German Education System

The German always takes pride on their school system which is one of the most advanced in the world. With an aim to create excellent students, they have developped a comprehensive and compound system in which either theory or practice are well-balanced.

Kindegarten (Kita)

Preschool is optional to children aged under 6. It’s not the state who controls this but local authorities, churches or private associations. The purpose of attending kindegarten is to get the children ready for elementary school. Here, they divide kids into groups according to their stage of development (crawling, walking,…) and engage them in educational activities such as learning letters, singing and so on.

Elementary School (Grundschule)

From the age of 6, compulsory education begins. Every student is required to spend 9 years at school regardless of their nationality, religion or financial status. For instance, if one doesn’t attend Gymnasium , he has to appear at Hauptschule or Realschule for 9 years. Besides, students are supposed to learn at least one foreign language in 5 years.

Commonly, a school year starts in September and lasts 6 months with 2 semesters. It takes at least 4 years to finish elementary school (In some states it may come to 6 years). During this time, children will focus on basic knowledge about Germany, Mathematics, Science and Arts. With a view to providing equal opportunity to everyone, tuition fee is totally free.

Secondary School

After graduating from elementary, students have to decide the next destination depending on their ability, wish and family’s conditions. Grades 5&6 form an orientating phase during which students and their family choose which path to follow.

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These main types of school are carefully considered:

Hauptschule (Lower Secondary Education)

This option is popular with students with average grades and below or those who have no intention of attending university. Most of them are state-run so there is no tuition fee required at all. Despite mainly focusing on vocational-oriented training, schools still offer adequate general academic knowledge including Science, Religion, Arts, Languages and so on. Once young people graduate from Hauptschule, they will obtain a Hauptschulabschluss (leaving certificate) and may start advanced vocational training sessions or directly work for public services. If anyone demands for further learning, they can move to Realschule or Gymnasium as long as their grades are good enough. The diversity of students of all races, languages, abilities,..has confronted Hauptschule with a huge challenge. The government has proposed a lot of solutions, one of whicj is to divide students into small groups then adjust the teaching method for them. In some regions, especially the East, this kind of school has been abolished, merged with Realschule or even never existed due to some private reasons.


This is designed for intermediate students. The main aim of Realschule is to provide broader education and prepare for technical or administrative career. Students are always expected to get good marks and show off greater independence. Here they teach the same subjects as Hauptschule but with different teaching levels and style. Also, courses in technology are offered to anyone tending to dive into this field. Foreign language becomes an obligation at this stage: at least one during 6 years of training and English is often a favorite choice. After 5-6 years, young people will obtain a Realschulabschluss . At this turning-point, students have to decide their next institute – an “upper secondary school”. This can be Gymnasium for further education or Berufsschule to achieve an apprenticeship.


Being the most advanced among the 3 types of secondary school, Gymnasium emphasizes academic education. This is more various, there are boarding, dayschool or even single-sex gymnasium. To attend here, students must finish 4 years at elementary school with excellent grades and sometimes a letter of recommendation is required. The school not only concentrates on academic knowledge but also creates well-rounded individuals by organizing extracurricular activities. They divide Gymnasium into 3 types:

Humanistiches Gymnasium (Humanities-oriented): Latin and Ancien Greek are taught here, sometimes English or French are added.

Neusprachliches Gymnasium (Modern languages): Young people have to be fluent in at least 2 languages in order to graduate.

Mathematisch – Naturwissenschaftliches (Maths & Science): STEM subjects are mainly focused and students have opportunities to work in laboratories.

At 13th year – the last year, it’s the final exam waiting for students. Once they pass, they will receive an “Arbitur”, this proves that students are qualified to appear in university or college.

Gesamtschule (Comprehensive school)

This new kind of school is a combination of Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium. By teaching all together, Gesamtschule hopes to eliminate social barriers. The subjects here do not differ too much between the ones above. Teachers offer courses at different levels, therefore any student can adapt and get highest results as possible. The value of leaving certificate is mainly dependent on the level of those courses. Consequently students take the assignments to the courses really serious.

Berufsschule (Full-time vocational school)

This is a popular choice for those who just graduated from Hauptschule or Realschule but not intend to following higher academic learning. At this school, young people are supposed to spend half a day studying and the rest practising at companies or factories. After finishing the training program, students receive a certificate of the field that they’ve worked on. Berufsschule is different from the others above because it is under the control of the government and corporations but not local authorities.

To sum up, thanks to a compound and comprehensive school system, students in Germany are able to orient their future career at a very early age. Vocational education, academic learning and occupation training are taught at the same time in order to help students realize their abilities and have the best decision for their life-to-be. That’s why hardly anyone has difficulties in their education.

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German Education System. (2021, Feb 24). Retrieved from

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