Understanding the German Education System: Primary, Secondary, Higher Education

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German Education System

Why do students not limit education in their own land? Why do they fly abroad? Some of the major reasons are quality education, better networking and career opportunities, exploring a new culture and establishing a better life standard. But almost all the study destinations offer these things. How to pick one? A country’s education system has a humungous role to play in selecting a well-fit study destination. In recent times, due to constant gradation in student policies, Germany strives to be the choicest option for Indian outbound students. Want to know more about it? Read this blog to understand the German Education System and its offerings!

Why Study Abroad?

Now, it has become a common trend to cross boundaries to learn abroad. Let’s have a quick look at those factors motivating students to study abroad:

  • It is a challenge in itself, followed by great fun and experience
  • You get to know about the diversified culture of that geographical area
  • The quality of education is superior
  • You get to learn a foreign language
  • Greater prospective career opportunities are waiting at your doorstep
  • Take advantage of the lower tuition fee
  • Government-sponsored scholarships
  • Advanced educational tools and concepts

Study in Germany: The Guide To Your German Dream!

The German Education System – In Brief

The German education system can be divided into the different levels as follows:

Source: How To Germany

Preschool Education

This is an optional level of education in Germany which is provided to children under the age of 3 years. This education is largely offered by private institutions as opposed to public institutions. The main focus of this level of education is to enhance communication and language skills among the children along with imparting knowledge about values, religion, mathematics, science, health, nature, culture etc.

Methods of Teaching

  • Communication skills, as well as language and social abilities, are focused on children under the age of three. In this category, singing, picture books, instruments, and fun initiatives mix marvellously to teach children. Motor skill development is also essential during this time, which can be accomplished through creative and physical activities.
  • Preschool education also covers the fundamentals of writing, language, values, natural sciences, fine arts, mathematics, health and physical movements, and nature for children over the age of two.
  • At the preschool level, children do not receive assessments.
  • If a kid is not ready to begin obligatory education, he or she can attend special schools known as Schulkindergarten or Vorklassen introduction programs.

Primary Education 

Primary education is compulsory for all children of the age of 6 years and above in Germany. This accounts for the education till grade 4 of the school, the main objective of which is to develop the essential skills, understanding and abilities needed by a student. Some of the subjects taught at this level of the German Education system include the German language, foreign languages, general studies, mathematics, art, music, sports, religion etc.

Also Read: Requirements To Study In Germany For Indian Students

Secondary Education

This level of the German education system consists of lower secondary education and upper secondary education. Lower secondary education ends with grade 10, which is a preparation for upper secondary education. At the same time, upper secondary education is like a preparatory level for getting qualified for admission to a university or a vocational course. Both public and private schools offer secondary education in Germany.

Tertiary or Higher Education

Part of the German education system, this level offers higher education to qualified students who have already passed their secondary education. The courses offered cover bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and PhD in various disciplines at different universities. In Germany, a bachelor’s degree is generally of 3-4 years duration while the master’s level degrees are between 1-2 years. There is no fixed duration for completing a doctoral-level course in Germany.

Continuing Education in Germany

Continuing education in Germany refers to education geared toward meeting the ever-changing demands of the labour market.

Municipal and private institutions, churches, trade unions, chambers of industry and commerce, associations, political parties, businesses, public authorities, academies, family education centres, vocational schools, Fachschulen, radio, television, and other institutions provide this type of education.

Must Read: Requirements To Study In Germany For Indian Students

Compulsory Education in Germany

All Germans are required to attend primary and secondary school beginning at the age of six and continuing until they complete a nine-year full-time schooling at Gymnasium or ten years of full-time schooling at other general education schools.

At the upper secondary level, if students do not attend full-time classes at general or vocational education schools, they must take part-time left-aside lessons. This is true even if they have previously completed their required education. This duty is called “Berufsschule Berufsschulpflicht” and lasts three years.

Other youngsters who fail to attend any such education or training may be obliged to attend full-time lessons and pieces of training (only for vocational schools).

Disabled children are also required to complete compulsory schooling. Depending on their special education needs (“Sonderpädagogischer Förderbedarf”), students will attend either a regular or a special school (“Sonderpädagogische Bildungseinrichtungen”).

How to Recognise a Good School?

In general, you have complete control over which school your child attends. It is therefore advisable to visit a few schools. An excellent school includes not only high-quality instruction but also extracurricular activities such as theatre, athletics, language and music clubs, and school trips.

An excellent school also encourages parental participation. In addition to determining whether the school has a spot for your child, you should inquire about extracurricular activities. If your children are not yet fluent in German, ensure that the school provides Deutsch als Zweitsprache (German as a foreign language) sessions.

Studying In Germany

Germany is one of the ideal destinations for progressing in your education. The country offers a world-class quality education at an affordable rate with multiple numbers of career opportunities. There are over 380 universities in Germany with official recognition. Amongst them, most of the universities have a global ranking and excellent mentors, which make the German education system one of the best in the world. The study programs are structured in relevance to modern-day concepts offering a higher demanding career.

A Guided Step Towards Choosing the Colleges

If you have made up your mind to be a part of the German education system, then start by conducting basic research about the universities. Shortlist a few universities, compare their educational structure, and then make a final decision.

Proceed by applying for the course that you would like to enrol in. Provided that you are eligible for a candidature post, the university will connect with you via email in a few weeks. You can take the admission letter from a recognized university as a piece of documentary evidence while applying for a student visa

Due to the increased number of applications which flood up the university offices and due to the limited number of seats, German universities have two intakes: Summer and Winter intakes. 

