This third installment of our Education Around the World series, takes us to Germany to learn the nuances of the German school system. Like many other countries, Germany has its own regulations, rules and nuances to discover. Read on to learn more…
Starting young: Grundschule By the age of six, children are required to attend a German primary school, or Grundschule. Students must enroll in the district where they reside, or they can choose a private or international school in any location. This primary education will last from ages six to ten or twelve and is the same curriculum for every child. Uniform requirements are uncommon for students. One interesting nuance to note is that home schooling is illegal in Germany, which comes as a surprise to many international families.
Moving on…many choices available After primary school, children can attend different types of secondary schools that offer a variety of programs:
- Hauptschule: grades 5 to 9
- Realschule: grades 5/6 to 10
- Gesamtscheule: grades 4/5 to 10/12
- Gymnasium: grades 4/5 to 12/13
In Hauptschule or Realschule, children continue their education with an apprenticeship to enter their field of choice. The widest range of possibilities is available for a student who attends a Gymnasium – the student can choose between going to University or completing an apprenticeship after attending. The academic standards for Gymnasium are very high and often competitive.
Typical schedule So what is a typical day or year like for a student? The school day usually starts around 8 a.m. and lasts until 1 p.m. Primary schools release students earlier, as secondary schools have additional classes that are more time consuming. Students bring their breakfast, but they don’t have to bring their lunch as they are dismissed from school around lunchtime.
During the year, there are several parent-teacher conferences where parents can discuss the general learning content with the teacher. There are also parent-teacher days where parents have one-on-one appointments with the teacher to discuss any issues or specific questions about their child. Most schools provide standard grades rather than progress reports to measure a student’s progress. If issues arise, parents are contacted by the teacher to further discuss.
Semesters, breaks, and holidays The academic year is made up of two semesters, starting near the end of August. Germany has 16 federal states, so holiday breaks can vary from state to state, with all schools not in session on countrywide public holidays.
The German school calendar typically looks like:
- Winter break: time off is state-dependent, may be 1-2 weeks in February or none at all
- Easter break: 2 weeks off in March or April
- Whitsun break: time off is state-dependent, may be 1-2 weeks in May/June or none at all
- Summer break: 6 weeks off in June/July/August
- Autumn break: 1-2 weeks off in October/November
- Christmas break: 1-2 weeks off in December/January
The German education system shares many similarities to other programs around the world. Just as each country is unique, the education system also has nuances to learn for those new to it. As typical in most countries, parents continue to appreciate the regular daily schedule the students follow…while the students typically most appreciate the holidays and breaks!