Between ages 3 - 5 the vast majority of German children attend voluntary kindergarten school where they are guaranteed places. Following this they move on to complete 4 grades of compulsory primary education "Grundschule
" through to age 10. At the end of this period their performance is evaluated per a combination of academic records, teacher feedback and parent / teacher discussions. They are then placed in 1 of 3 tracks heading for 3 different kinds of secondary schools that affect their future education options.
Secondary education proceeds according to the tracks in which individual students are placed (approximately one third each). These options are as follows:
- Hauptschule , often called short-course secondary school takes between 5 - 6 years to complete. The emphasis is on preparation for a vocation, although geography, German, history, maths and one foreign language are also taught. On completion students either become apprentices, or enroll at vocational school through to age 18.
- Realschule , sometimes also called intermediate school completes grades 5 - 10. This education is aimed at those targetting middle-level positions in government or business. In addition to subjects taught at Hauptschule, bookkeeping, computer skills, word processing, shorthand and a second foreign language are perscribed.
- Gymnasium , similar to high school or grammar school in English, takes students all the way from grade 5 through to grade 13. Graduation confers the opportunity to apply to study on at university. Some pupils prefer to register for Gesamtschule school instead. Here homework assignments are classroom based and there is a more flexible choice of courses studied.
Vocational training takes place at Berufsschulen or intermediate technical schools
. Here students follow 2 to 3-year programs that prepare them for a profession. Specialist versions include Fachoberschule
(higher technical schools) and Berufsaufbauschule
(advanced vocational schools). After successful completion and an entrance examination known as the Fachhochschulreife
, the way is then open for further education at a training college.
Germany's approximately 314 higher learning institutions (where average student numbers are around 6,000) include 81 academic and technical universities, 7 comprehensive universities, 8 teacher training colleges, 17 theological training seminaries, 126 profession-specific colleges, and a variety of creative academies.
The average undergraduate degree takes 7 years to complete as opposed to the minimum of 5. Following completion more advanced master's and doctorate degrees may be followed.