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Educational System in Germany

The one tip that you hear expats living in Germany repeatedly sharing with newcomers is not to buy a home when you first move to Germany. Rent for a few months or longer so that you have time to find the right neighborhood. Give yourself time to ensure that Germany is right for you for the long term. If you've already taken time to do those things and are ready to take the plunge and become a property owner, here are tips about buying a home in Germany.
|-Educational System in Germany

Germany is renowned for its robust and comprehensive educational system, which is designed to cater to the diverse needs of its population. The system is regulated by the country’s 16 federal states, each with its own education ministry. This guide aims to provide expats with a comprehensive understanding of the German educational system, including the main stages of education, enrollment procedures, language requirements, availability of bilingual schools, types of private schools, and the feasibility of homeschooling and online schooling.

What are the main stages of education in Germany?

The German education system is divided into several stages: Kindergarten, Grundschule (primary school), Sekundarstufe I (lower secondary school), and Sekundarstufe II (upper secondary school). After Sekundarstufe II, students can choose to pursue higher education at universities or vocational training in various fields.


Kindergarten in Germany is optional and caters to children aged 3 to 6. It focuses on play-based learning and social development. Although not compulsory, most German children attend Kindergarten to prepare for primary school.

Grundschule (Primary School)

Grundschule is the first mandatory stage of education in Germany, catering to children aged 6 to 10. The curriculum focuses on basic literacy, numeracy, and social skills. At the end of Grundschule, teachers recommend a type of secondary school based on the child’s academic performance and potential.

Sekundarstufe I and II (Secondary School)

Sekundarstufe I (ages 10-16) and Sekundarstufe II (ages 16-18) are the secondary stages of education. There are three types of secondary schools: Hauptschule (lowest level), Realschule (middle level), and Gymnasium (highest level). The type of school a student attends determines their educational and career paths.

How does a newcomer from a different country enroll their kids in school?

Enrollment procedures vary by state, but generally, parents need to register their child at the local residents’ registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) upon arrival in Germany. They will then be directed to the appropriate school. Required documents typically include proof of residence, the child’s birth certificate, and vaccination records.

Can children still learning German enroll in a public school?

Yes, children who are still learning German can enroll in public schools. Many schools offer “welcome classes” or “preparatory classes” to help non-German-speaking students learn the language and adapt to the German school system.

Are there public bilingual schools?

Yes, there are public bilingual schools in Germany, particularly in larger cities. These schools teach in both German and a foreign language, often English. Admission requirements vary, but proficiency in both languages is typically required.

What types of private schools are common in Germany?

Private schools in Germany include international schools, bilingual schools, Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, and religious schools. International and bilingual schools are popular among expats as they often offer curricula in English or other foreign languages.

Do expats typically send their children to public or private school?

Many expats choose international or bilingual private schools for their children, as these schools offer curricula in English or other foreign languages. However, some expats prefer public schools to immerse their children in German language and culture.

How expensive are Private schools in Germany?

Private school fees in Germany vary widely, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand euros per term. International schools tend to be the most expensive. Some private schools offer scholarships or sliding scale fees based on income.

Are you allowed to homeschool while living in Germany?

Homeschooling is generally not allowed in Germany. The country has compulsory school attendance laws, and parents who fail to send their children to school can face legal consequences.

May kids attend online school instead of a local school while living in Germany?

While online schooling is not common in Germany, it is possible under certain circumstances, such as for children with health issues. However, it is not considered a substitute for regular school attendance and is subject to approval by the local education authority.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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