Open school system

Successful German model: the dual training scheme combines college and work, theory and practice
Successful German model: the dual training scheme combines college and work, theory and practice Thomas Barwick/Getty Images
Pupils attend school between nine and 13 years in Germany, after which many opt to enter the dual training system.

Some 11 million children and young people attend school in Germany. Whether you enjoy going to school or not: all children must attend a school for at least nine years. Compulsory education starts at the age of six. Incidentally, no fees are charged for attending government schools. And in contrast to several other countries only around 10 percent of students in Germany attend a private school.

What you need to know: in Germany each federal state is responsible for its schools – each federal state enjoys independence in educational matters. In practice this means school systems may differ from one state to the next; and to some extent where you live determines the kind of school you attend. However, all pupils begin by attending primary school, usually for four years. There are four types of secondary school known as “Hauptschule”, “Realschule”, “Gymnasium”, and “Gesamtschule”. The latter integrates the other three under a single roof. Children wishing to go on to study at a university typically attend a Gymnasium. It is the most popular type of high school. Pupils can get a high school certificate, the “Abitur”, after 12 years of schooling (“G8”) or after 13 (“G9”). Incidentally, the last two years at a Gymnasium differ from the years before. Students now have options – and many choose to spend a year at a school abroad. The “Abi” qualifies you to study at university.

The dual education system offers an 
alternative to studying. As an intern (“Azubi)” you are both a student and employed by a firm. You receive a monthly salary and pay into the social security system. Depending on your chosen career, training lasts between two and three and a half years. There are 330 vocational programmes to choose from in this regard. You attend vocational school or college on one to two days a week and spend the rest of the week in a firm learning what is import­ant in practice.

Related content