The German School System


Even though the German school system may seem a bit complicated at the first sight, it offers equal opportunities to the German children and children of expats or immigrants. The majority of German pupils attends public schools. One has to be frank to say that the number of private and parochial schools is not impressive as for a country with a population of more than 80 million: 2,500 parochial and private school. However, there are international schools scattered across the country, where English-speaking kids of expats can study.

Mandatory attendance of schools

In German law, there can be found a term known as “Schulpflicht”, which in translation means “compulsory school attendance.” Indeed, German law obliges all children in the age of 6-15 to attend schools, based on the principle that public education is a key component for an educated citizenry and development of the country. Unfortunately, this law also limits people’s flexibility, as there no homeschooling is allowed.

Primary schooling

First of all, it is worth mentioning that German citizens and people living within the country are able to give their kids aged from 3 to 6 years old to kindergartens. After that, all kids get enrolled in the primary schools at 6 years old. The whole course of primary schooling lasts for 4 years, after which the kids have to enroll in other schools in order to continue studying.

The Germany’s three-class system

Upon the completion of the primary school at the age of 10, parents of the kids from the schools’ authorities will receive recommendations about what kind of studying their kids should pursue further. However, parents are able to not listen to the recommendations and get their kids enrolled in the schools of a higher level than it was advised.

Basically, the German school system offers a three-class approach: Gymnasium for those shining pupils that are aimed to enroll in the university later, Realschule for pupils that had average marks (after finishing Realschule, they will be able to complete the Gymnasium course), and Hauptschule where the pupils with lower than average marks enroll in. Studying at each of those schools lasts 13, 10, and 9 years respectively.

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This approach in the German school system has been widely criticized, mostly with this single thesis: 4 years is not enough to understand the real capatabilies and knowledge of a pupil. Therefore, sometimes parents do right when they do not agree with the recommendations given by the schools.

School reformation

In some regions (Bundesländern), mostly governed by the socialist party (SPD), there have been some efforts made in order to reform the existing three-class system. In such regions, there were created Gesamtschule, where all the pupils could learn the whole 10-year long course.

school system in Germany

Gesamtschule were created in order to reform the German school system, yet the efforts have been failed so far

However, the key goal of this reform has not been reached: instead of replacing the three-class system, this school has been added as the fourth type of schools to the existing three types.

Schools for pupils with special needs

In the German school system, there are also schools known as Sondernschulen and Fördernschulen, which allow separate pupils with serious disabilities (like blind, deaf, physical or learning disabilities, etc.) from other students instead of integrating them. This approach has been largely criticized and named to violate several conventions of the UNO. Even at the present time, however, there are only a few schools can be found in whole Germany, where special-needs pupils are integrated instead of being separated.

Financing of schools

Germany is well-known for its impressive decentralization, and it is a task of regions to finance their public schools. Yet, Finanzverfassung (the German financial constitution) requires the taxes to be distributed between different regions, thus allowing the richer regions to finance the education of the poorer ones.


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