The Three Tiered School System In Germany

As parents everyone thinks about the safe future and proper education for their child. It is our right to know about the different educational systems in the country you stay in. Germany has an efficient schooling system in place. Realschule, Hauptschule and Realschule give you the chance to pursue what you love and prepare you for your passionate profession from a very tender age.


To begin with, Kindergarten in Germany is optional with monthly fees to be borne by parents. The basic purpose of K.G. in Germany is that the child learns to spend some time away from home & parents. Hence children are encouraged to play and not taught to read & write. This step begins in the first Grade in Grundschule (Primary school). The amount of fees for K.G. will depend on different factors like the number of hours, food, location etc. to name a few.


There is a ‘Schulpflicht’ in Germany (meaning: child of 6 to 16 years of age must be registered in a school). Home schooling is forbidden. Government provides free education from grade 1 to grade 12. There are also private German medium schools which have tuition fees. (This article provides information only on free Govt. schools).

The German schooling system is structured as follows:

From Grade 1 to 4 all children get the same type of education.
When a child completes 6 years of age the family receives an official letter stating the details of school where their child can be admitted. The letter needs to be presented to the respective school authority. After completing a few more documentation the process of admission is completed.
If you are residing in a small village and the school is located in the next village, a public transport eg. School bus is arranged and sponsored by the Govt. for pick-up and drop-off of the children at particular school hours. At some Grundschule there is also a facility of Mittagsbetreuung (Day care) at some additional cost (to be borne by parents). This requires pre-registration. The children can have food, complete the homework under supervision and play different games.

At the end of the 1st term in Grade 4 information evening is arranged in the school regarding the possibilities where their child can continue from Grade 5 onwards. From here begins the bifurcation of different levels of education system based on the scores achieved in Grade 4. Coordinators from Gymnasium, Realschule and Hauptschule (also called Mittelschule or Werkrealschule) represent their respective institutes during the evening. The 1st term report cards of Grade 4 are presented as basis of admission for Grade 5. (Gymnasium is the top most level and so on).

For Gymnasium self-initiative of the students holds a lot of importance. Lots of study material is given by the respective subject teachers during the class hours. Regular exams are conducted. Sticking to the books is not the criteria. So basically books may or may not be always referred to. Lots of projects are conducted along with field trips as per the ongoing topic during that time and also as the weather also starts turning better. Reports are to be submitted based on the observations of these field trips by the students.
Books are distributed free by the school at the beginning of the academic year and are supposed to be returned back in a good condition at the end of that academic year so that they can be reused by the next batch. This saves a lot of money and paper wastage too. It also gives a sense of responsibility to the students to take care of public property.

It’s worth mentioning here that the admissions from 5th Grade are based on the State in which you are residing. Eg. If you are living in the city of Bayern; the same will be your State for education. THIS IS BECAUSE THE STATE GOVERNMENT PAYS FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE CHILDREN LIVING IN THAT STATE. Here too parents do not have to pay the school fees.

Apart from regular academic education, field trips, projects etc there are also students exchange programmes. This encourages a lot of language development and gives a first-hand experience to the students on how the (new learnt) language is spoken locally.

All the exams conducted during the academic year count up to make the average at the end of the term. Apart from written exams, oral exams, class participation also add up to the scores.
There are different extra-curricular activities too that are conducted after school hours like IT, volleyball, debating, orchestra, journalism, photography to name a few.

Children can enroll themselves in such AG (or clubs). Most of them are free of charge & within the school premises. Some might require a bit of payment for the equipment that might be used for doing the activity. (Eg. Rock-climbing or Klettern).

To support students for homework, there are also homework clubs where there is some staff member present along with some senior students. They help the juniors if they have any problems in any subjects during this time.

In the Hauptschule most of the focus is laid on vocational training and technical exposure of your profession. You learn the knicks and knacks of a very specific profession in which you develop your interest which can be chosen at a later stage. Usually Hauptschule is suggested to students who are average in their studies but cannot serve as a barometer for intelligence because specialisation in some work requires lot of patience and hard work. Same subjects are taught in all three types but complex methods might be used in the Realschule and Gymnasium. Subjects like physics, chemistry and maths are taught at a slower pace in the Hauptschule.

A student passes out of Hauptschule with a diploma certificate of completing general academic education, but cannot go to a university. If they have good marks in Hauptschule a student can choose to enroll for Gymnasium, clear the Abitur and then go to the University.

A student passes out of Gymnasium by doing his ‘Abitur’ (Board exam).
A student passes out of Realschule by giving the Mittlere Reife exam similar to boards, but a bit easier than the Abitur. If you want to take admission in any university for a specialised course it is very important to have the Abitur certificate.

It is possible to shift the school type of they wish to at a later stage, as in if the students are not fairing well in the Gymnasium they could switch to Realschule for the purpose of examination, as Gymnasium is very competitive and demanding. Usually in the Hauptschule subjects are taught at a relatively slower pace and involve more practical training.

All throughout schooling different languages are taught based on the options chosen by the students. English is also taught during this time. German students from these regular German local schools also go to other English speaking countries (Eg. USA) to pursue their future education. So basically, English language is no barrier for the students to continue their future education in such countries.


Local German government schools are a good choice to make. With no tuition fees, lots of school activities, after school activities to gain experience from, good learning, public transport facility and lots of such benefits. One can be rest assured that the students can continue their future education in English speaking countries too.

©Rucha S Khot


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