School attendance is mandatory for all children in Germany between 6 and 15 years of age. Home schooling is not permitted.
The German school year usually starts in August or early September and ends in June or July. The actual dates vary from year to year and from state to state. Summer break lasts about six weeks, with further holiday periods of varying length in autumn, around Christmas, and in spring.
Most primary schools are half-day schools and offer classes in the morning only, but a growing number of Göttingen primary schools nowadays provide after-school care. Some secondary schools are full time schools and even in those that aren't: the higher the grade, the more afternoon sessions will be held.
The vast majority of schools are public schools, run by the government and do not charge tuition fees. You do, however, have to pay for books and teaching material, as well as for excursions. The same goes for the Roman Catholic schools. The private Montessori and Waldorf schools are co-funded by public funds and charge moderate income-related fees.
The general language of instruction is German. English language classes usually start in grade one in Göttingen. Later, pupils have the opportunity to learn further foreign languages, such as Latin, French, or other languages.
After four years of primary school (Grundschule), pupils are streamed to different types of secondary schooling (Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasium, Gesamtschule) depending on their abilities.
Children start primary school (Grundschule) between the ages of five-and-a-half and six-and-a-half, depending on the month your child was born. The number of weekly hours of lessons at primary school varies from 20 to 30, depending on the class and the age of the child.
Primary school lasts for four years. In the final year the child and the parents receive a recommendation from the teachers concerning the type of schools most appropriate for her/his continuing education in secondary school. This recommendation is based on the teacher’s evaluation of the child’s performance, abilities and interests.
The lowest track in the German education system is the general school (Hauptschule), which goes through to the 9th or 10th grade. It prepares pupils for vocational education and ends with a „Hauptschulabschluss“. The Hauptschule is designed for those who are less academically gifted and where pupils prepare for occupations that require vocational training. Graduates generally enter an apprenticeship (Lehre) in a manual trade, sometimes combined with some part-time studies at a vocational school (Berufsschule).
A Realschule is more advanced than the Hauptschule and goes through to the 10th grade. It offers a broader range of emphasis for intermediary students and ends with a „Realschulabschluss/Mittlere Reife“. The Realschule is designed for those who will be entering an apprenticeship in a commercial trade or medical profession such as nursing. The emphasis is more on mathematics and language skills than on manual activities. If pupils have performed well in Realschule, they can transfer to the Gymnasium.
This school is the highest level of secondary education and ends with the Abitur and prepares pupils to enter university. It goes through to the 12th (some still to 13th) grade. This is the most demanding type of schooling, with 32 to 40 hours of lessons per week and lots of homework.
The comprehensive school (Gesamtschule) combines the Gymnasium, Realschule and Hauptschule. This school type allows pupils to switch between the different tracks without changing the schools.