11 April 17

GERMANY – Education System

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The education system

In the Federal Republic of Germany responsibility for the education system is divided between the Federation and the Länder. The scope of the Federal Government’s responsibilities in the field of education is defined in the Basic Law (Grundgesetz). Unless the Basic Law awards legislative powers to the Federation, the Länder have the right to legislate. Within the education system, this applies to the school sector, the higher education sector, adult education and continuing education. Administration of the education system in these areas is almost exclusively a matter for the Länder.
In addition to the division of responsibilities described above, the Basic Law also provides for particular forms of cooperation between the Federation and the Länder within the scope of the so-called joint tasks (Gemeinschaftsaufgaben).

Early Childhood Education and Care
Early childhood education and care is not part of the state-organised school system in Germany but almost exclusively assigned to the child and youth welfare sector.

Compulsory Education
As a rule, general compulsory schooling begins for all children in the Federal Republic of Germany in the year in which they reach the age of six and involves nine years of full-time schooling. Those young people who do not attend a full-time general education school or vocational school at upper secondary level once they have completed their period of compulsory general schooling must still attend part-time schooling (compulsory Berufsschule attendance – Berufsschulpflicht). This usually lasts three years, according to the duration of training in a anerkannter Ausbildungsberuf (recognised occupation requiring formal training).

Primary Education
Responsibility for school legislation and administration lies with the Länder.
As a rule, in the year in which children reach the age of six, they are obliged to attend primary school. All pupils in Germany enter the Grundschule which in almost all Länder covers grades 1 to 4.
Secondary Education
Following the primary school stage, secondary education in the Länder is characterised by division into the various educational paths with their respective leaving certificates and qualifications for which different school types are responsible. Once pupils have completed compulsory schooling they move into upper secondary education. The range of courses on offer includes full-time general education and vocational schools, as well as vocational training within the duales System (dual system).
Secondary education breaks down into lower secondary level (Sekundarstufe I), which comprises the courses of education from grades 5/7 to 9/10 of school, and upper secondary level (Sekundarstufe II), which comprises all the courses of education that build on the foundations laid in the lower secondary level. Secondary level education includes courses offering general education, a combination of general and vocational education, or vocational education.
Lower secondary level covers the age group of pupils between 10 and 15/16 years old and upper secondary level the pupils between 15/16 and 18/19 years old. Both age groups are required to attend school: the former full-time, the latter, 15- to 19-year-olds, generally part-time for three years or until they have reached the age of 18, unless they are attending a full-time school.
Secondary level educational institutions do differ in terms of duration and school-leaving qualifications, but they are so interrelated that they largely constitute an open system allowing transfer from one type of course to the other. The same qualifications can, as a rule, also be obtained subsequently in vocational education and training institutions as well as adult education institutions.

Schools offering one single course of education at lower secondary level
Hauptschulen (in Bayern theMittelschule), Realschulenand Gymnasien are schools offering one single course of education. All the instruction at such schools is geared to the attainment of one specific leaving certificate. Hauptschule and Realschule only exist in any appreciable numbers in six Länder (Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Hessen, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Schleswig-Holstein). The Gymnasium exists in all Länder.

The Hauptschule provides its pupils with a basic general education which enables them, according to their performance and preferences, through specialisation, and subject to their qualifications, to continue their education, above all, in courses leading to a vocational qualification but also in courses leading to a higher education entrance qualification. It normally covers grades 5–9. With ten years of compulsory full-time education, the Hauptschule also includes grade 10.
Länder in which full-time school attendance is compulsory for nine years offer pupils an opportunity to attend the Hauptschule for a tenth year, if they wish, in order to obtain another leaving certificate, e.g. the qualifying or extended Hauptschulabschluss. As a secondary school, the Hauptschule also affords particularly able pupils an opportunity to obtain a more advanced qualification under certain conditions such as the Mittlerer Schulabschluss, either in a 10th year or in a subsequent vocational education.

The Realschule provides its pupils with a more extensive general education which enables them, according to their performance and preferences, through specialisation, and subject to their qualifications, to continue their education in courses leading to a vocational qualification and in courses leading to a higher education qualification. The standard Realschulen cover grades 5 to 10.
In addition to compulsory courses, pupils are generally required to take three to six hours a week of compulsory electives as from grade 7 or 8. According to their personal inclinations and abilities, the pupils may take additional classes in certain compulsory subjects or choose new subjects, including, among others, a second foreign language (usually French) as from grade 7 or 8. Some Länder provide the option of choosing a second foreign language from as early as grade 6.
A Realschule leaving certificate qualifies a pupil to transfer to a school that provides vocational or higher education entrance qualification.

Gymnasien provide an intensified general education. The course of education in the standard Gymnasium comprises both the lower and upper secondary level and covers grades 5 to 12 or 5 to 13 (or years 7 to 12 following a six-year primary school). Apart from standard Gymnasien, there are special types of Gymnasium into which Hauptschule and Realschule pupils can transfer following grade 6 or 7, as well as special courses for particularly able Realschule and vocational school leavers.

Tertiary Education
Responsibility for tertiary education legislation and administration lies primarily with the Länder.
The tertiary sector encompasses institutions of higher education and other establishments that offer study courses qualifying for entry into a profession to students who have completed the upper secondary level and obtained a higher education entrance qualification.