How does the German Education system work?

Germany is a country renowned for its world-class education system. German students undergo compulsory formal schooling for the best part of their childhood and adolescence, which makes them quite ready to attend one of the many universities in the country. 

The German education system is very different from that of other countries but nonetheless produces high performing students every year. With a public education system that offers free and compulsory education to the young citizens of the country, Germany has set an example to many other countries in the world.

The German education system, including access to universities, is also available to the children of foreign residents. In most German schools, the classes are conducted in the German language, which is easy to pick up for any beginner student. However, foreign students who join the education system at an older age will have to opt for private school.

In general, moving to and living in Germany will open up the best educational opportunities for the expat children due to the comprehensive education system that moulds them into better individuals along with their formal education requirements.

School system in Germany

In Germany, school is compulsory for nine to ten years. Most children start by attending Kindergarten from the age of three to six. From grade 1 to 4, they will be sent to attend the Grundschule or elementary school, where common subjects are taught to all. After elementary school, most students have to attend one of the three different kinds of schools, depending upon their academic abilities and wishes of their parents. These are the Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium. The Grundschule teachers usually recommend their students to a particular school, based on their academic achievements, working style, interests and confidence, but the final decision rests with the parents.

The Hauptschule (grades 5-9)

The Hauptschule generally teach the same subjects as the Realschule and Gymnasium, but the curriculum is integrated with vocational courses. This schooling system also proceeds at a slower pace and leads to part-time enrollment in a vocational school with apprenticeship training, which continues until the age of 18.

The Realschule (grades 5-10)

The Realschule is similar to Hauptschule and offers part-time vocational schools and higher vocational schools for all students. Although it was initially not possible, the current system allows students who exhibited academic excellence to switch to Gymnasium on graduation.

The Gymnasium 

The Gymnasium has a curriculum leads to a diploma called the Abitur and prepares the students for university study. The Abitur also gives students to apply for a dual academic and vocational credential. 

While the curricula differ from school to school, they all generally follow the same set of subjects like mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology, German, history, geography, civics, social studies, arts and philosophy. Students are also required to study at least one foreign language for a minimum of 5 years of their school life. Apart from that, a second foreign language is an entry criterion for Gymnasium.

International schools for expat students

If a family with children are new to Germany, they always have the opportunity to enrol their children to an International school. Expats living in Germany find this a boon, mostly because, it avoid breaks in their education. There are several international schools in Germany, which offer their curriculum in English. The courses usually lead to an IBO or other certificates/diploma which allows the students to continue to college or university.

Higher Education in Germany

Germany is well known for its University-level schools. Students can attend classical universities in the tradition of Alexander von Humboldt for a span of six years which provide broader options and general education. However, recent educational reforms allow a student to complete their university Bachelor degree after a 4-year curriculum.

Apart from general universities, technical schools or Technische Hochschulen provide courses that prepare the students for specific careers.

For foreign students who have previous education isn’t equivalent to the German university entrance qualification, there are pre-qualification tests and examinations to prove their academic excellence to attend the German universities. On the other hand, if a student can produce a foreign university entrance qualification that is recognized for academic studies in Germany, then they need only present certified copies of their school-leaving certificate and a statement of the said equivalence of their foreign certificate with German school-leaving certificate.

In conclusion, the German education system has an all-comprehensive structure, which allows the students to pursue different courses depending upon their interests and skill sets. Expat families living in Germany can enrol their children to this excellent educational system without second thoughts.