Types of schools
In Germany, schools are either public or private. Among the private schools, some are affiliated with the Catholic faith.
German Education System
Kindergarten – Preschool & Kindergarten
Children 3-5 years old
Grundschule – Primary school (extends to 6th grade in Berlin)
- 1 – 1st grade
- 2 – 2nd grade
- 3 – 3rd grade
- 4 – 4th grade
Gymnasium – Junior high school and high school (starts with 7th grade in Berlin)
- 5 – 5th grade
- 6 – 6th grade
- 7 – 7th grade
- 8 – 8th grade
- 9 – 9th grade
- 10 – 10th grade
- 11 – 11th grade
- 12 – 12th grade
- 13 (Some states require this additional year)
After Gymnasium, students take a national exam called Abitur, that validates their studies and plays a role in college admittance.
In Germany, there is also the option to attend Realschule or Hauptschule instead of Gymnasium.
Both require 9-10 years of schooling instead of 12-13 years. Afterwards, students attend vocational schools to prepare them for specific trades.
Grading Scale Equivalency
Grades in Germany are assigned on a six-point scale. Here are the most common equivalent U.S. letter grades:
- 1.0 – 1.5 – A
- 1.6 – 2.5 – B
- 2.6 – 3.5 – C
- 3.6 – 4.9 – D
- 5.0 – 6.0 – F
School Day Structure
Due to an extended lunch break, school days in Germany are long. The school day begins at 8:00 a.m. and ends between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Younger students in kindergarten and primary school have shorter days that end around 1:00 p.m.
In some schools, teachers have their own classrooms that students move to each period. In other schools, teachers do not have their own classrooms, and instead they move from classroom to classroom each period while students remain in the same classroom all day.
German teachers demand great respect from students, are more authoritarian, and maintain a distance from students. Their role is to teach their students, not to form relationships with them.
Teaching styles may vary depending on whether their school is technologically advanced. Some schools utilize more classic supplies such as books and paper, while others may use whiteboards and smart boards. Teachers lecture, assign group projects and lead activities with their class.
Homework and Learning Style
Sudents review class notes, memorize information, and work on projects, PowerPoint presentations and papers, just as students do in the U.S.
Academic Calendar Year
- School year has five breaks:
- Summer break – 6 weeks in June/July/August/September
- Autumn break – 2 weeks in October/November
- Christmas break – 2 weeks in December/January
- Winter break – 1week in January/February
- Easter break – 2 weeks in April/May
- The beginning and end of each school year is different for each school and results in a staggered schedule throughout the country.
- Due to student confidentiality, no student information is shared by the school with other families or students. This means there is no printed or electronic version of a student directory, which makes communication very complicated and extremely frustrating.
- Consequently, students and parents create WhatsApp group chats to communicate. However, home addresses, and names of children and parents were not always apparent.
- Students do have lockers, but many opt not to use them and instead carry all their books in their backpacks throughout the day
- Paper is the European A4 size format, which is longer and narrower than the standard U.S. 8.5 x 11-inch paper. Typically, graph paper is used for all subjects, and has two- or four-hole punches for corresponding two- or four-ring binders. However, papers are usually put into plastic sleeves prior to being inserted into a binder.
- Writing with a pen is preferable and required by teachers expect for math class for which pencils may be used.
Unlike other countries in the E.U., neither public nor private schools in Germany require uniforms.
Students in Berlin use public transportation, such as the bus or the U-Bahn train system.
Extracurricular activities are far less important in the German education system than in the U.S. as their schools tend to focus full attention on academics. Therefore, there are no school leagues or state tournaments. For those interested in excelling in sports, Germany has specific sport schools. Other than that, most German students find time for sports and extracurricular activities outside of school and in their free time.