Education in Germany
The responsibility for the education system in Germany lies primarily with the states (Länder), while the federal government plays a minor role. Optional Kindergarten (nursery school) education is provided for all children between one and six years of age, after which school attendance is compulsory. The system varies throughout Germany because each state (Land) decides its own educational policies. Most children, however, first attend Grundschule from the age of six to ten.
German secondary education includes five types of school. The Gymnasium is designed to prepare pupils for higher education and finishes with the final examination Abitur, after grade 12, mostly year 13. The Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediate pupils and finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife, after grade 10; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education and finishes with the final examination Hauptschulabschluss, after grade 9 and the Realschulabschluss after grade 10. There are two types of grade 10: one is the higher level called type 10b and the lower level is called type 10a; only the higher-level type 10b can lead to the Realschule and this finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife after grade 10b. This new path of achieving the Realschulabschluss at a vocationally oriented secondary school was changed by the statutory school regulations in 1981 – with a one-year qualifying period. During the one-year qualifying period of the change to the new regulations, pupils could continue with class 10 to fulfil the statutory period of education. After 1982, the new path was compulsory, as explained above
Historically, Lutheranism had a strong influence on German culture, including its education. Martin Luther advocated compulsory schooling so that all people would independently be able to read and interpret the Bible. This concept became a model for schools throughout Germany. German public schools generally have religious education provided by the churches in cooperation with the state ever since.
During the 18th century, the Kingdom of Prussia was among the first countries in the world to introduce free and generally compulsory primary education, consisting of an eight-year course of basic education, Volksschule. It provided not only the skills needed in an early industrialized world (reading, writing, and arithmetic), but also a strict education in ethics, duty, discipline and obedience. Children of affluent parents often went on to attend preparatory private schools for an additional four years, but the general population had virtually no access to secondary education.
In 1810, after the Napoleonic wars, Prussia introduced state certification requirements for teachers, which significantly raised the standard of teaching. The final examination, Abitur, was introduced in 1788, implemented in all Prussian secondary schools by 1812 and extended to all of Germany in 1871. The state also established teacher training colleges for prospective teachers in the common or elementary grades
Parents looking for a suitable school for their child have a wide choice of elementary schools
State school. State schools do not charge tuition fees. The majority of pupils attend state schools in their neighbourhood. Schools in affluent areas tend to be better than those in deprived areas. Once children reach school age, many middle-class and working-class families move away from deprived areas.
or, alternatively Waldorf School (2006 schools in 2007)
Montessori method school (272)
Freie Alternativschule (Free Alternative Schools) (85)
Protestant (63) or Catholic (114) parochial schools
After children complete their primary education (at 10 years of age, 12 in Berlin and Brandenburg), there are five options for secondary schooling:
Gymnasium (grammar school) until grade 12 or 13 (with Abitur as exit exam, qualifying for university); and
Fachoberschule admission after grade ten until grade twelve (with Fachhochschulreife (between Abitur and Realschulabschluss) as exit exam) it is also possible to leave after grade thirteen and get either the ″fachgebundene Abitur″ (if you haven′t learned a language besides English) or get the ″Abitur″ (with a second language on European level B1)
Realschule until grade ten (with Mittlere Reife (Realschulabschluss) as exit exam)
Mittelschule (the least academic, much like a modernized Volksschule [elementary school]) until grade nine (with Hauptschulabschluss and in some cases Mittlere Reife = Realschulabschuss as exit exam); in some federal states the Hauptschule does not exist and pupils are mainstreamed into a Mittelschule or Regionale Schule instead.
Gesamtschule (comprehensive school) After passing through any of the above schools, pupils can start a career with an apprenticeship in the Berufsschule (vocational school). The Berufsschule is normally attended twice a week during a two, three, or three-and-a-half year apprenticeship; the other days are spent working at a company. This is intended to provide a knowledge of theory and practice. The company is obliged to accept the apprentice on its apprenticeship scheme. After this, the apprentice is registered on a list at the Industrie- und Handelskammer IHK (chamber of industry and commerce). During the apprenticeship, the apprentice is a part-time salaried employee of the company. After passing the Berufsschule and the exit exams of the IHK, a certificate is awarded and the young person is ready for a career up to a low management level. In some areas, the schemes teach certain skills that are a legal requirement (special positions in a bank, legal assistants).
Some special areas provide different paths. After attending any of the above schools and gaining a leaving certificate (Hauptschulabschluss) - Mittlere Reife (FOR) or Mittlere Reife, (Realschulabschuss from a Realschule); or Abitur from a Gymnasium or a Gesamtschule, school leavers can start a career with an apprenticeship at a Berufsschule (vocational school). Here the student is registered with certain bodies, e.g. associations such as the German Bar Association Deutsche Rechtsanwaltskammer GBA (board of directors). During the apprenticeship, the young person is a part-time salaried employee of the institution, bank, physician or attorney’s office. After leaving the Berufsfachschule and passing the exit examinations set by the German Bar Association or other relevant associations, the apprentice receives a certificate and is ready for a career at all levels except in positions which require a specific higher degree, such as a doctorate. In some areas, the apprenticeship scheme teaches skills that are required by law, including certain positions in a bank or those as legal assistants. The 16 states have exclusive responsibility in the field of education and professional education. The federal parliament and the federal government can influence the educational system only by financial aid to the states. There are many different school systems, but in each state the starting point is always the Grundschule (elementary school) for a period of four years; or six years in the case of Berlin and Brandenburg.
A few organizational central points are listed below. It should however be noted that due to the decentralized nature of the education system there are many more additional differences across the 16 states of Germany..
Public and private schools
In 2006, six percent of German children attended private schools.
In Germany, Article 7, Paragraph 4 of the Grundgesetz, the constitution of Germany, guarantees the right to establish private schools. This article belongs to the first part of the German basic law, which defines civil and human rights. A right which is guaranteed in this part of the Grundgesetz can only be suspended in a state of emergency, if the respective article specifically states this possibility. That is not the case with this article. It is also not possible to abolish these rights. This unusual protection of private schools was implemented to protect them from a second Gleichschaltung or similar event in the future.
Ersatzschulen are ordinary primary or secondary schools which are run by private individuals, private organizations or religious groups. These schools offer the same types of diplomas as in public schools. However, Ersatzschulen, like their state-run counterparts, are subjected to basic government standards, such as the minimum required qualifications of teachers and pay grades. An Ersatzschule must have at least the same academic standards as those of a state school and Article 7, Paragraph 4 of the Grundgesetz, allows to forbid the segregation of pupils according to socioeconomic status (the so-called Sonderungsverbot). Therefore, most Ersatzschulen have very low tuition fees compared to those in most other Western European countries; scholarships are also often available. However, it is not possible to finance these schools with such low tuition fees: accordingly all German Ersatzschulen are subsidised with public funds.
Some students attend private schools through welfare subsidies. This is often the case if a student is considered to be a child at risk: students who have learning disabilities, special needs or come from dysfunctional home environments.
After allowing for the socio-economic status of the parents, children attending private schools are not as able as those at state schools. At the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for example, after considering socioeconomic class, students at private schools underperformed those at state schools. One has, however, to be careful interpreting that data: it may be that such students do not underperform because they attend a private school, but that they attend a private school because they underperform. Some private Realschulen and Gymnasien have lower entry requirements than public Realschulen and Gymnasien
Most German children with special needs attend a school called Förderschule or Sonderschule (special school) that serves only such children. There are several types of special schools in Germany such as:
The "Sonderschule für Lernbehinderte" - a special school serving children who have learning difficulties
The "Schule mit dem Förderschwerpunkt Geistige Entwicklung" - a special school serving children who have very severe learning difficulties
The "Förderschule Schwerpunkt emotionale und soziale Entwicklung" - a special school serving children who have special emotional needs
Only one in 21 German children attends such a special school. Teachers at those schools are qualified professionals who have specialized in special-needs education while at university. Special schools often have a very favourable student-teacher ratio and facilities compared with other schools. Special schools have been criticized
International schools As of January 2015 the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) listed Germany as having 164 international schools. ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and is international in its orientation." This definition is used by publications including The Economist. In 1971 the first International Baccalaureate World School was authorized in Germany. Today 70 schools offer one or more of the IB programmes including two who offer the new IB Career-related Programme.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), coordinated by the OECD, assesses the skills of 15-year-olds in OECD countries and a number of partner countries. The assessment in the year 2000 demonstrated serious weaknesses in German pupils' performance. In the test of 41 countries, Germany ranked 21st in reading and 20th in both mathematics and the natural sciences, prompting calls for reform. Major newspapers ran special sections on the PISA results, which were also discussed extensively on radio and television. In response, Germany's states formulated a number of specific initiatives addressing the perceived problems behind Germany's poor performance.
By 2006, German schoolchildren had improved their position compared to previous years, being ranked (statistically) significantly above average (rank 13) in science skills and statistically not significantly above or below average in mathematical skills (rank 20) and reading skills (rank 18). In 2012, Germany achieved above average results in all three areas of reading, mathematics, and natural sciences.
The PISA Examination also found big differences in achievement between students attending different types of German schools. According to Jan-Martin-Wiadra: "Conservatives prized the success of the Gymnasium, for them the finest school form in the world – indeed, it is by far the number one in the PISA league table. But what they prefer to forget is that this success came at the cost of a catastrophe in the Hauptschulen." The socio-economic gradient was very high in Germany, the students' performance there being more dependent on socio-economic factors than in most other countries.