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Education and Schools

Germany - Education and Schools


In Germany you will find a good standard of education across all age ranges and study programmes. Classroom sizes are generally small and pupils are not required to wear school uniforms.

Each state in Germany is responsible for designating its own regulations with regard to education, although the regulations are fairly similar throughout all the states. It is compulsory for children to attend full time education for either nine or ten years, normally between the ages of six and fifteen. Pupils will then attend a part time vocational school or will continue with full time general or vocational education. All public schools in Germany are free of charge, and educational materials are also provided for free. Children of non-German origin are welcome in public schools although education will almost always be carried out in the German language.

Private schools in Germany are fewer and far between than public schools, and they are required to receive state approval. They are normally international schools and are likely to charge significant tuition fees. Single sex schools and boarding schools are rare within Germany but there are many special needs schools (Sonderschulen) available for children with disabilities. Home-schooling is against the law in Germany and preschool education is not publicly run by the German state.

The school day in Germany normally starts at 7.30am or 8.00am and ends at midday or 1.00pm. There is also school on Saturday mornings or alternate Saturdays. Once pupils finish their school day they normally have a large amount of homework that needs to be completed. The school year runs for 10 months, with a 6 week break for summer.

Primary school is known as Grundschule in Germany and lasts for four to six years, depending on the state. After primary school, pupils move on to secondary school, known as Hauptschule. After attending secondary school for five or six years, the pupil will receive a secondary general school certificate. They then have three options for continued education:

  • Berufsschule – This is a part time vocational training programme that is attended until at least the age of 18.
  • Realschule – This is a comprehensive general education programme which lasts six years. At the end of this period pupils receive an intermediate school certificate which allows them to continue to upper-level schools if they wish.
  • Gymnasium – The equivalent of a grammar school, this is also a comprehensive general education programme. After eight years of study pupils take the Abitur examination and are awarded the certificate of general higher education entrance qualification. This allows the pupils to go on to study at university.

Enrolling your child into school in Germany is compulsory and therefore you will be contacted by your local state school. They will let you know what documentation and medical certificates you need to provide, and then you will be asked to visit the school during office hours to enrol your child. If you have decided to opt for a private school you must let the relevant state school know.

Curriculums in Germany are highly academic with very little emphasis on physical education, art or music. Extracurricular sports activities are rare, however additional computer classes are becoming increasingly popular.

Many universities in Germany are becoming increasingly overcrowded and very competitive, particularly for specialist subjects like medicine and law. Not all universities in Germany charge tuition fees and where they do they are much lower than in the UK or the US. Most students are eligible to apply for financial aid to help with living costs – this will partly be awarded as a grant and partly as a loan.

Classical universities in Germany provide a broad, general education with a study programme up to 6 years long. Technical universities train students for specific careers, with programmes lasting 4 years. There are also Hochschulen universities which provide art and music orientated programmes. Within Germany it is possible to find a wide range of degree programmes that are available in English although this will normally be within private universities. Upon completing your study programme you will take a Bachelor, Master or State examination. State examinations are the qualifications required to become a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist or teacher. You may also continue your education to obtain a Doctorate.


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