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16. Educational System

School examinations generally furnish no basis for evaluating aptitude ... The true test of aptitude for a profession does not come until later in life.
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1925)

Look at the Bildungsseiten of DINO. They cover all major issues!

16.1 Schools

You find many online schools at this gopher or in this WWW server. 1995-3

Quite a lot of information about German schools you find at the DINO pages of the IFBG of the U Göttingen. 1995-11

The structure of the German school system

The public schools are subject to state laws, not federal, which is why there are considerable differences between states. The basic scheme of grammar school (years 1-4), secondary schools, level 1 (years 5-10), secondary schools, level 2 (years 11-13) is used throughout the country.

The basic law gives people the right to self-fulfillment and the right to choose their occupation or profession, place of work, study or training according to their individual abilities. That is, every student can choose which school to attend (if she or he is fit to attend.) In Germany school attendance is compulsory for children of ages 7 to 18. At least nine years of this period they must attend a full-time school and then they choose either to continue the full-time schooling (Gymnasium) or attend a vocational school (Berufschule) parttime.

Attendance at public schools is free of charge; textbooks and other supplies are usually provided for loan during the school year. By far the great majority of students choose public school training. There are private schools (notably the Waldorf schools), too. However, their number is very small. 1999-11

In 1995 there were just below 10 million students in Germany -- taught by 670,000 teachers in 43,200 schools. 1997-06

School type
early 1950-ies late 1980-ies
Hauptschule 80 32
Realschule 7 26
Gymnasium 12 32
Gesamtschule N/A 9
Attendance in major German school branches (Percent) 1997-06


Find an overview at FU Berlin. 1996-04

International Schools in Germany


Teltower Damm 87-93 14167 Berlin tel (030)8072710 fax (030)8073377

International School of Düsseldorf e.V.

Leuchtenberger Kirchweg 2 40489 Düssseldorf tel (0211)407056 fax (0211)4080774

Frankfurt International School

An der Waldlust 15 61440 Oberursel tel (0617I)202-0 fax (06171)202-384

Hamburg International School

Internationale Schule Hamburg Holmbrook 20 20605 Hamburg tel (040)8830010 fax (040)8811405

Europäische Schule Karlsruhe

Albert-Schweitzer-Straße 1 76139 Karlsruhe-Waldtstadt tel (0721)683001 fax (0721)687233

Europäische Schule München

Elise-Aulinger-Straße 21 81739 München tel (089)6372611 fax (089)6378418

Munich International School

Percha-Schloß Buchhof 82319 Starnherg tel (08151)2606-0 fax (08151)2606-49


German Schools Abroad

The first German school abroad was founded in Osorno, Chile, in 1854; more than 100 years old are also the schools in Lima, Athens, Buenos Aires and Madrid.

The number of German schools abroad is growing over recent years. Currently (1996) there are a total 139 schools with 1172 foreign-service teachers and 83,275 pupils. These schools may be broadly classified into three categories: German-language, bilingual and local-language. They are supported with approx. 1/3 of the federal cultural budget for foreign countries...some 330 million DM.

The syllabusses of German foreign schools are at least partially identical to those in Germany, thus providing a qualification which is recognized in Germany. Children of German parents, who live temporarily abroad, can return to Germany and start a vocational training program or college without further difficulties. The bilingual character and bi-cultural educational objectives is of growing importance, too. The diplomas issued by German schools abroad are recognized in both countries.

Schools Teachers Pupils
Africa 4 24 520
America 5 46 1996
Asia/Australia 20 92 3230
Europe 13 116 3252
German-language: German educational objective

Schools Teachers Pupils
Africa 7 135 5757
America 16 237 22615
Asia/Australia - - -
Europe 27 412 8195
Bilingual: integrated teaching program; bi-cultural education objective

Schools Teachers Pupils
Africa 1 2 204
America 20 75 15193
Asia/Australia 2 - 428
Europe 24 33 11915
Local-language: additional German teaching; leads to German Diploma of Conference of Culture Ministers

Summer Schools for German Abroad

(Actually only in the US, so far...)

