Private: German School System

A Guide to the German School System for Expat Families

Germany is a popular destination for expatriate families, offering a high standard of living, excellent healthcare, and a strong economy. If you are planning to move to Germany with children, understanding the German school system is crucial. This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need to navigate the German education system and make informed decisions for your children's education.

Overview of the German School System

The German school system is known for its high standards and emphasis on academic achievement. It is divided into three main types of schools: Grundschule (primary school), Hauptschule/Realschule (secondary school), and Gymnasium (college-preparatory school). Let's take a closer look at each of these school types.

Grundschule (Primary School)

Grundschule is the first stage of compulsory education in Germany and is attended by children aged six to ten. It typically lasts for four years and focuses on developing basic skills in subjects like German, mathematics, and social studies. In addition to these core subjects, children also receive instruction in music, art, and physical education.

Grundschule is usually a neighborhood school, meaning that children attend the school closest to their place of residence. The school day typically starts at 8:00 am and ends at 1:00 pm, although some schools offer extended hours for working parents.

Hauptschule/Realschule (Secondary School)

After completing Grundschule, students move on to either Hauptschule or Realschule, depending on their academic performance and career goals. Hauptschule is a lower secondary school that prepares students for vocational training, while Realschule is a middle secondary school that provides a broader education and prepares students for both vocational training and further academic studies.

Both Hauptschule and Realschule typically last for five years and offer a curriculum that includes subjects like mathematics, German, English, social studies, and natural sciences. In addition to these core subjects, students also have the opportunity to choose elective courses based on their interests and career aspirations.

Gymnasium (College-Preparatory School)

Gymnasium is the highest level of secondary education in Germany and prepares students for university studies. It is a selective school that requires students to meet certain academic criteria for admission. Gymnasium typically lasts for nine years, starting after Grundschule, and offers a rigorous curriculum that includes advanced courses in subjects like mathematics, sciences, languages, and humanities.

At Gymnasium, students have the opportunity to specialize in specific fields of study, such as natural sciences or languages. They also have the option to take the Abitur examination, which is a prerequisite for university admission in Germany.

Choosing the Right School for Your Child

When choosing a school for your child in Germany, there are several factors to consider. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Language of Instruction

German is the primary language of instruction in German schools. If your child does not speak German fluently, it is important to consider schools that offer support for non-German-speaking students. Some schools have special programs or classes for expatriate children to help them learn German and integrate into the school community.

Curriculum and Teaching Methods

Each school in Germany has its own curriculum and teaching methods. It is important to research and visit different schools to understand their approach to education. Some schools may focus more on academic achievement, while others may emphasize a holistic approach that includes arts, sports, and extracurricular activities.

Location and Commute

The location of the school is another important factor to consider. It is advisable to choose a school that is close to your place of residence to minimize commuting time and ensure a smooth transition for your child. Consider the availability of public transportation and the distance from your home when making your decision.

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities play an important role in a child's overall development. Research the extracurricular programs offered by different schools, such as sports teams, music clubs, or language classes. These activities can provide your child with opportunities to pursue their interests and make new friends.

Enrolling Your Child in a German School

Once you have chosen a school for your child, the next step is to enroll them in the German education system. Here is an overview of the enrollment process:


Contact the chosen school to inquire about the registration process. You may need to provide documents such as your child's birth certificate, passport, proof of residency, and previous school records. It is advisable to start the registration process well in advance to secure a spot for your child.

Language Assessment

If your child is not fluent in German, they may be required to undergo a language assessment to determine their level of proficiency. This assessment helps the school determine the appropriate support and resources needed for your child's language development.

Integration Support

Many schools in Germany offer integration support for expatriate children. This support may include additional German language classes, tutoring, or cultural orientation programs. Take advantage of these resources to help your child adjust to their new school environment.


The German school system offers a high standard of education and a wide range of opportunities for expatriate families moving to Germany with children. Understanding the different types of schools and the enrollment process is essential for making informed decisions about your child's education. By considering factors such as language of instruction, curriculum, location, and extracurricular activities, you can choose the right school that meets your child's needs and ensures a smooth transition into the German education system.

Remember, each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Take the time to research and visit different schools to find the best fit for your child. With the right school and support, your child can thrive academically and socially in Germany.