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School education in Germany: age of commencement, structure and features

The content of the article:

  • School readiness: at what age does schooling begin
  • The structure of primary and secondary German education
  • Germany — Abitur and its capabilities
  • Russian schools in Germany
  • Private schools in Germany and their advantages
  • Studienkolleg — top public and private educational institutions


We are starting a new series of articles: «The education system abroad», which will be devoted to one of the topical topics for many migrants traveling with their families. In the articles, we will look at the education system of different countries that are popular with most of our company's clients. 
As soon as foreigners settle in a new country, resolve issues with a residence permit and place of residence, a number of questions become relevant: “Where will the child study? Will it cope? Would this be the right decision? How do I get into such an institution? And what is the cost?” We decided to help with these issues and tell you about the different conditions and different opportunities for obtaining a certificate of full or incomplete secondary education, about the possibility of admission to higher education institutions. Today we will talk about one of the most popular countries not only for citizens of the Russian Federation and the CIS, but also for many foreigners, and this is Germany. 
As in the rest of the world, schooling in this country is compulsory. Children of immigrants can also enroll in school for free. Psychologists take into account such a moment that moving to another country is already stressful for a child, and even more so learning in a non-native language, therefore, as a rule, they offer to transfer the child to a lower class for adaptation, to learn the language and repeat the program he has already completed at home. It will also be a plus that the child can additionally begin to study those subjects that he did not have in his country. Usually, German social services provide great support in language learning. The schedule of classes can be designed in such a way that most of the time the child will intensively study German. Parents are also advised to send their child to a class with the most local students, which can have a positive effect on his communication with peers in a language environment. It is very important to help the child — for example, in addition to school, you can send the child to various sections: sports, dance, computer, where the child will have an incentive to learn the language faster due to his favorite activities. They recommend parents to visit museums with their children, go on excursions, study the history and sights of the city and the country to which they moved. 

Secondary school public education in Germany is free, accessible, as we noted above, for everyone and is conducted strictly in German. 10 years of education is compulsory, although the system is designed for 12-13 years. It is noteworthy that in some regions of Germany (Berlin and Brandenburg), children study at primary school for 6 years, while in other regions they study for only 4 years. Children enter the primary school Grundschule after reaching the age of six. After graduation, students are divided according to their abilities and sent to different classes. Here, much will depend on whether the child wants to continue his education, or simply master the skills of a certain profession. 
Hauptschule — students with poor academic performance are sent to these classes. They are trained for a certain profession, so a lot of attention is paid not to academic subjects, but to highly specialized ones. After 5 years of studying in such a class, children can enroll in secondary vocational education institutions. 
Realschule — children who have graduated from elementary school with average grades are enrolled. Training in this class lasts for 6 years, and after the 10th grade, children can immediately get a job or also get a working specialty. If desired, and students perform well, they are transferred to 
Gymnasium — where the training is aimed at obtaining secondary education and a certificate for further admission to the university. 
Students of the 13th grade are equated with applicants and are preparing for admission to higher educational institutions of the country. Upon graduation, they are given a certificate of full secondary education Abitur. His average grade affects the possibility of entering the university without entrance exams. If the number of applicants exceeds the number of places, then the university accepts those who have higher grades in the certificate, and others are placed in the queue, offering the opportunity to enroll next year. 
The main advantage of public education is that it is free. One "but" — the training is only in German. But private schools in Germany can offer education in several languages. However, they are not cheap: from €15,000 to €45,000 per year. Education in such schools is considered prestigious so much that even native Germans prefer to send a child to such an institution. At the same time, private schools in Germany come in two types: international and boarding schools. International courses are offered in English, but knowledge of German should be at an elementary level. Upon admission to boarding schools, the level of the German language must be high, and advanced language courses are open to foreigners. Plus, boarding houses have many different additional sections that the child can choose according to his preferences, which makes it possible to do what he loves without additional investments.  
Some international schools offer the IB program, which is equivalent to the German Abitur. This program is conducted in English and is internationally recognized, which is useful for those students who plan to study abroad in English. 
Russian Russian schools are open in Germany for the Russian-speaking category, where education is conducted in two languages — German and Russian. If the child still speaks German with difficulty, and parents cannot afford private schools, then several Russian schools are open in Germany for the Russian-speaking category. In them, teachers pay great attention to making sure that children communicate in two languages. As a rule, such schools are open only in large cities:
There are two schools in Berlin — the German-Russian Primary School named after Lomonosov (funded by the state, as well as sponsors and parents of students. For low-income families, the price per year is only €60) and the Russian-German school named afterTolstoy (education for grades 1-6, free for Russians) 
Russian Russian-German Educational Center has been opened in Munich (training is conducted in two languages: in the morning — in German, in the second — in Russian. The tuition fee is €1100 per year)
In some cities, Sunday schools are open, where instruction is also conducted in two languages and funding comes either from sponsorship contributions or from the minimum contributions of the parents themselves. 
If a child does not plan to study for 13 years and wants to enroll in Studienkolleg (college), then government institutions of this level are offered for him. Again, regardless of whether you are a foreigner or not, the training will be free. However, many foreigners prefer to send their child to private colleges, where, in principle, education is not so expensive (compared to private boarding schools), and the graduate certificate has the same importance. The tuition fee depends on the popularity of the specialty and the region and averages about €500 per semester. Meals and accommodation are counted separately. The main purpose of such colleges is to effectively prepare students for admission to the world's leading universities. Comparing private German schools, many foreigners note that international colleges teach more intensively and children study the subjects they need in depth. Also, the courses themselves in such colleges are formed on the basis of the necessary requirements for admission to higher education institutions. Foreign students have the opportunity to choose specialized disciplines, and group classes are combined with individual ones. The advantage is also that children study in small groups (up to 6 people), which contributes to the qualitative assimilation of the material.