German Institute of German Language and Culture

Summer Sessions, Dept. GH, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-2010 USA, tel +1(805)893-7053

Yale Summer Institute für Sprachen

Yale Summer Language Institute, P.O.Box 2145, Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520 USA, tel +1(203)432-2430, fax +1(203)432-2434

Deutsche Sommerschule im Südosten

263 Duaer Hall, University of Florida, Gainesviiie, FL 32611 USA, tel +1(904)392-2101

Sommerschule in the Nation's Capital

Dept. of Germanic and Slavic Languages, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742 USA, tel +1(301)405-4091

Waldsee German Village

Concordia Language Villages, Moorhead, MN 56560 USA, tel +1(218)299-4544, fax +1(218)299-3807, www http://www.cord.edu/dept/clv/Waldsee.html 1996-11

Deutsche Sommerschule Taos

University of New Mexico, Ortega Hall, Room 437-B, Albuquerque, NM 87131 USA, tel +1(505)277-5335, fax +1(505)277-9138

Deutsche Sommerschule am Pazifik

Portland State University, P.O.Box 751, Portland, OR 97207 USA, tel +1(503)7254183, fax +1(503)725-4840

Deutsche Sommerschule an der Millersville University

Department of Foreign Languages, Millersville University, Millersville, PA 17551 USA, tel +1(717)872-3526, fax +1(717)871-2003

Deutsche Sommerschule am Atlantik

Department of Languages, University of Rhode Island, Building 129, Independence Hall, Kingston, RI 02881 USA, tel +1(401)7925911, fax +1(401)7924694

Deutsche Sommerschule in Middlebury

206 Sunderland Language Center, Middlebury Gollege, Middlebury, VT 05753 USA, tel +1(802)3883711, fax +1(802)388-1253


16.2 Universities


Total number of students in the Federal Republic of Germany

in 1993: 1,875,200

Where students live. (Percentages, 1993 values)

In their own apartments 40
With their parents, other relatives 21
In appartments with other students 20
In student halls of residence 13
In lodgings 6
Most frequently chosen academic majors

Business studies 127,641
Law 93,341
Medicine 88,000
Mechanical Engineering 85,889
Electrical engineering 79,678
Economics 67,748
German 66,543
Computer science 45,900
Civil engineering 43,176
Biology 41,380
Values are for 1993
Number of institutions of higher education

Universities / Technical Universities 80
Theological Colleges 17
Polytechnic Universities 8
Teachers Colleges 8
Art Colleges/Music Colleges 45
Polytechnic Colleges 127
Civil Service Training Colleges 30
Values are for 1993
The largest student populations

Berlin 150,000
Munich 105,000
Cologne 82,000
Values are for 1993

Listings, Rankings


The most accessible listing of the many German universities is probably found in The World of Learning, which should be in the reference section of the libraries of most universities in the English speaking world. It lists Universities, faculties, departments, affiliated organizations, as well as academic staff with respective general areas of specialization (e.g. structural mechanics). 1994-3


There are no rankings for German universities in the American sense of the word, with widely accepted institutionalized reference listings. Some news magazines have picked up the habit of running annual surveys (you figure out their models;-) The two most typically employed methods are inqueries on faculty level about the best other-than-your-own unversity (in their field of expertise) and on students level about the quality of their school as they perceive it. 1996-03

Studying at a German University; Exchange Programs

Foreign students from a large number of countries who want to study after high school at a German university or Fachhochschule need to attend the Studienkolleg for two semesters and pass an examination. Tuition at a Studienkolleg is free. Information about Studienkollegs in Germany: Günther Miklitz, Studienkolleg für ausländische Studierende, an der Universität Bonn, email usa000@ibm.rhrz.uni-bonn.de 1994-11

Although the German educational system is quite different from the US system (no degree until a masters equivalent etc.,) it's still possible to obtain a German degree with non-German background. The place to contact is the Auslandsamt (foreign office) of the involved universities.