Summer intakes start in the month of April and continue till July/August while Winter intakes commence from September/October terminating by February/March. You can choose whichever intake you prefer. However, the difference between the two is only the months of commencement and termination. 

Also Read: Study in Germany Without IELTS

Cost Structure of the Courses Offered

Germany is one of the most preferred countries for studying abroad. Considering the number of applications to German universities, one might wonder whether education is free in Germany.  This is actually the case, education in Germany is, indeed, free of cost.  

The majority of undergraduate courses from public universities come free of cost i.e. you do not have to pay any tuition fees while some courses from private universities may cost a very nominal and affordable fee amount in comparison to other European Universities. 

When it is said to be free of cost, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend a single penny out of your pocket. In the majority of universities, you have to make a semester contribution ranging from €150-€250, which covers administrative and transportation costs. 

  • The fee structure for undergraduate programs in public universities may cost around €250-€300, which is a semester contribution. It varies from one university to another.
  • Private institutes charge undergraduate programs a tuition fee up to or beyond a range of €20,000.
  • Consecutive Master’s degree programs, which are followed immediately after the Bachelor’s degree and demand no work experience, can be enrolled only with a semester contribution.
  • Non-consecutive Master’s degrees are those that demand work experience. They cost around €20,000 in public universities and around €30,000 at private universities. For instance, Masters in Business Administration (MBA) both in private as well as public universities, has to be paid for. 
  • At the Ph.D. level, you will have to pay only semester contributions both in public as well as in private universities.

Cost of Studying in Germany

Free Education System in Germany

Fees for primary and secondary education are not charged in public schools. Excursions and school activities, on the other hand, are charged small fees. Bursaries or subsidies are also available to lower-income families. Germany has several top-ranked public universities that do not charge tuition. They may occasionally impose insignificant fees for administrative, confirmation, and enrollment expenditures.

Germany is one of the few European countries that allows international students to study without paying any tuition fees. Germany regards education as a fundamental human right and strives to provide free and unrestricted access to higher education for all. Several public institutions levy minimal administrative fees ranging from €200 to €500, or INR 16,788 to INR 41,969 (approx).

Tuition fees are charged by private colleges. However, they are reasonable for overseas students. These could range from €300 to 20,000 per year, or INR 25,200 to INR 16.79 lakh. Private university degrees in medicine, business, and engineering may be more expensive.

Among the top universities in Germany for free education are Goethe University in Frankfurt, University of Cologne, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Julius Maximilian University of Wurzburg, Technical University of Munich, University of Mannheim, and RWTH Aachen University.

However, before applying, you should thoroughly review all eligibility criteria. You will need to provide proof of English language competency in the form of PTE/TOEFL/IELTS exam scores. GMAT/GRE scores may also be required for admission to select colleges. Letters of recommendation (LORs), a Statement of Purpose (SOP), and official academic transcripts are normally required as well.

Government Scholarships

The German Academic Exchange Service is the body organization responsible for offering scholarships to national as well as international students. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (FMBF) is another site that hosts all the information concerning German scholarships and how to apply for them.

Top Universities in Germany

The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) is an organization rendering consulting services to governments and universities to improve their overall outcomes. The list of top 10 ranked universities for 2023-24 as per this organization is listed as under:

Sl. NoUniversityNational RankWorld RankScore
1Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich14984.7
2Free University of Berlin25984
3Humboldt University of Berlin36683.5
4Heidelberg University47083.3
5Technical University of Munich58182.7
6University of Göttingen610881.4
7University of Tübingen712580.8
8University of Freiburg812780.7
9Goethe University Frankfurt912980.7
10University of Bonn1014180.3

Also Read: Top Universities in Germany

Education System in Germany vs India

There are several differences between Indian and German instructional techniques.

To begin, there are four separate levels of education in India (basic, secondary, upper secondary, and university). Germany’s educational system consists of primary school, high school, and university.

Secondly, the German educational system emphasizes practical skills and vocational training, while the Indian educational system heavily relies on antiquated rote learning approaches. Moreover, Indian universities are recognized for their emphasis on theoretical research, while German universities are known for their emphasis on practical research and involvement with the industry.

Third, there are financial and access discrepancies between the two countries’ educational systems. In India, the government mandates that all children attend school until the age of 14, but socioeconomic restrictions prevent some from receiving a high-quality education. In contrast, Germany publicly subsidizes and provides free education up to graduate school.

Finally, in India, the national government frequently establishes the curriculum, whereas in Germany, individual states are accountable. As a result, gaps between different parts of Germany’s educational system will grow.

While both the German and Indian educational systems have pros and faults, Germany differentiates itself from India due to its emphasis on vocational education and training, as well as its public funding and accessibility of access.


Q1. Is the education system in Germany good?

Ans. Yes, the education system is considered good in Germany because of the number of facilities available and cost-friendly.

Q2. What is the 12th class called in Germany?

Ans. The 12th class in Germany is called the Abitur.

Q3. Which language is generally taught in the German education system?

Ans. German is the primary language that is taught and used in Germany. However, there are some added foreign languages to the curriculum,

We hope this blog has given you an idea about the German Education system, along with the procedures, and the best universities to enrol in. Want to pursue your higher education in Germany? Reach out to our experts at Leverage Edu for the best guidance regarding the best courses and universities as per your requirements and interests. Sign up for a free session today!

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