1. Organization of the German school system

Political structure:
The Federal Republic of Germany (F.R.G.) is a federation of states (Länder). Each state is responsible for its educational system.
Result: The school systems differ from state to state. But there are some common structures.
Schools are municipal or state institutions. Furthermore, there are still some private schools: mostly clerical schools or schools featuring special pedagogical concepts; e.g. Waldorfschulen, and Montessorischools.

Types of school:

1.1 Elementary school

Grundschule: Elementary school

Starting at the age of six, all children attend the common elementary school for four years. After getting a foundation for further general education, the pupils then change to one of the different types of secondary schools: Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasium, or to the Gesamtschule.

1.2 Secondary schools

Hauptschule: It is attended by those pupils whose abilities are of a more practical type.

Realschule: It prepares pupils for middle-level careers in trade and industry.

Gymnasium: It offers a final examination (Abitur) that qualifies pupils for studies at a university or equivalent institutions.

Gesamtschule: Comprehensive school that has been established during the last 25 years as a result of pedagogical reforms.
In most states they are still considered experimental.
In some states the Gesamtschule is only a cooperative of the three traditional secondary schools under one roof.
In the other states the Gesamtschule is an integrated school. The pupils are taught together; only the main courses are taught at different levels.
According to a complicated credit system, pupils finish the Gesamtschule with certificates corresponding to levels of the tenth grade of the three traditional schools.

Orientierungsstufe: Orientation level of secondary schools
The pupils have a chance to change from one type of school to another.
To provide a chance to correct this decision, a harmonization of the curricula has been arranged for the fifth and sixth years of schooling.

1.3 Vocational schools

Berufsschule : Vocational school

Pupils leaving a general education school before age 18 have to attend a vocational or a technical school. Vocational school education is offered in part-time schools (Berufsschule) and in full-time schools. (Berufsfachschule).
The part-time vocational schools are attended by students undergoing vocational training. Their goal is to convey general and professional knowledge, with particular regard to the demands of vocational training.
The full-time vocational schools prepare their students for some field of employment, while at the same time improving their general knowledge.

1.4 Technical schools

The technical schools (Fachschulen, including Fachoberschulen) train students for any of several special middle-level jobs in trade or in technical fields.
The prerequisite is that the students must have some work experience in their field before they attend a Fachschule; they must have completed the Realschule to be accepted by a Fachoberschule.

1.5 Schools for handicapped children

Sonderschulen: Special schools for children who are not able to attend an ordinary school because of a physical, mental, or emotional handicap, in addition to the general school system.
The teaching methods and subjects are adapted to the pupil's specific disability.
Today there is a tendency to integrate the Sonderschulen into the Grundschulen and Hauptschulen.

Ingo Weidig
e-mail: weidig@uni-landau.de

Description of schools
School system in the former GDR