German Language Blog

German School & Childcare Names Posted by on Sep 16, 2020 in Culture, Language

Guten Tag! As schools are starting up again, I thought it’d be good to give you a run-down of words used in the German school and childcare system. I hope you find this list useful, and that it will clear up any confusion you may have around some of the names (for example: what’s the difference between a Krippe, a Kindergarten, and a Kita? And why are there four different kinds of secondary schools in Germany?). Enjoy!

German School & Childcare Names

Photo by Gautam Arora on Unsplash

Die Kinderkrippe – Creche

The Kinderkrippe is often simply called ‘die Krippe’, and is for babies and children up to 3 Jahre alt (3 years old). The word Krippe is also the German word for crib.

Der Kindergarten – Kindergarten/playgroup

The Kindergarten is a pre-school for children 3-6 Jahre alt (3-6 years old). But the word Kindergarten needs no explanation really, as it is familiar already- it is a loanword that has been used in English for a long time. See this post to read more about loanwords!

Die Kita – Daycare centre

The Kita is for children up to 12 Jahre alt (12 years old). The word is short for die Kindertagesstätte – ‘children’s day place’. It is a portmanteau word that uses the KI from Kinder and the TA from Tages to create a shortened version of itself. Read more about portmanteau words here!

Der Schulhort – After-school activity centre

Sometimes known as ‘der Hort’, this is an after-school club for children.

Das Au-Pair – Au pair

Again, pretty self-explanatory! One thing to note is that the gender of the Au pair is often specified in the name: das Au-Pair-Mädchen for a female, and der Au-Pair-Junge for a male.

Die Tagesmutter – Childminder

Literally ‘the day mother’, this is the word for a childminder, someone who looks after children in their own homes. You can also say der Tagesvater (‘the day father’ – male childminder) for a man.


Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Die Grundschule – Primary school

Secondary schools – There are several types of secondary education centres in Germany! See below:

1. Die Hauptschule

Literally ‘the main school’, students enrol here for 5 years of education. This type of school is designed to prepare them directly for the world of work when they leave.

2. Die Realschule

Students spend 6 years at a Realschule. It is designed to provide a broader, more general education than the Hauptschule.

3. Das Gymnasium

The German equivalent to an English grammar school, students will spend 8-9 years at a Gymnasium. When they finish, they are eligible to apply for university. Note: Many people get confused by this word and think it’s a gym! Although the word Gymnasium does have its origins in sport, nowadays das Gymnasium is a school in German, whereas a gym is called a Fitnesstudio, Fitnesszentrum, or Sportzentrum.

4. Die Gesamtschule

The German equivalent to an English comprehensive school, die Gesamtschule is a mixture of the Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium (as suggested by its name – the word gesamt means total/overall). Students will spend 6-9 years here.


Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

And a few more to finish!

Die Berufsschule – Vocational school/technical college

Die Förderschule – School for children with special needs and disabilities (also known as die Sonderschule)

Die Universität – University (college).

Die Volkshochschule – Adult education centres that run courses, either for the purpose of obtaining qualifications, or to do for leisure/learning a new skill.

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. Doris Fraser:

    Thanks so much for clarifying the German schools.
    I left Germany at age 11, still don’t know which school applied to me. Keep up the good work,