How to Find the Best School for your Children in Germany

Did you know that homeschooling is considered illegal in Germany? If you are found homeschooling or, rather, choosing to keep a school going child at home, then you can be fined. For this reason, if you plan to relocate with a child, you have to ensure you enrol them in a school.  All children from six years old need to be enrolled in a school at least six months prior to the start of the school year. 

Here are some helpful tips that will help you find a school for your children in Germany.

Type of school

The German school system has three main categories: state primary schools, private primary schools, and international primary schools. These schools are mainly differentiated by how they are run and the different programs they offer your child. Let’s take a closer look 

State primary school

The state primary school takes in the majority of children in Germany. It is free to attend and offers high-quality education for all its students. The breakdown of school years can get confusing if you are not used to them. However, in simple terms, all states except for Berlin and Brandenburg have grades 1–4 as their primary school. The other two states have students going in up to grade 6 as primary school

The only downside to state primary school is that instruction is usually in Germany so if your children are not familiar with the language, they might need more work to catch up.  A typical school day starts at 08.00 or 09.00 and ends at about 13.00 or 14.00. There are some schools; however, that have school running till later in the afternoon. Term times and holidays vary but the school year runs from late August or early September until end of June or start of July. 

Private primary school

In Germany, there are three types of private primary school. You have the choice between denominational or religious school, Montessori schools, and Waldorf schools.

Denominational schools

The bodies that oversee these schools are primarily what set them apart. Denominational schools have a similar curriculum as state schools, with the major difference being the governing body. When it comes to school fees, parents will agree with the school based on the state. The state often subsidized up to two thirds of a child’s fee in these schools

 The other notable difference is that these schools might focus more on religion when it comes to religious classes as compared to state schools that teach religious education in a general sense or even focus more on ethics in place of religion.

Waldorf schools

These schools have been in Germany since 1919 and focus more on anthroposophy. They are more inclined to nurturing a child’s artistic and creative talent above all the other skills they might have.

Montessori

Germany has about 270 Montessori schools that are more student-oriented. Montessori schools are structured to allow children grow and develop while teachers take on a more supportive role instead of an instructional one. These schools teach kids from early development stage all the way to secondary level and offer both English and German as languages.

International school

The other type of school in Germany is international schools. They are mostly fond in major cities and mostly cater to expat children.  Even though these schools are independent, they still offer education that meets both German and international educational standards. They have higher education standards, with fewer students in a class and lots of extracurricular activities.  Most of these schools are day schools but there are a couple of boarding schools as well.

Levels in Germany education system

There are five levels of education in Germany, which makes it easy for most kids to join:

  • Early childhood: kids between 0 and 6 years
  • Primary education: kids between 6 and 10 years
  • Lower secondary kids between 10 and 15 years
  • Upper secondary: kids between 16 and 18 years
  • Tertiary education is meant for students to further their skills

These five levels all play a critical role in ensuring that children get the necessary skills to become functional members of society.

Subjects taught in primary

No matter the type of school your take your child to, there will be subjects taught that cut across the board. Different schools might have slight variation on these classes but they still offer a standard that cuts across the board. These are the subjects you would expect your child to learn in a German school:

  • Mathematics
  • German
  • Art
  • Science
  • Social sciences
  • Physical education
  • Social studies
  • IT
  • Foreign languages
  • Religious studies or ethics
  • Music 

Schools holidays in Germany

Even though the term dates might vary from one type of school to another, holidays are often around the same time. The school holidays are divided into four:

  • Autumn break: one or two weeks in mid-October
  • Christmas break: two weeks in January/February 
  • Easter break: two to three weeks in March/April
  • Summer break: about six weeks in June/July

Requirements for a foreign student joining a German school

These are the documents your child will need for school:

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Proof of residency
  • Medical insurance

Aside from insurance, you will also need a medical report that shows your child is healthy and has the right cognitive skills to learn without assistance.

How to pick the right school for your child

Picking the right school for your child is vital since it determines their overall learning experience. Here are some of the things you need to look at when choosing a school so you get the best for your child.

  • How integrated is the school with students from other countries?
  • What are some of the principles the school has?
  • Is the school free, or do you pay fees?
  • Do foreign students have the freedom to take classes in other languages, or are they taught in German?
  • What curriculum is offered, and will it benefit your child?

Since getting a school in Germany is not a one day affair, it is recommended that you start searching for a school early. Take a look at the schools in your area and do research on them. You can also ask around if you have any expat friends about what worked best for them, as this can give you an idea of what school works best. Whenever in doubt, a state school would be the best option for your child. 

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