The German public school system is known for producing high-performing pupils; however, the structure is quite different to that in many other countries. Though private schools exist, the vast majority of children attend public schools. The school system is maintained and funded by the federal government, though organized at a state level. This leads to deviations in curriculum and quality across the country, with Bavarian schools ranking amongst the best.
School is compulsory in Germany as of the age of 6 or 7, depending on the child’s birthday. This regulation applies to all residents of Germany no matter the nationality. Kindergarten is attended by most children from ages 3 to 6; however, it is not a part of the 9 to 10 year compulsory education system (Schulpflicht). While public school districts exist for elementary education, parents can choose where and what type of secondary school their children attend.
If you have questions regarding which public school would best suit your child, you can contact the Bavarian Kultusministerium (Ministry of Education) for information on public schools in this state. If your question refers directly to your child’s language level or attending an international school, the Bildungsberatung International (DE) is prepared to address such concerns. Once on the site of Bildungsberatung Int., go to "Beratungszeiten" (consutling hours) for PDF documents with office hours and contact persons listed according to the advisors’ language competencies. Refer to the section Publikationen und Downloads for the Bildungsbaratung International’s flyer and list of international schools.
Please find below a list of commonly asked questions:
- What is important to know about elementary schools in Germany?
- What do I need to know about secondary education?
- What options do I have if my child does not understand German very well or at all?
- Where can I find additional information and advice on finding schools in Munich?
Elementary schools in Germany (Grundschulen) include grades 1-4 or 1-6 depending on where you live and what type of secondary school your child attends. During these early years of school, all pupils are generally taught the same subjects. Then after the 4th grade, pupils are separated into Mittelschule, Realschule, or Gymnasium. This division is determined by the parents and teachers of the pupil based on the child’s academic achievement, self-confidence and the ability to work independently. Please note: public school districts exist for elementary school children, though not for secondary schools.top
A Gymnasium offers the most academic course of study, acting to prepare pupils for entry into a German university. After successfully completing grade 13, pupils receive their Abitur and are not restricted as to what subject they study at university, though some subjects require a high grade point average due to limited places. The most common tracks of education at Gymnasien are classical language, modern language, mathematics and natural sciences.
Realschule usually includes grades 5-10 and is a less academic option, where pupils are awarded the Mittlere Reife certificate, equivalent to the British GCSE and the American high school diploma. After obtaining this certificate, one can go in several directions, e.g. do an apprenticeship, attend vocational school or get additional qualifications (Fachabitur) and go on to a school of applied sciences.
Mittelschule, formerly known as Hauptschule, is generally designed to prepare pupils to do an apprenticeship. This type of secondary school lasts until the 9th or 10th grade and awards their pupils with the Mittelschulabschluss certificate.
When children are younger, it is much easier to integrate them into the German public school system. Entry into secondary school with limited knowledge of the language can be more challenging. Two important factors to consider when choosing a school are the length of your family’s stay here and your child’s German language level. Homeschooling is not permitted in Germany.
If your child does not have a proficient level of German upon arrival, an international school might be the most suitable option until his/her language level is sufficient, though tuition fees can be very high depending on the institution.
- City of Munich – find information on the school system in Munich
- Bildungsberatung International (DE) – links to documents listing bilingual and international schools. You may also make an appointment to meet with advisors with competencies in various languages. Refer to their downloadable flyer for contact details and times
- Make-it-in-Germany - general information and advice on immigrating to Germany, including the German school system
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