Education system in Germany

The educational system in Germany


In Germany all children are required to go to school - this is compulsory!

Compulsory education in Germany is a legal regulation which, from a certain age, obliges children and young people to attend school. First of all this means: All children in Germany have to go to school. School starts after the kindergarten with the so-called primary education and lasts either until a certain age, or until completion of a school qualification. At the latest, compulsory education ends with the age of majority. Compulsory full-time schooling thus covers nine or ten years of schooling. 

What exactly does compulsory education mean?

Compulsory education includes the following three tasks: 
  1. School notification requirement: Parents are obliged to register their minor children at a school of their choice. 
  2. Compulsory selection of a school approved for selection: Children have to be enrolled in a German public school or private school
  3. Compulsory participation: Children are obliged to participate regularly and actively and to attend school events
If parents or legal guardians don't comply with their duties, this constitutes an administrative offense which could result in a fine.
In special hardship cases, pupils can be taken to school forcibly, if all other attempts have been unsuccessful. This means that if you don't send your children to school in Germany, you will have to pay a fine or will be forced to do so.


It all starts after the kindergarten!

After kindergarten, children are usually starting in primary school where they take the first steps of their school career. At the time of enrollment most children are between 5 and 7 years old. Primary school comprises the first 4 years of school, i.e. classes 1 to 4. In order to enable your children to have a smooth start into a German school, it is important to practice as much German as possible - which of course is most fun with other children. A good preparation for primary school is of course the kindergarten and also pre-schooling. 

What possibilities are there after primary school?

After primary school, the secondary level starts - intermediate school level. This corresponds roughly to grades 5 to 10. The intermediate level ends with a secondary school leaving certificate or the middle school leaving certificate. In Germany, there are various secondary school types: Hauptschule, Realschule, Gesamtschule or Gymnasium. 

  • Hauptschulen are meant to prepare for vocational training and are therefore more practical and method-oriented than other secondary schools. It finshes with a general school leaving certificate (Hauptschulabschluss) after the 9th grade.
  • Realschulen on the one hand are strongly professionally oriented, but on the other hand also leave an option to continue on a path towards university. This degree opens up access to many training programs, but also to Fachoberschulen (Fachabitur), as well as vocational and technical colleges, where the general university entrance qualification can be obtained. With a middle school leaving certificate (Realschulabschluss) you are both entitled to start an apprenticeship, and to continue school in order to study at university thereafter.
  • Gymnasien are schools, which lead to the general university entrance qualification, this means you end with the Abitur. A gymnasium comprises secondary level 1 and secondary level 2. The school has the task of providing an in-depth general education. Moreover a basic element of the Gymnasium is to teach at least two foreign languages. The Abitur provides direct access to all types of vocational training, college or universities. 
Heading towards university or profession? Secondary level 2

Secondary level 2 is the so-called "Oberstufe" - an advanced level.  This level includes the vocational training system consisting of the dual system of vocational training and school, the vocational preparatory year, Fachoberschule and Gymnasium. For example those who finish school at the Gymnasium complete their secondary level with the "Abitur" that allows them to enroll or apply for a university. 

After school: Tertiary level

The tertiary level consist of higher education institutions, which are mainly charged with research, i.e. the creation of new knowledge and teaching. In addition, you can, of course, obtain academic degrees. However, tertiary level doesn't necessarily mean university: the tertiary level also includes "Berufsakademien, Fachschulen, Fachakademien", professional academies, technical colleges or specialist academies outside the university sector. In a "Berufsakademie" half of the study time will be spent in companies. At a "Fachschule" special training courses can be attended, e.g. to get a master's degree as an electrician.


If you are still unsure whether and how you can send your kids to school, the following video might be helpful.  Henry, a journalist from Bavaria, is giving you some information on this topic. Of course you are also welcome to speak to one of your contact persons in Schönaich.  Just ask at the "Gemeinde" or at the "Arbeitskreis Flüchtlinge", they will be happy to help you.
You don't have to worry about costs at public schools in Germany. In Germany, the visit of a public school is free of charge. If there are costs because of school trips or other activities, usually these can also be supported financially. Henry explains more about this in the following video. 

OVERVIEW: Basic structure of the education system

Share by: