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10 Odd Facts about German Education System

by Nicky Quinton
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facts about german education system

Germany is a country of Goethe and Beethoven, the schnitzel and the pretzel, BMW and Mercedes.

But great artists, food, and cars don’t determine the living standards of the country.

Employment, progress, the health care system, and education — that’s what we should evaluate.

Germany is considered to be the fourth best country for living in the world according to U.S. News and World Report.

It has received high scores for “Entrepreneurship,” “Power,” “Quality of life,” and “Citizenship.” As you can see, Germans are lucky people!

The quality of education falls into the category “Quality of life,” and Germany does a great job here.

Although the educational system in this country differs from the one in the United States, it has a wide range of advantages.

In this article, we provide 11 interesting facts about the German education system. Don’t hesitate to read it if you want to learn more about this amazing European country!

Facts about German Education System

The school system in Germany might seem too complex for foreigners. Germans have FIVE different types of secondary schools.

It’s hard to imagine that all of them exist in one country. Imagine how hard it is for children and parents to pick the right type! Let’s take a closer look at each type:

Facts about German Education System: 5 School Types | Fact No. 1

facts about german education system

Gymnasium

A gymnasium is the only type of secondary school that prepares students for university.

From the 5th to the 12th and 13th grades, children get the best and the most comprehensive form of education.

They study math, history, several foreign languages, art design, computer science, and other various disciplines.

After graduation, each student gets a diploma, called “Abitur.” Every graduate has the right to study at any university.

However, the applicants have to consider multiple choices of their major, as the competitiveness in some fields (law, medicine, economics) is quite high.

Realschule

This type of secondary school is considered to be less prestigious than Gymnasium.

However, it’s more available for children, and about 40 percent of German pupils attend Realschule.

The level of education in such schools can be even better than in US high schools. To get the Realschulabschluss diploma, a student has to study for five years (5th grade to 10th grade).

If a student has great academic performance, he or she may switch to Gymnasium to get a diploma of a higher level.

Hauptschule

This school is less demanding when it comes to academic knowledge. But if the student wants to become a technical specialist or go into trading, Hauptschule is the best option.

There, they teach the same disciplines as in Gymnasium or Realschule but with lower requirements.

Students mostly focus on vocational courses and also work as part-time apprentices. They may get a Hauptschulabschluss diploma after 9th grade or the Realschulabschluss diploma after 10th grade.

Mittelschule

Mittelschule is a combination of Hauptschule and Realschule. This type of school isn’t very popular in Germany, and only a few areas have them.

Gesamtschule

Gesamtschule is a kind of educational experiment. This school combines the features of Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium. In fact, it is similar to a typical US high school.

Students and parents don’t have to choose one of three educational tracks, as Gesamtschule has all the options. Students attend Gesamtschule for eight or nine years.

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Facts about German Education System: Homeschooling is illegal | Fact No. 2

facts about german education system

Germans consider education a crucial element of the social structure. Every German kid aged 6 to 15 years has to attend school by law.

The educators in this country consider schooling as an essential part of children’s socialization. That’s why homeschooling in Germany is forbidden.

This law might seem absolutely absurd for modern society. But we shouldn’t forget that education in the USA also was compulsory before the 1972 Supreme Court decision.

German parents keep fighting for their right to teach their kids at home, mostly because of religious reasons.

However, the government has a conservative view on this issue and doesn’t negotiate compromises.

In fact, a school day in Germany is only 4-5 hours so parents can teach kids at home. As you can see, this discussion may last for a long time.

Facts about German Education System: Three-class educational system | Fact No. 3

facts about german education system

The concept of “class division” seems to be an echo of ancient empires and feudalism. You’ll be surprised to know that this kind of system still exists in Germany!

Although Germans are one of the most progressive nations, their educational system lacks agility and development.

Can you imagine? At the age of 10, each child has to choose one of three educational tracks! These tracks define their college choice and career perspectives for the rest of their lives.

A gymnasium is the only type of school that allows graduates to enter university.

Realschule is an average school that prepares students for mid-level jobs, such as becoming salesmen, nurses, and secretaries.

Hauptschule is for students who are headed to the trade and industrial sector.

As 10-year-old children aren’t able to make a well-reasoned decision, parents make this choice according to teachers’ recommendations.

Thanks to modernization, changing the track has recently become easier.

You may also like: 11 Unusual Education in Australia Facts that You Should Know

Facts about German Education System: Separate schools for students with special needs | Fact No. 4

German educational system is also a bit obsolete when it comes to the issue of students with special needs.

While progressive countries are on the path of integrated education for students with disabilities, Germany falls behind.

Students with learning or physical disabilities, along with deaf and blind students, are put into separate schools — Förderschulen or Sonderschulen.

Such a policy runs counter to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted in 2016 by the UN.

Without socialization at regular schools, students with special needs have more difficulties with integration in society as adults.

Unfortunately, only a few schools in Germany practice the integration of these students.

Facts about German Education System: Secondary schools have a college schedule | Fact No. 5

Of course, German kids aren’t as loaded as college students who have to often depend on third party services to deal with their papers. Their schedule is similar to the one in college only by its structure.

facts about german education system

Every day, schools offer different classes: math, history, calculus, etc. The duration of each lesson is 45 minutes or 90 minutes (for double classes).

As a rule, the classes end before lunch, and schools don’t have cafeterias at all.

Only older students might have afternoon classes that don’t require active use of cognitive skills, such as art or physical education.

German teachers encourage extracurricular activities: workshops, athletics, and afternoon clubs.

Usually, German students have five-minute breaks between classes, and also two big breaks that last twenty minutes. During these breaks, students may go outside and have some rest.

You may also like: 20 Interesting Education Facts Worldwide that You Probably Didn’t Know

Facts about German Education System: There are no school buses, hall passes, or substitute teachers | Fact No. 6

While school buses have become usual for American cities, they are rare in Germany.

Students use public transportation or walk to get to their schools. Special buses only help students from rural areas to get to school.

In general, Germans want their kids to be more independent and autonomous from an early age. There is no system of hall passes, even for juniors.

facts about german education system

In Germany, students may do whatever they want when they have a break. The educational system doesn’t try to control their lives.

Also, if the teacher is absent, no one will look for a substitute teacher. The class will be cancelled unless a colleague has spare time to teach the students.

In this situation, the substitute teacher can’t work for a long period of time, as the school administration considers it a temporary replacement.

Facts about the German Education System: Higher education in Germany is free of tuition. Almost! | Fact No. 7

Education is a crucial element of our success. According to the survey conducted by Ipsos in 2018, 89% of respondents in 28 countries agree that education should be free in their country.

facts about the german education system

And Germans are the luckiest — they actually have access to free higher education.

In Germany, students don’t pay for their lectures. They spend money on textbooks, food, and rent.

International students also have a chance to get education for free or at an extremely low cost.

You’ll pay around € 300 (US $334) or less for the rent if you’re ready to share a flat or live in a student hall of residence. According to DAAD, other monthly expenses include:

Food — €168 (US $205)
Clothes — €42 (US $52)
Transport — €94 (US $115)
Telephone, internet, and TV — €31 (US $38)
Study materials — €20 (US $25)
Leisure — €61 (US $75)

In general, international students spend around €720 (US $800) monthly. Now, you see what makes German universities attractive to foreigners.

Facts about German Education System: A six-mark grading system | Fact No. 8

This fact isn’t surprising at all. The grading system in German schools is similar to the one in the USA, but it has numbers instead of letters. A college student may get six grades:

facts about german education system
1 – 1.5 — Very Good — Sehr Gut
1.51 – 2.5 — Good — Gut
2.51 – 3.5 — Satisfactory — Befriedigend
3.51 – 4.0 — Sufficient — Ausreichend
4.01 – 6.0 — Not sufficient — Nicht Ausreichend

In Gymnasium, the grading system differs. A student may get a grade of 0 – 15 (15 being the highest).

It is crucial for students at secondary school to achieve the required grades. If they fail in two or more disciplines, they’ll have to repeat the whole school year.

Facts about German Education System: Additional lessons for non-German students | Fact No. 9

Germany is a well-developed country. Therefore, it is attractive for immigrants from different parts of the world.

facts about german education system

The German educational system has something to offer to non-German students.

Pupils from different countries pass the German language exam to get into the school at an appropriate level.

The German government treats immigrants well. If children don’t speak German at home, schools provide them with additional lessons.

The quantity and availability of bilingual classes and intensive language courses depend on the state.

Non-German parents may also apply for the coverage for classes in their mother tongue. In such a manner, students with non-German parents can learn more about their culture.

Facts about German Education System: Germany is the best country for foreign students | Fact No. 10

Germany provides great educational opportunities to more than just expats. According to the research conducted by Study.EU in 2018, Germany is the most attractive country for foreign students.

facts about german education system

The ranking is based on three criteria: quality of education, a fee for tuition, and living standards, which includes career perspectives.

Germany came on top, ahead of the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands.

Surprisingly, the USA is far behind Germany, although American institutions are among the best in the world.

But, as mentioned above, German colleges are free of tuition. Unfortunately, highly ranked institutions can’t beat this advantage.

The CEO of Study.EU, Gerrit Blöss, said that Germany offers more and more courses in English.

Now, this country is able to compete for both with the Netherlands and even the United Kingdom.

As Germany is a member of the European Union, many domestic students leave the country for education in other European countries.

That’s why German institutions have to attract more international applicants. And they do their best.

Conclusion on Facts about German Education System

Germany has a well-balanced, high-quality education system. Although the system might be confusing for foreigners, Germany is the most attractive country for international students.

The majority of schools and institutions are free of tuition, excluding a small number of private and international schools.

The education in German is compulsory, but homeschooling is illegal. Secondary schools have a schedule that is similar to colleges.

German schools offer additional language lessons for non-German students. Students with special needs study in separate schools.

In a nutshell, the education system in Germany is unique and has both strengths and weaknesses. If you want to study abroad, then you should take Germany into consideration.

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2 comments

Shirley Delapaz June 10, 2019 - 12:43 pm

Why is it odd fact that there are separate schools for students with special needs? Those kind of student need a special campus with qualified doctors and equipment. Besides, many of those children have a health statement, that don’t allow them to have a normal job, so most of disabled people have a work from home or freelance job like proofreading jobs work from home. We should not victimize people with disabilities, and create a proper studying and working environment for them.

Reply
Sankalan Baidya June 10, 2019 - 12:46 pm

No one is victimizing people with special needs. In facts they should not have special schools forever. They should be integrated with mainstream.

Reply

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