In Germany, competence for school and culture has been given to the 16 federal states. This results in slight differences in schooling according to the respective federal state. To cut down complexity, we would like to give you the most important information, which will help you to understand the general system and to recognize differences in comparison with your home country.
School education in Germany
School children attend elementary school until the end of grade 4. From grade 5 onwards, they take one of three different school paths (“Hauptschule”, “Realschule”, “Gymnasium”) based on their school performance at elementary level.
Our counseling aims at “Gymnasium” attendance. From this school form, students graduate with the “Abitur” (A-levels, university entrance qualification), i.e., students qualify for higher education in Germany with the “Abitur” certificate.
After a school reform some years ago, many federal states reduced the duration of the “Gymnasium” from 9 years (G9, school years 5-13) to 8 years (G8, school years 5-12). This process has partly been reversed or will be reversed in many federal states back to G9. This means that – depending on the respective federal state – the school forms G8 and G9 exist in parallel.
Diversified education vs. specialization
The German school system aims at a diversified basic education, i.e., subject-based specialization does not start until higher education. Specialization in fields like business, law, engineering, etc. is not part of the German school education.
Nonetheless, there are minor kinds of specialization during the lower as well as the upper secondary level: Students put a slight emphasis on their course of education in choosing a certain path of education (e.g., oriented towards languages vs. oriented towards natural sciences) or making a choice between certain subjects (e. g., choosing one subject out of geography/history/social sciences or two out of biology/chemistry/physics/IT).
The range of choices and the actual choice depends on the respective federal state as well as the respective school. Some schools offer special profiles with an emphasis on selected promoted talents or interests (e.g., music, fine arts, economics, languages, natural sciences) but all students have to cover core subjects such as German, English, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, etc.
Reputation of schools
German schools can hardly be ranked according to their quality or reputation. In general, German schools offer a high quality of education. Although private schools mainly exist on school fees, normally there is no struggle for students or rivalry between schools but they work with each other cooperatively.
There is no difference in quality of the “Abitur” depending on the place of graduation, i.e., no matter if a student graduates at a private or a public school or at a school with a long tradition or a relatively new school, the “value” of the Abitur is the same!