Within the German education system, each province, or “Länder”, has a large amount of control over the direction of their state schools. This includes the educational program, objectives and standards of the schools, meaning there is some variation between each länder. However, the system is monitored centrally and held to a very high standard.
Grading system, enrolment and school hours
Children at German state schools are tested on a routine basis in a variety of standards, receiving a report at the end of each of the two terms. This ensures a country-wide indicator of school and pupil standards, and is graded via a system of 1 to 6, as follows:
1 – Sehr Gut (Very good)
2 – Gut (Good)
3 – Befriedigend (Reasonable)
4 – Ausreichend (Sufficient)
5 – Manglehaft (Deficient)
6 – Ungenügend (Insufficient)
There is good reason to be aware of these standards as, if a child receives two or more 5/6 grades in a report, they may be liable to repeat a school year. However, exact regulations vary between regions.
Enrolling your child in a German school
Enrolment in a German state school is generally a fairly straightforward procedure. When registered as German residents, a family will receive notification before the start of term indicating the medical documents and school supplies required by the school. Parents are then requested to attend the school in question to enrol their children during normal office hours. In the case that alternative education is to be arranged, such as private school, notification and proof is required by the local state school. This is an important step to be mindful of, as a child’s attendance in education is mandatory in Germany, and failure to follow this process may result in legal proceedings.
State schools generally operate solely between the hours of 8am and 1pm, with some providing classes in afternoons until 3.30pm or 4pm. Additionally, in the case of teacher absence due to illness, children may be sent home early without warning. For these reasons, German state schools can be very difficult for working parents, leading some to arrange a nanny for the afternoons or for private school attendance.
Summer holidays for German state schools consist of a six-week period, scheduled for separate periods between individual establishments in an attempt to minimize disruption. These periods are published annually in a holiday calendar and change year-to-year.
Other holidays include the following:
- Herbstferien, a two-week period in Autumn which was traditionally intended to allow rural children to help with harvests
- Weihnachtsferien, a two-week Christmas period
- Osterferien, a one-week Easter break
- Additional religious, national and local holidays throughout the year
It must be made clear to prospective residents that the generous state school holiday system does not allow the withdrawal of children at will. Absences for any reason require notification in writing, and for any other reason than illness also require the agreement of the state school. Fines for extended unauthorised absence can be applied, and for repeat offenders, imprisonment and the removal of children into foster car are permitted.