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Education in Germany - statistics & facts

German education includes the elementary, primary, and secondary school levels, followed by higher education in universities and universities of applied sciences. Typically, primary school is attended ages six through nine, secondary school from 10 to 18-19. Further education is developed through apprenticeships, vocational training, distance and e-learning, as well as adult education outside of the school and university system. All types of education in Germany are subject to federal state laws and reforms.

Elementary education

Collectively, German day care is referred to as Kita. Kitas are split into nursery for children aged under three years, and kindergarten for ages three to six. It is not obligatory for children in Germany to attend, but the option is popular with many families. While day care is a solution for parents to be able to go back to work after the birth of a child and have their offspring safely supervised, it is also the place where children, sometimes starting from a very young age, are first exposed to regular contact with peers. Kita costs differ in Germany depending on the federal state.

German schools

Primary school, or Grundschule in German, includes grades one to four, typically ages six to nine. Unlike Kitas, primary school attendance is mandatory for children. At this level, they learn to read, write and count in German. English is also included in the curriculum. Parents are notified one year before the child is to begin primary school, and while the schools suggested are usually those in the vicinity of the home, it is also possible to pick one independently.
The secondary school level includes several types of schools, depending on student goals, abilities and federal state education laws. The secondary general school, or Hauptschule, usually encompasses grades five to nine. However, many German states have eliminated this label and combined it with the other secondary school type, Realschule, from grades 5 to 10, to form the Gesamtschule, or comprehensive secondary school. These schools aim at a general education with practical courses, which qualify successful graduates for starting an apprenticeship or vocational training.
Primary school may also be followed by a transfer to an academic secondary school, or Gymnasium. This includes grades 5 to 12 or 5 to 13, depending on the state and school, but requires higher grades for acceptance. The emphasis is on academic learning and achievement, as a Gymnasium graduation certificate allows application for a university degree course.


Whether due to interest in a certain subject, wishing to experience university life or hoping for better job prospects in the future, various reasons contribute to the popularity of applying to university in Germany after graduating from school. Student numbers have been growing steadily in recent years. The larger share of degree programs offered at German universities are the internationally accepted Bachelor and Master. University education in Germany is generally considered affordable, as most universities are state-funded and no longer have tuition fees. Some public universities may still charge these, depending on the federal state and if the fees are used to improve study conditions, for example. Fees such as the so-called semester contribution remain, covering administrative, student ticket, and student union costs. German higher education institutions exist both as state-funded and private, with the latter including tuition fees.


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