Usually it is easier to just go with an organized program. Especially since these programs usually guarantee some sort of credit transfer which is (depending on your home university) hard to impossible to get otherwise. Some programs also include special classes (sometimes in English, sometimes German classes for foreigners...) which will otherwise not be offered -- German students are supposed to find their own way through the university jungle...

The big advantage of going alone is the financial aspect. Education in Germany is basically free i.e. university students pay a nominal tuition of typically approximately US$30 a semester for their education (plus books, living expenses and the usual public transportation -- all of which amounts to an (estimated) US$600-900 a month, less in the eastern part of Germany.) Students in Germany typically live in (shared) apartments, dorm rooms are only available for about 3-8% of the students (these numbers being higher in the east). Getting a dorm room is often included in organized programs, I suppose it will be hard to find one, if you're on your own, but your can always try. (Getting a dorm room will probably save about US$100/month.) 1995-3

Exchange programs and organizations

For students of subjects related to economy the AIESEC organization may be a valuable pointer! In Germany you can try, e.g.,

Deutsches Komitee der AIESEC e.V. Subbelrather Str. 247 50825 Köln tel +49(221)551056
and most universities should be able to help locate local branches.

For more information on the Ontario/Baden-Württemberg Exchange program send an email to ontbw@post.queensu.ca to

Ontario/Baden-Württemberg University Student Exchange Kingston Hall, Room 400 A, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada; tel: +1-613-545-6924 fax: +1-613-545-6930

A good general collection on the topics (also interesting for German students who want to study abroad) can be found at the gopher of U Kaiserslautern 1996-04

Finding the Right One... (On-Line)

There are several other files available:

1999-04 ok

Also you should check the Zentralvergabestelle für Studienplätze (ZVS)

ZVS, Sonnenstrasse 171, 44137 Dortmund, Germany

16.3 Volkshochschulen

The Volkshochschulen are evening schools open to everybody. For a modest fee of some amount (from around DM 20 to maybe DM 200; depends much on the type of course you choose) they offer courses to further your professional background, to prepare for taking the Abitur examination, or for plain pleasure and hobby interests. Most Volkshochschulen also offer "Deutsch für Ausländer" (German for foreigners). 1999-11

16.4 Education-Relevant Addresses

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Similar to the NSF in the USA.

Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD


The addresses of the branch offices of the DAAD can be found at this website.

The DAAD is

  • an organisation of the institutions of higher education and student bodies in the Federal Republic of Germany, founded in 1925, refounded in 1950
  • an institution for the promotion of international academic exchanges
  • an intermediary for the implementation of foreign cultural and academic policy as well as for the educational co-operation with developing countries
  • the national agency for the EU programmes ERASMUS and LINGUA and German information service for COMETT and TEMPUS
  • the IAESTE National Committee for the exchange of student trainees
(The above is an excerpt from http://www.geist.de/daad/info-E.html. ) 1996-09

Very important for foreign students who want to study in Germany and also for German students who want to study in another country. They also have an office in New York 1999-04

Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes

Mirbachstr. 7, 53173 Bonn 1, tel +49(228)354091

An important source of scholarships for German students abroad and in Germany, essentially a national honors society. Membership is by invitation only. 1999-04 An older, inofficial website with inofficial materials. 1997-01


Theaterplatz 1a, PF 200555, 53177 Bonn (Bad Godesberg), Germany tel +49(228)363130 1995-4

Konferenz der Kultusminister

Postfach 22 40, 53012 Bonn

This is the place where they decide about transferability of foreign academic degrees. Maybe they answer questions. Any experience how helpful this address is?

Representative of German Industry and Trade

One Farragut Square South, Washington, DC. 20006, tel +1(202)347-0247

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