Path to success starts in 4th grade-German Education System


When I was in Germany one of the things that I noticed was different from the States was their school system. I found the differences very interesting and thought I would try to share them with you. The system has slight variations throughout the different states of Germany.  In Germany, schools don’t usually have a lunch program and students go to school in the morning. The kids are usually home by 1:00 or so.

Here’s an idea of what the education system is like: 

  • Kids can start school at 3 years old if their parents choose. Kindergarten starts at age 3 and up until 6. I would say it’s closest to our preschool. The children learn life skills, potty training, and some of the usual subject matter we’re familiar with in our version of Kindergarten.
  • It is required that all children attend school from starting at age 6 and continuing for the next eleven years or so. Homeschooling is illegal in Germany, and if attempted students are dragged back to school. Teachers are protected, and are a highly regarded government position.
  • Children attend a “Grundschule”, which is basically primary school until 4th grade. This is the crucial deciding time for their future schooling. At the end of their 4th grade year, based on their academic performance parents and teachers decide their education path. This path can be adjusted if their performance improves. There are 3 options of schools:
  1. Hauptschule- This is the lowest education you can get. Children stay in school for another 5 years. It prepares students for a vocational education. Basically they will complete school by grade 9 or 10 and start working.
  2. Realschule-This is the next step up, and children stay in school for another 6 years. They usually start around age 10 and end around age 16. After Realschule students have the option of going to a specialized Gymnasium.
  3. Gymnasium- This is the highest level of education. Usually students stay here for 7 more years. Gymnasium is designed to prepare students for a university education. 
  • You can pass tests and improve in your schooling and be ‘upgraded’ to a higher level.
  • Universities in Germany are cheaper and charge little or no tuition,especially by international comparison.
  • English is taught as a mandatory subject from 1st grade on.
  • Religion is taught as a subject in school. 

It was always funny to me that students had to in many ways ‘prove themselves’ or have their life figured out by the time they were ending 4th grade. In many ways this has made them more serious students. I’m not saying their system is perfect. I have many friends who say it isn’t much better than the States. I have also heard they are talking of adopting the American school schedule and getting out later in the day. The earlier time they have now allows time for more extracurricular activities.  It’s interesting to me that all students are geared toward a particular career or trade. They are trained in everything, and there are many requirements for any job..including secretary, bakeries, electricians, etc. They have apprenticeships and schooling for everything. This keeps their career paths more focused.

There are so many different systems around the world and it fascinates me how varying they all are. In the end the important thing is that the children are educated, and are able to get the most out of their education.

What are your thoughts on the varying education systems around the world?



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About Sunshine Stanfield

I am a 30 year old single female. I was born and raised in Chico,Ca. All of my life I have loved to travel. I needed to do something fresh and new....so I moved to Germany. I spent the last year traveling and exploring Europe and learning amazing things along the way. I can't wait to continue my journey again and continue to meet new and interesting people and cultures. I love to share my experiences with others and show others that when it comes to new and beautiful things in life... the discoveries are endless.
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7 Responses to Path to success starts in 4th grade-German Education System

  1. Here in India, its all about academics from the start. Sometimes i feel there needs to be a balance between academics, sports and extra- curricular activities as well.

  2. Sarah says:

    Awesome we need preschools that teach potty training- not to mention low cost colleges

  3. Hilary says:

    We have made it illegal in the US to ‘teach’ anything related to potty. Kindergarten teachers and/or aids are no longer allowed to assist children with going to the bathroom, that is why they have to be potty trained even before going to a preschool in the states. I think the idea of figuring out a childs education path in the 4th grade is awesome. I just attended a seminar that showed how by the age of 4th grade you could predict what direction that student was going to go based on grades, attendance, and parental support. I think it is good to give them different options..not all students are going to go to a unversity, at least you give them a ‘door #2’ to choose from and still be a productive member of society and take care of themselves. Nice subject!

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