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All children aged 6 to 15 have to attend school in Germany. First they are enrolled at the Grundschule (elementary school, grades 1 to 6). After completing elementary school, pupils choose one of the following secondary schools:

  • Hauptschule (Intermediate school, grades 5-9): Intermediate school provides general education and orientation for occupational choice. Pupils attain the Intermediate School Certificate.
  • Realschule (Secondary school, grades 5-10): Secondary school provides general education as well as the basics of vocational education. Pupils attain a Secondary School Certificate after grade 10 which qualifies for upper secondary education.
  • Gymnasium (High School): Gymnasium generally starts with grade 7, but high schools with special profiles start with grade 5. During the last two school years, each student selects basic core and elective courses from a structured program. Passing the final exams (Abitur) students attain a General Higher Education Certificate that provides access to university or college.

In some federal states the Gesamtschule (Comprehensive secondary school) is organized not according to subject preference, but to individual ability and combines the various types of schools. For subjects like German, foreign languages, and mathematics, there are courses offered at different levels. The kind of certificate attained mainly depends on the levels of these courses.

Note: In Germany, school classes are only held in the morning between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. In elementary school the time spent at school is usually even shorter and classes are more irregular. Exception: all-day schools (Ganztagsschule) which in addition to timetabled lessons in the morning offer an all-day program comprising at least seven hours per day on at least three days per week. They provide afternoon activities that have a conceptual relationship with the lessons in the morning and a midday meal.

Pre- and after-school care centers affiliated to schools (Hort) look after children during specific hours prior to and after school, e.g. from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. These facilities include lunch and supervision of homework, and allow time for play. Costs amount to approx. 80 to 120 € per month. Application has to be made through the youth welfare office of your local district. The application form (Antrag auf schulergänzende Betreuung) can be downloaded here

Attending state-run schools is free of charge. If you have a child to enroll, contact the administration of the school of your choice. There you can also inform yourself about the class to which your child will be assigned and whether additional German lessons are offered for children from foreign countries.

Information about schools can be obtained from the School Administration Berlin (only in German), from the school office of your city district or here.

European and International Schools

Berlin has several European schools with bilingual programs. Within the network of the Berlin State Europe School (Staatliche Europa Schule Berlin,SESB) there are 18 elementary and 12 secondary schools. Beginning with grade 1, 50 percent of lessons are taught in German, 50 percent in the partner language. To be admitted, the partner language must be the student’s native language or the student must speak the language as well as a native speaker. All standard German school-leaving qualifications can be attained.

A number of public and private international schools also offer bilingual classes or instruction in English or French only. Public international schools are, like state-run schools, free of charge. Private international schools are quite expensive and some of them are inconveniently situated on the outskirts of Berlin. A list of these schools can be found here.