German Universities offer courses in Medicine, Engineering, Management, Law, English and various other disciplines. Academic freedom is one of the main characteristics of the German University System and is one of the reasons why public universities in Germany don’t charge any fee.
No Tuition Fees (for German Citizens only)
- Education in Germany is public, i.e. most schools, colleges and universities are paid for by the taxpayers and therefore do not charge tuition (Studiengebühren)
- The Department of Education in each of the 16 Federal States (Länder [pl.]) oversees the state’s Primary, Secondary and Career Training Schools and much of Higher Education.
- A framework for Post-Secondary Education exists at the Federal level
- The standard of teaching and testing is relatively equal throughout the country, although curricula may vary from state to state
Students with Limited German Language Skills
- The German constitution guarantees all GERMAN Citizens the right to fully develop their human potential which includes the right to choose one’s occupation and to have access to the appropriate career training.
- Children (dependents of International Students studying in Germany),AND International Students studying in Germany), whose native language is not German are deemed to have the same rights as native Germans
- They are taught together with German-speaking children
- In addition they also receive three to five hours of instruction per week in their native language taught by instructors from their native country
- These courses cover native language skills, history, geography and religion of that country
- There is also a special program to assist such students in preparing for job-skills training and securing paid internship positions
- Compulsory Schooling begins at age six and continues through age 18
- Children between the ages of three and six may attend a Kindergarten (day-care centre or a nursery school)
- Enrolment is optional
Note: Kindergärtens are operated by municipalities, churches and charitable organizations and are not part of the state’s compulsory school system
- In the first four grades of elementary school (Grundschule), all children are taught together
- The curriculum stresses on language skills and mathematics
- During the fourth year of elementary school, children and their parents usually decide on the type of secondary school which begins with Grade 5
Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasium or Gesamtschule
- The choice is determined by a student’s aptitudes, career aspirations and grades.
- In order to facilitate the choice, most states offer a two-year transition period or orientation phase (Orientierungsstufe) for grades 5 and 6.
The choice of secondary school is not necessarily final. In recent years the educational system has become more “permeable”, i.e. it has become easier to transfer from one type of institution to another, thus making it possible to revoke earlier decisions.
Early Job-Skills Training
- German students have the opportunity to pursue formal job-skills training at a much younger age than in the U.S.
- About one third of the German secondary student population graduates from Hauptschule after the 9th or 10th grade with a Hauptschulabschluß, a diploma certifying the equivalent of a 10th grade education at a U.S. high school
- They can transfer to a Berufsfachschule (full-time job-skills training school) or pursue a formal dual-track job-skills training program
Dual-track Job-Skills Training Program
- This is a three-year paid internship paired with classroom instruction
- Graduates of the program enter the employment market as specialists in labour and technical fields
- Many people work in open small businesses in the service industry and they can upgrade their specific skills by continuing formal training at a Fachschule (upper level career training school) .
Upper Level Career Training School
- Graduates of the training program also have the option of continuing formal education at a Fachoberschule (specialized college-oriented high school)
- Grades offered are from grades 11 through 13, and this helps students in obtaining a Fachabitur, a certificate which allows college-level studies in restricted fields of majors at a Fachhochschule (polytechnic university).
More Career Training
- Another third of German Secondary Students attend Realschule
- They graduate after 10th grade with a Realschulabschluß, which is the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma
- They can transfer to a Fachoberschule or pursue a formal three-year career training program in the dual-track mode.
- As graduates of a Fachoberschule they can transfer to a Fachhochschule for college -level studies in a restricted field of majors.
- As graduates of the career training program they will seek employment in the area of health care, technology, government, business and industry, e.g. as nurses, social workers, technicians, mid-level supervisors and managers.
General Secondary Education
- A third of German Secondary Education Students attend Gymnasium (grades 5 through 13), an academically-oriented high school, offering a curriculum of general education which is not career-specific.
- Such Students graduate with the Certificate of Allgemeine Hochschulreife or Abitur, a prerequisite for admission to a German university where students have an unrestricted choice of majors.
- The course work in grades 12 and 13 is equivalent to lower division courses at the freshman and sophomore level at a U.S. college
- However, U.S. colleges and universities typically will grant only sophomore standing (30 semester credits) to a German transfer student with Abitur.
Comprehensive Schools and Special Education
- A Gesamtschule (comprehensive high school) offers all three secondary courses of study: Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium. Students can wait till grade 11 before transferring to the college-oriented Gymnasium-curriculum.
- There are also special education programs for developmentally and physically disabled
- These comprehensive schools came into being in the early 1970’s and do not exist in all states of Germany.
- Those secondary students who are headed for the Allgemeine Hochschulreife (Abitur) take courses in core academic subjects (Grundkurse) and in areas of concentration (Leistungskurse) in grades 11 through 13
- Mandatory subjects include German, a foreign language and one area of natural science
- The grades of the last four semesters (Gymnasium grades 12 and 13) and the examination results of the written and oral Abitur-examination determine the Abitur-GPA. This GPA determines how quickly students are admitted to their majors.
Some university majors are heavily impacted, especially in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, pharmacology, psychology, biology, architecture and agriculture. Therefore it has become necessary to impose a Numerus clausus in these majors, i.e. a restriction on the number of students who are admitted each year. University applicants compete for the limited number of openings on the basis of their GPA and a student’s admission may depend on a tenth of a point.
Evolving Changes in Higher Education
- German students enter university at a later age, generally 20 or 21, with a major and minor firmly in mind
- They rarely take courses outside those fields
- University study is intended to be specific and career-oriented rather than general and broadening in approach
- Much of what is required in the first two years at a U.S. college has been accomplished at the Gymnasium
- Therefore the tenor of instruction and the learning environment are more akin to those at upper division undergraduate and graduate level, when U.S. students focus on their major.
- Today more and more students are seeking a university degree to better their chances in a competitive job market and the government is struggling to keep up with a growing demand while facing shrinking financial resources.
Types of Universities
German students tend to choose a university for particular professors, not for the reputation of the school. Just as there are individual graduate institutions in the U.S. specializing in law, medicine, theology and business, there is a variety of German colleges and universities.
Re-entry and International Students
Those who are already employed but never had a chance to attend or complete a Gymnasium or Fachoberschule may also qualify for university or college study
They can obtain an Abitur certificate or equivalent through special adult education or by passing an assessment test
These alternatives are know as der zweite Bildungsweg, the “second route to higher education”.
Students from abroad must have a Secondary Education Certificate deemed equivalent to the Abitur
Some students complete a preparatory course in their major at a Kolleg before enrolling in regular course work
But all students must demonstrate sufficient German Language Proficiency to be able to meet the challenges of German college reading and writing.
German being the official language is widely spoken besides Dutch and English. However, English is the main official language and also the language which is used for teaching in most of the German universities. Factors such as the high quality of education, and easy access to it, personal security and tranquility in life, great lifestyle and high employment prospects make Germany one of the TOP choices for education.
It’s worth mentioning here that all German educational programs areorganized, financed and administered by the state government. The Department of Education of each state administers the state’s primary, secondary and career training schools and higher education.
Post Secondary Education: This follows a designed framework which has been done by Federal Government of Germany. The standard of teaching and the quality of education are the same throughout the country. However, curricula may vary from state to state.
Educational Programs in Germany
All such Programs are organized, financed and administered by the State Government. The Department of Education of each state administers the state’s primary, secondary and career training schools and higher education.
Post Secondary Education
Post Secondary Education in Germany follows a designed framework designed by the Federal Government. The standard of teaching and the quality of education remains consistent throughout the country. However, the curricula may vary from state to state.