Education in Germany

Those relocating to Germany with school-age children will find a wide choice of opportunities within a highly successful education system.

Munich International School

Munich International School, Germany

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 Germany’s education system offers excellent opportunities for relocating families willing to embrace the German way of life. For those on shorter assignments and with language restrictions, there are also plenty of international school options to suit different budgets and that teach a curriculum from the family’s home country.

A turnaround in education

As you would expect, Germany offers a high standard of state-funded education. This was not always the case. The country took a long, hard look at its federal education system following a damning report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2000.What has since become known as the ‘PISA shock’ (after the OECD’s Programme for International Assessment) found that Germany had the most unequal education performance of all the countries assessed, and spurred the German government into action. It has since simplified its once very complex, streamed secondary education and improved early-years provision.Relocating families are, in most cases, entitled to enter the German federal education system, with the obvious challenge for many that classes will be taught in German. Each federal state has primary responsibility for the legislation and administration of its schools, and requires children to attend school for 12 years from the age of six to 17.Pre-school education is not compulsory, but most families place their children in kindergarten between the ages of three and six. From the age of six, children enter primary school (Grundschule).

Education reform

It is at the secondary stage of schooling that Germany has made its biggest reforms following the PISA shock.Germany was quick to recognise that the rigid streaming of pupils aged between ten and 12 was contributing to the inequality of performance amongst the nation’s children. Under this system, bright and academic pupils were moved to a Gymnasium, which provided a route to university, intermediate-level pupils went to a Realschule, and the less academic attended a Hauptschule.The system has since been relaxed, the age at which children are assessed and assigned to each school has been delayed, and the Realschule and Hauptschule have, in most cases, been combined.Pupils with special educational needs are served by the country’s special schools, the Sonderschulen, which cater for those with varying physical and emotional requirements.

International schools

As for Germany’s international-school options, relocating families are spoilt for choice but several cities are dealing with an increasing demand for school places due to Brexit relocations. Deutsche Bank has been block-booking hundreds of international school places in Frankfurt as it prepares to relocate some of its staff and waiting lists for popular schools have already reached capacity.This is good news for schools such as King’s College Frankfurt which opened its doors in August 2018. It is the first school to offer the English National Curriculum in the city and caters for around 600 pupils, from the age of three (Nursery) to 18 years old (Year 13). Explains Nicholas Fry, King’s Group vice chairman, “It has long been an objective of our Group to establish a quality British school in Germany and we cannot think of a better place to begin than Frankfurt."Most international schools teach in the English language and offer learning programmes ranging from the English National Curriculum to the American programme and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme.Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS), situated in the forests of Lake Machnow, just a few kilometres south of Germany’s capital, Berlin, prides itself on being the first international, English-language IB boarding school in Germany. With students from more than 65 countries, the school is truly international and attracts relocating families and the children of diplomats and business executives. A holistic approach underpins high aspirations for students.“Intercultural understanding and respecting human rights are fundamental to BBIS’s concept,” stresses Peter Kotrc, the school’s director since 2012. “The International Baccalaureate allows students to complete a standard certification that is globally accepted, so they can expect the same curriculum regardless of their family’s location.” BBIS is also one of the first schools to introduce the IB Career-related Programme.Schule Schloss Salem, on Lake Constance, is a secondary boarding school that guides students from over 40 countries to either the Abitur (Germany’s school-leaving qualification) or the International Baccalaureate. According to the school, “In order to prepare students for rapidly evolving business environments, an international education is becoming more and more important.”“Our students have a cosmopolitan mindset and are particularly curious,” adds Schule Schloss Salem’s headmaster, Bernd Westermeyer.“Every student, no matter what year, assumes age-appropriate responsibility.”Students from Salem go on to attend highly regarded universities in the UK, the US, mainland Europe and beyond.
International Guide Out Now
This article is from the Relocate Global International Guide to Education & Schools which is packed with expert tips and information for those relocating and the professionals supporting them. Access your free digital copy hereFor co-branded or bespoke editions for your employees, contact Fiona Murchie on +44 (0)1892 891334 or email

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