Education and Schooling in Germany

The basics of the education system in Germany. Information includes all the stages from creche to pre-primary, primary and secondary education as well as international schooling...

Educational policy is mostly decided at a state level. While the Federal Ministry for Education and Research is responsible for some aspects of education, each state has the power to enforce its own educational system. There are systems, such as the Kultusministerkonferenze in place which work to achieve consistency in education across the country, however, educational policies do still vary from state to state and it is therefore important to always check the system of the individual state.

The Education System

Compulsory schooling starts at the age of 6 and lasts for 12 or 13 years depending on the area of residence within Germany.

Full-time compulsory education (Vollzeitschulpflicht) lasts a total of 9 to 10 years, depending on the state. Children first attend primary school (Grundschule) from the age of 6 until 10 (or 12 in Berlin and Brandenburg) and then lower secondary school from 10 to 15 or 16.

Part-time compulsory education (Berufsschulpflicht) continues beyond that age up to 18 for those who are not still enrolled in a full-time school, this includes apprenticeships and other forms of part-time education.

  • Note: In Berlin full-time compulsory education begins at the start of the next school year for those who have turned 6 by the 1 August, or will have done by the following 31 December, and lasts until end of the 9th school year. Part-time compulsory education then continues until the completion of chosen training, including apprenticeships and the Abitur.
  • Note: In Frankfurt full-time education begins at the start of the next school year for those who have turned 6 by 30 June and lasts until the end of the 9th school year. Part-time compulsory education continues until the end of the half school year in which the child turns 18
  • Note: In Hamburg full-time education begins at the start of the next school year for those who have turned 6 by 1 July of 6 and lasts until the end of the 9th school year. Part-time compulsory education continues until the end of the school year in which the child turns 18.
  • Note: In Munich full-time education begins at the start of the next school year for those who have, or will have, turned 6 by 30 September and lasts until the end of the 9th school year. Part-time compulsory education continues until the end of the 12th school year.
  • Note: In Nord Rhein-Westphalia full-time education begins at the start of the next school year for those who have turned 6 by 30 September and lasts until the end of the 10th school year. Part-time compulsory education continues until the end of the school year in which the child turns 18.

Continuous assessment based on written examinations and oral contributions is universal practice at all levels. All compulsory public sector schools are free of charge. Pupils attending general and vocational schools are entitled to financial assistance under the BaföG (law on financial assistance for students) from the tenth year provided they have no other income or financial means. The level of assistance is fixed on the basis of the pupil's personal resources and parental income.

Homeschooling is not allowed in Germany and is punishable by harsh legal penalties such as heavy fines and children being taken away from their parents. There have been a few cases in recent years of parents applying to their local authorities and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to be allowed to homeschool but with little success so far

Religious Instruction

Religious instruction is currently under debate. Religious instruction is the only school subject mentioned in the German constitution and only Bremen, Brandenburg and Berlin do not offer religious instruction as part of the regular curriculum. Children can attend the extra classes offered at the schools though. Children over the age of 14 can opt out of religious instruction.

In November 2006 compulsory ethics instruction was introduced in Berlin for children in Years 7 to 10 with exemptions only permitted for valid and justifiable reasons.

Recognition of Qualifications

Germany has recently introduced a Recognition Act which acknowledges any professional and vocational qualifications that have been gained abroad. Although there is no organisation that deals with transferring qualifications, the Recognition in Germany portal has been set up to show expatriates where to go to get the recognition they need for their qualifications, including qualifications gained in school.

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