Schooling in Germany

A School in Germany Enlarge image A School in Germany (© colourbox) Good initial opportunities for everyone are a key prerequisite for education and achievement. German schooling is based on nine years of compulsory education for all children.

Compulsory education in Germany has a long, proven tradition. As early as 1659, it was introduced in Bavaria and for the first time in Prussia in 1717. Also today, 300 years after its introduction, it is vitally important: It protects children against social discrimination and isolation, it contributes to integration; and it fosters dialogue within society.

Once children are aged six, they as a rule attend primary school for four years, before going on to a variety of secondary schools: Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasium. The standards and weighting of practical versus theoretical lessons differ. There are also Gesamtschulen, in which all children of compulsory school age are taught in parallel classes, depending on their particular abilities. Children can easily move from one stream to another as they improve. In Hauptschulen, grades 5 to 9 are compulsory, and 10th grade is voluntary. Gymnasium provides in-depth education. Pupils graduate from Gymnasium after the 12th or 13th grade with a High-School Certificate. Lessons in German schools tend to be in the mornings, but the Government is constantly increasing the number of schools offering day-long instruction; short term plans being for there to be 5,000 all-day schools, or about 12 percent of all schools offering general education. Forward-looking support at the pre-school level and more language classes are likewise intended to enhance the quality of education. Attendance of all government schools is free of charge.

In today’s Germany, it is incumbent on the state, and in the German federalist system that means on the German states, to guarantee balanced school instruction. A Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder coordinates schooling, as each Federal state has its own school laws. 

The free cost of schooling associated with compulsory education is key to democratizing schooling and education and also broadens the possibilities for socially disadvantaged classes to receive the same opportunities.


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