German Language Blog

School Life in Germany Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Culture

In one of my last posts I already wrote about school life in the former GDR but how does it look like nowadays?

It has been quite a while that I attended school and I am sure that many things have changed since then but others might still remain the same. For example, some years ago the overall school years differed from Bundesland (federal state) to Bundesland. In some Bundesländer students had to attend school for 13 years – when intending to take the Abitur (high school diploma) – and in other Bundeländer they “only” had to attend school for 12 years – because the period of school years is based on the cultural sovereignty and federal state law of the single federal states of Germany. Meanwhile, the single states of Germany have agreed on introducing a 12-years period, that is, in states where students had to attend school for 13 years (when passing the Abitur), there, they now do also “only” have to attend school for only 12 years.

Former 12-years’ students even used to make fun of students who went to school for 13 years and said that they would not do any school-related things in their 13th year but instead some kind of acting lessons because they wondered why others had one year more to manage the same amount of subject matter. Their slogan was:


“Zwölf Jahre Schule und ein Jahr Schauspielunttericht.” (Twelve years of schooling and one year drama classes.)


Anyway, let’s come to the point of this post, I would like to share my school experience with you.

Actually, I cannot say that there is something like a typical German school day because how a day is structured is different from school to school. For example, one common thing in German school is the Hofpause (“yard break”), which is usually around noon. By this, it is guaranteed that students take some fresh air and have time to eat their lunch. At my Gymnasium we had those Hofpausen after every second lesson, so at least, three a day. In other schools there was only one Hofpause per day.

A further major difference between German schools and, primarily, US American ones is that classes are always held in/with the same groups. For example, when there are about 100 students in a particular year, they are divided into four major groups, named A, B, C, and D. These groups have constantly lessons together and are never separated. Only in Sekundarstufe II (secondary education II), which is from class 11 onwards, the students of the four (or sometimes more) classes are mixed and have lessons in so-called Kursen (curses).

A third difference between German and American schools is that schools do not have a canteen where the students could have lunch. Usually, students in Germany have to bring their own food, e.g. sandwiches. Nevertheless, some schools have small shops where students can buy soft drinks and, unfortunately, fast food.

Well, that’s all what comes to my mind. When you have any further questions regarding school life in Germany do not hesitate to ask or share with me how a school day looks like in your country, so that I can recognize what differences are there as well.


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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Lola:

    Can you explain in a little more detail as to what you meant by ‘Kursen’? A very interesting blog post, thanks for sharing!