in your location. Alternatively, one can also go and visit the Krippe on Tag der Offenen Tür, where one can get more informations about the  Krippe.

The German preschool system varies from state to state, but in general it works this way:

  • Kinderkrippe  – For ages 4 Months to 3 years.
  • Kita (short for Kindertagesstätte (children’s daycare center) – For ages 3-6.
  • Kindergarten – For ages 3-6; half-day or full-day kindergarten.
  • Hort or Schulhort – Provides after-school daycare for elementary school pupils.

The cost of daycare differs from state to state. In Some States, the cost is based on the personal Income and the number of hours you opt for and in few states, the cost is based on the number of hours a kid needs to be taken care 

Primary School (Grundschule)

In Germany, primary school is also called as elementary school (Grundschule) for Grades 1-4. All states throughout Germany have their education policy so the general curriculum and textbooks vary to where you might be settling in. All states except Berlin and Brandenburg have their primary schools consisting of 4 grades whereas in these two states primary school continues to grade 6. So the kids are around 10 to 12 years old when they are graduating from primary school.

What they study in Primary school?

During primary school, kids are introduced to a foreign language which in most cases is English or French. This also varies in different states as some begin it from grade 1 whereas others begin it from 3. Apart from this they are taught basic reading and writing alphabets and making words to sentences along with basic mathematics.

What happens next?

At the end of your kid’s time at primary school, the parents along with their teachers decide the next steps for the child. This decision is based on their performance and grades and will result in the selection of the type of secondary school they plan to continue with. The secondary school system is divided into 3 different types Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium which are explained below. The gymnasium can lead to university education whereas the other 2 of these secondary schools lead to vocational education qualification.

Education System in Germany

1. Hauptschule (5-9th Grade)

It is the most basic form of education provided and generally leads to a vocational qualification. It lasts for 5 years from grade 5 to 9. Students are offered to take an extra year of education and then get a Mittlerer Schulabschluss (Realschulabschluss) which is an advanced level of education and can help lead to more opportunities. With a basic 5 year Hauptschule graduation the kid gets a Hauptschulabschluss in the end and is qualified to get into upper secondary schooling or training in either a Dual system or a Berufsfachschule which are explained separately below.

What can you do after Hauptschule?

Only with 5 years of Hauptschule the kid can either join the Dual system or Berufsfachschule or the other option for them is to take an extra year of education and if they have good grades they can take an extra test to join the Gymnasium which is also explained below.

2. Realschule (5-10th Grade)

It provides more advanced education as compared to Hauptschule but also leading to vocational school after completing this. It is a 6 years’ education system from grade 5 to 10 ending with a Realschulabschluss after clearance of grade 10 exams.

What can you do after Realschule?

Children have an opportunity to complete their upper education in a Gymnasium without giving any further exam if they want to head to a path towards university or they can already begin their vocational training at a Dual System, a Berufsfachschule, or a Fachoberschule which are all explained below.

3. Gymnasium (5-12/13th Grade)

It is the most intensive form of secondary education that a student can get. Covering from grade 5 to grade 12 in most states whereas in federal states it is till grade 13. At the end of this, the student has to give an exam called Allgemeine Hochschulereife which is called Abitur. Kids completing their Hauptschule or Realschule are given an option to join a Gymnasium from grade 11 to 13 if they want to take the path towards university education.

What can you do after a Gymnasium?

After completing the most intensive form of education pupils are guaranteed admission in either a Universität or a Fachhochschule which university of applied sciences. So if a kid is sure to head to a path to university then this is the safest option for them.

What are the different kinds of vocation educations offered?

After Hauptschule and Realschule either the kid can continue with the vocational training below or sit for an extra exam to join a Gymnasium to get into university.

1 ) Berufsfachschule

It is training lasting from 1 to 3 years where the students are taught various skills of more than one occupation. During this time the kid can also be enrolled in a part-time with which they are qualified in a specific occupation for example mechanic, gardener, or craftsman.

2 ) Berufschule

It is an alternate to the regular education provided at the upper secondary level at a realschule. Here the students can take part in various choices of vocational education to apprenticeships and also on-the-job training provided with specific skills.

3) Fachhochschule

For students who have got a Realschulabschluss after finishing their Realschule can join this for grades 11 and 12. During this time they are given a mixture of theoretical and practical skills including general education. At the end of these two years, they get Fachhochschulreife which can help you get into different universities of applied sciences throughout Germany.

4) Dual System

It is a training with a mixture of both having a normal education at a vocational school also called Berufsschule and the rest of the time they spend doing a workplace apprenticeship where they are learning a skill. This whole training last from 2 to 3 and a half year. Students are allowed to join it after either Hauptschule or either the Realschule.

International Schools In Germany

Many Expats are moving to Germany and the International schools are gaining more attention in Germany, Most of the International Schools charge a tuition fee and they teach in English or bilingual. They don’t follow the German Curriculum. In this link, you can find an overview of international schools in Germany


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We want to be transparent with you. This article contains affiliate links, which means that when you click on them, we may receive a small bonus. Rest assured, this will not affect the price for you. Instead, it enables our dedicated Vanakkam Germany Team to continue delivering valuable content and improving our services. Your support is greatly appreciated as we strive to serve you better.

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