Fact 1: Education in Germany is mainly regulated by the government. Federal authority, however, only has a minor power to make sure the uniformity of their system while each state (Land/Bundesland) regulates its own policy for education.

Fact 2: In Germany, it is mandatory for children to study at least 9 years, for Primary schools and Secondary schools.

Fact 3: Homeschooling is not allowed in Germany in general. However, there are still exceptions for accepted homeschooling as following:

  • The child has severe illnesses that he or she must stay away from school
  • The child is not fit for school / "not teachable"
  • The child is permanently bullied by other children, displaying behavioral problems, etc.

Below is our summarized map and explanation of the school system in Germany: 1104-EN.png

Nursery level/pre-school

Nursery level/pre-school is optional (not compulsory) for children below 6 years old. There are 3 types of pre-schools in Germany: Kinderkrippe, Kindergarten, and Kita.

  • Kinderkrippe: is seen as a crèche – the nursery for babies from 3 months old to kindergarten entry age (3 years old).
  • Kindergarten: is for children from 3 to 6 years old.
  • Kita (Kindertagesstätte = children’s day-care center): provides after-school and sometimes pre-school activities for children from 3 to 6 years old.

Primary School (Grundschule)

Primary School (Grundschule) is compulsory for all children from 6 – 9 years old from grade 1 to 4, except for Berlin and Brandenburg where Grundschule could last for 6 years: from grade 1 to grade 6. After primary school, based on their ability, students can continue at one of the different Secondary School types as following: Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasien, Gesamtschule, Regionalschule or Gemeinschaftsschule.

Besides, Kinderhort/Schulhort is a form of the after-school center, similar to Kita, but for children between 7 and 12 years old. In Kinderhort, children can have lunch, do homework and play with their peers.

Secondary School (Sekundarstufe I)

Secondary School (Sekundarstufe I) is compulsory for all children. It is highly classified, based on the ability of children. Hence, there are following types of Secondary School:

  • Hauptschule targets for students who show the least academic ability. They will study in Hauptschule for 5 years (class 5-9) and finish by a final exam called “Hauptschulabschluss”. Afterward, they can move to a higher level at Berufsschule or Berufsausbildung (vocational schools) for the next 2-3 years.
  • Realschule is for intermediate students and lasts for 5 years (class 5-9), or 6 years (class 5-10) in some states. Students will finish Realschule with a final examination named “Mittlere Reife” (or Realschuleabschluss). After Realschule, students can attend Berufsfachschule (vocational schools) or Fachoberschule (Duale Ausbildung – dual training schools with a combination of vocational training or apprenticeship in companies) for the next 2-3 years. If students have excellent performance at Realschule, they could be moved to Gymnasium after graduation.
  • Gymnasium is for students with high-academic-ability who target for further education study at universities or institutions. Gymnasium lasts for 8-9 years (grade 5 to 12 or 13 in most states). After Gymnasium, students must pass Abitur exams (higher education entrance qualification) to get into universities or equivalent institutions.
  • Regionalschule is only available in some states of Germany. It is a combination of Hauptschule and Realschule. At Regionalschule, a student can study for 9 years to get a Berufsschule certificate (which is equivalent to Hauptschulabschluss) or 10 years for MittlereReife certificate, which is equivalent to Realschuleabschluss.
  • Gesamtschule is the combined form of Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium. Students can study for 5 years to get Hauptschule Degree (Hauptschulabschluss), 5-6 years for Realschule Degree (Mittlere Reife/Realschuleabschluss) and 8-9 years for Gymnasium– Abitur Degree, depending on each state.
  • Gemeinschaftsschule was established after a pilot project in 2008/2009 school year and now is run mostly as private schools in Germany. It is a binding form of Hauptschule and Realschule, as well as Gymnasium under certain conditions, which makes it easier for children to transfer between different levels of study and create equality for all children. Students at Gemeinschaftsschule could study from grade 1 to grade 10, or up to grade 13 in just one school.

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Higher Education level in Germany

  • Fachschule is a technical school with a specific training focus. After graduating Berufsschule (vocational schools) or Fachoberschule (Duale Ausbildung - dual training schools with a combination of vocational training or apprenticeship in companies), students can either go on to study at a Fachschule if they want to become a skilled engineer or achieve expertise in business, management and service industry. Students graduating Realschule with good results can also transfer directly to Fachschule.
  • Berufsakademie (Cooperative education) is a dual education system which combines the study of theoretical knowledge and practical work experience at companies. Berufsakademie is governed by the state (Bundesland); Companies who participate in this system will pay for both the training costs and the students’ salaries.

Types of universities and/or equivalent institutions in Germany:

  • Universitäten (traditional universities) are institutions with the right to award doctorates that care for and serve the development of the sciences through research, teaching, and study.

  • TechnischeUniversitäten/TU (technical universities) are doctorate-granting institutions with a wide range of engineering subjects and scientific subjects, mostly supplemented by other subjects.

  • Fachhochschulen/Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften/Hochschule für angewandte Forschung (Universities of Applied Sciences /higher education institutions of applied science) are higher education institutions that teach and research with an application-oriented focus on a scientific basis.

  • Technische Hochschulen (Colleges of technology) refer to institutions that focus on the natural and engineering sciences.

  • Musik- oder Kunstakademien (Academies for Arts and Music) provide higher education level of visual, design, performing arts, film and television, a variety of music subject and fine art, as well as the theoretical disciplines of above-mentioned subjects. Some schools only specialize in a major while others provide multiple choices for different subjects.

You can find more information on types of German universities here in this article:

Normally, one of the entrance requirements to university in Germany is Abitur Degree or equivalent. However, many non-EU students couldn’t get admitted to university because their high-school graduation certificate is not seen as equivalent to Abitur degree. Hence, it is necessary for these students to successfully finish 2 semesters at a preparatory college (Studienkolleg) before getting admitted to a German university. For more information about "Studienkolleg", don´t hesitate to read

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As we all see, the school system in Germany has a significant classification of students since the secondary level and it is also believed to be more complicated than educational systems in other European countries. Students in Germany are trained to take their roles in the labor market according to their ability and willingness. Thanks to this well-organized education structure, Germany has become a leading manufacturing nation in Europe and stood in the top 4 largest economies by GDP, according to Focus Economics’s publication. It is worth for you to experience your study time in one of the best educational systems in the world.