Education System in Germany

 EducationSchool/LevelGrade FromGrade ToAge FromAge ToYearsNotes
PrimaryGrundschule166126Berlin and Brandenburg
MiddleHauptschule5910155Leads to Hauptschulabschluss Lower Secondary Certificate/Diploma
MiddleMiddle Maturity Certificate51010166Completion of Realschule leads to Mittlerer Schulabschluss (Realschulabschluss) General Secondary Certificate/Diploma
SecondaryUniversity Maturity Certificate51310188Completion of Gymnasium studies leads to Allgemeine Hochschulreife/Fachgebundene Hochschulreife Integrated Secondary certificate/diploma
SecondaryGesamtschule  10155Leads to Mittlerer Schulabschluss/Hauptschulabschluss, Ubergangsberechtigung in die Gymnasiale Oberstufe Lower Secondary Certificate/Diploma
SecondaryBerufliches Gymnasium/Fachgymnasium  16193Leads to Allgemeine Hochschulreife Higher Secondary certificate/diploma
SecondaryHöhere Handelsschule (Commercial College)111217182Leads to Fachhochschulreife Vocational Secondary Certificate/diploma; not to be confused Fachhochschulen (a university degree).
VocationalVocational University Maturity Certificate111216182Fachhochschulreife Vocational Secondary Certificate/diploma
VocationalBerufsschule (part-time)  15183Leads to Hauptschulabschluss, Mittlerer Schulabschluss, Vocational school-leaving certificate and professional certificate (Facharbeiterbrief/Kaufmannsgehilfenbrief/Gesellenbrief depending on professional sector) Vocational Secondary certificate/diploma
VocationalGymnasiale Oberstufe (Since 1972)  16193Leads to Allgemeine Hochschulreife Vocational Secondary certificate/diploma
VocationalFachschulen    3Allgemeine Hochschulsreife, Fachgebundene Hochschulreife or Fachhochschulreife is required for admission. At completion students are awarded entry into a profession, recieve a diploma with initials BA for Berufsakademie to distinguish from other higher education diplomas.
VocationalAusbildung  19202Vocational training (apprenticeship).
TertiaryBachelor    3 
TertiaryBachelor FH    4Diplom degrees of the Fachhochschulen are FH Baccalaureus (Bachelor) degree; not to be confused with Fachhochschulreife (vocational secondary credential).
TertiaryMasters    2Masters degree (magister Artium/MA
TertiaryUniversität  19   
TertiaryDoctorate    22 - 4 year independent research & study program
TertiaryUniversity - post-graduate      
TertiaryHabilitation     Post-Doctorate degree

Primary Education

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

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 Education

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.

Tertiary Education

German EducationGermany'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.

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