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 approximately two weeks each in autumn, around Christmas, and around Easter.
Most primary schools are half-day schools and offer academic classes in the morning only, but most Göttingen primary schools nowadays provide low-cost after-school care, called Hort. 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. Most schools also offer a range of after-school activities such as sports, chess, cooking, foreign languages, theater, or art classes which can be signed up for on a semester basis.
The vast majority of schools are public schools, which are run by the government and do not charge tuition fees. You do, however, have to pay for books and teaching materials, as well as for excursions. The same goes for the Roman Catholic schools. The private Montessori and Waldorf schools are partially-funded by public funds and charge moderate income-related fees.
The general language of instruction is German. English language classes start in grade one in Göttingen. Later, pupils have the opportunity to learn additional foreign languages, such as Latin, French, or other languages. One primary school in Göttingen, the Leineberg Schule, offers bilingual instruction in English and German. Several secondary schools also offer an English "track", in which many or all classes are conducted in English. There is also the possibility for children to receive special German language instruction and assistance, until they are comfortable enough to attend regular classes in German. At the Welcome Center we can show you what programs are available.
After four years of primary school (Grundschule), pupils in Germany are streamed to different types of secondary schooling (Oberschule, Realschule, Gymnasium, Gesamtschule) depending on their abilities. In Göttingen, the two options are Gymnasium and Gesamtschule.
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. Children most often attend the primary school based on the neighborhood where they live. All children in Göttingen can reach at least one primary school by foot.
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“. Graduates generally enter an apprenticeship (Lehre) in a manual trade, sometimes combined with some part-time studies at a vocational school (Berufsschule). Göttingen no longer has any Hauptschule; instead pupils who would have attended Hauptschule go to Gesamtschule.
A Realschule 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 for the final three years of secondary school. Göttingen is phasing out the Realschule model; instead new pupils who would have attended Realschule got to Gesamtschule.
This school is the highest level of secondary education and ends with the Abitur and prepares pupils to enter university. In Niedersachsen it goes through to the 13th grade. This is the most demanding type of schooling, with 32 to 40 hours of lessons per week and lots of homework. There are five Gymnasiums in Göttingen, all covering the same foundational subjects, but each emphasising slightly different areas. For instance, one school might have a very high level music program while another offers more foreign languages. Children have free choice among the different Gymnasiums, and each year there are Open House days to help them choose.
The comprehensive school (Gesamtschule) combines the Gymnasium, Realschule and Hauptschule. This school type allows pupils to switch between the different tracks or to combine tracks without changing the schools. Children have free choice among the different Gesamtschule, and each year there are Open House days to help them choose. There are three different Gesamtschule in Göttingen.