Initially, all college subjects are distributed depending on which university the student intends to enroll in — classical or University of Applied Sciences. Most of the colleges are attached to universities, so the learning process will be targeted. The rating of educational institutions helps to determine the choice of a university. But please note that the higher the “bar” of the college, the more foreigners want to enroll in it and the more difficult it is to get into the enrollment.  
The top public institutions where you can study for free (with the exception of medical faculties) include:

  • Studienkolleg in Hesse (semester fee 279.82 euros, tuition in German)
  • international Studienkolleg in Lower Saxony (semester fee depending on the chosen course. Education in German)
  • Studienkolleg TU in Berlin (paid medical department — 2,150 euros per semester, other directions — semester ticket 311.99 euros. Education in German)
  • Studienkolleg FU in Berlin (semester fee, tuition in German)
  • Studienkolleg Coburg (semester fee 210 euros. Education in German)
  • Studienkolleg in North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Studienkolleg in Hamburg (semester fee is set depending on the chosen specialty, study in German)

When applying to Studienkolleg, the student must confirm his knowledge of German at the B2 level with a certificate, which must be obtained in advance. This certificate has no deadlines, so it can be used at any time. Of course, upon admission, knowledge of the language is simply necessary and it is good if the parents took care of it in advance. But what to do for those whose level does not reach either B1 or B2, but they want to study. A good option would be to choose a college with a zero level of German. For example, Studienkolleg Freshman, where the institution offers several programs:

  • only in German;
  • only in English, after graduation, a graduate can choose a bachelor's or master's degree with English as the language of instruction or enroll in any university in the European Union;
  • a mixed program — initially, the training is conducted in English, but gradually changes and continues in German. 

Perhaps the only disadvantage is that tuition costs 19500 euros per year and, despite the high cost, the applicant's scores in the chosen language and subjects should be high.
As you can see, we have provided you with only a small part of the educational institutions in Germany. And since the country ranks third in the ranking of countries in the educational system (after the UK and the USA), there are a lot of people who want to study here. In the next article we will reveal the level of higher education institutions in Germany: how to apply for a grant, which city has the best universities, which subjects you need to take with a certificate from another state.


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