German school system

From time to time every German language teacher needs to explain the German school system. Since it differs from the school system in my country, when I am asked about it, I constantly forget to say some important details. In order to avoid that in future, I decided to dedicate this post to the German school system.

  • Each German federal country regulates its school system independently. However, there are in fact some general regulations that ensure a certain amount of unity.
  • Elementary school (Grundschule) lasts 4 years (see the graphic).
  • After the elementary school, around one half of all pupils attend Hauptschule. It lasts 5 years (in some federal states 6) and prepares pupils for practical professions. The most pupils learn some practical job after they finish Hauptschule (= eine Lehre als -zum Beispiel: Koch- machen). However, it is possible to switch to some other more demanding school during or after the Hauptschule (see the graphic).
  • The other half of all pupils attend Realschule or Gymnasium.
  • Realschule prepares pupils for higher qualified jobs. It lasts 6 years and enables transitions to other schools  (see the graphic). After the Realschule the pupils learn some practical job too  (= eine Lehre machen).
  • Approximately the same number of pupils enrol Realschule and Gymnasium. Gymnasium lasts 9 years (grade 5 -13) and ends with Abitur.  The Abitur is the ‘ticket’ to the University.
  • There is also Gesamtschule. That is a school where pupils are being thought together without being separated among themselves. However, upon leaving this school the pupils can gain different graduations as if they were attending Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium.

More detailed explanation about the German education system can be found here.

A short video about the German high school (produced by DW) can be found here.

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