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School – The German School System

Note: The German education system differs slightly in the 16 federal provinces, since many regulations are autonomously decided by the provinces. But the basic structure is the same in all of Germany.
 
Basic structure
In Germany there is compulsory schooling, which means that children are obliged to attend school from the age of six. First they have to attend elementary school, which is the same for all pupils and ranges from grade one to grade 4. In Berlin and Brandenburg the elementary school extends until sixth grade. For children with special educational needs, who cannot be adequately supported in a regular school, there exist different types of schools, such as "Förderschulen" (schools for children with learning disabilities or schools for physically and mentally handicapped children). In many provinces models of “inclusion” are implemented, so that disabled and handicapped children can equally participate in regular schools.

 

The German school system divides into the following periods

Primary level: At the beginning of their school career, children attend primary school. The lessons usually take place in the mornings. By now, there are also full-day care programs being established in many schools. In most provinces, the children are already getting grades in primary school, but in some schools they receive evaluation certificates for the first two grades and real grades only from the third grade on.

Secondary level I: All types of school from fifth grade up to grade ten fall into this period. These include Hauptschule (secondary school, which offers lower secondary education), Realschule (secondary school) and Gymnasium (grammar school), but also Gesamtschule or Gemeinschaftsschule (comprehensive school). Depending on the type of school, children can finish secondary level I after 9th or 10th grade.

Secondary level II: Secondary level II includes the attendance of the senior classes of grammar school, which conclude with the Abitur (comparable to high school graduation / general qualification for university entrance). So far the senior classes comprised the 11th, 12th and 13th grade, but the most provinces have restructured the secondary level II, in order to implement the Abitur after 12th grade. Secondary level II can also be completed with the Fachhochschulreife (entrance qualification for studies at universities of applied sciences) after 11th or 12th grade.
The field of vocational training also counts for secondary level II, and includes vocational school forms such as Berufskollegs, Berufsoberschulen or Fachoberschulen (technical secondary schools). There is also the possibility to acquire the Fachhochschulreife at these schools.

“Second chance education”: This area of education comprises evening schools and schools that allow you to catch up with your school-leaving certificate.