The German School System

Communication Solution GmbH

Attending school in Germany means that your child will learn a second language and get to know a new culture. It can also help parents and child when it comes to integrating into their new community. You do not have to pay to attend state schools in Germany. The federal states, or Bundesländer, cover the cost of schooling. Given the above, we would like to explain the Hessian school system in greater detail.



Children attend nursery or Kindergarten from the age of three and remain there until they are five years old. The Kindergarten is not part of the state school system and is not free to attend. Fees are often calculated based on parents’ income and are not usually very high. Children are encouraged to develop socially through games, art, music and movement. Kindergartens receive financial support from the towns and local councils, and often also from churches, social services or local businesses.



All children attend primary school or Grundschule between the ages of six and nine. This is where they will gain basic knowledge in reading, writing, mathematics, history, geography and biology. Unlike some other countries, children in Germany are taught religious education. There is usually a class teacher, as well as a music teacher and a P.E. teacher. Children are given between 30 and 60 minutes of homework to do after school. 
Pupils, parents and teachers meet during the last (fourth) year of primary school to discuss the next steps in the child’s education. Children who are deemed academically capable can transfer directly to a Gymnasium, a secondary school focused on preparing students to enter a university. Children who need two more years to develop their knowledge and skills are first required to complete a transition stage with a view to transferring to a Gymnasium, Hauptschule or Realschule.



The Hauptschule provides a basic level of education. It begins in the fifth year of education and continues until the ninth. The Hauptschule prepares students for a career and the world of work. This type of school provides an all-round education, including English lessons. Once leaving the Hauptschule, students can progress to occupational training at a vocational school.


The Realschule is the next highest level of educational institution in Germany. This is where students receive an advanced all-round education, preparing them for a career in mid-level jobs, possibly in the trade, craft or industry. Students who perform particularly well at a Realschule may be eligible to transfer to a Gymnasium.


The Gymnasium is the most advanced level of education; this is where students can achieve the grades required for university. Students usually spend eight years at a Gymnasium. Here they are taught German, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Biology, and History. They start to learn their first foreign language at the start of the fifth year. It is usually English, but may also be Latin or French. A second language is introduced in the seventh year, and students take on a third foreign language in the ninth year. Students select key areas of study in the final three years at a Gymnasium according to their abilities and preferences. The students’ time at a Gymnasium comes to an end with the Abitur exams (roughly equivalent to the British A-levels), which take the form of written and oral exams. Successful completion of the Abitur entitles students to apply to university.



The Gesamtschule combines the Gymnasium, Realschule and Hauptschule in one single institution. Gesamtschule have existed since the 1960s and enable students to choose between educational programmes without having to move between buildings.


International and bilingual schools

International schools are targeted at teaching children with different native languages from all over the world. One advantage of the international education system is that it can be transferred between schools and the curriculum is uninterrupted. This means there are no gaps in knowledge when families move to a new country or return to where they came from. These private schools often provide better facilities, a wide range of extra-curricular activities, and longer opening times, in some cases up until 6 pm. However, these privileges come at a price: School fees for international and bilingual schools can exceed €18,000 per year. 
German tax payers can claim up to 30 per cent of the school costs and as much as €5,000 as special expenses back from the tax authorities. A number of bilingual schools (German-English) have opened in Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main region in recent years. The school fees are between €220 and €1,000 per month.