The school system in Germany (Bavaria) Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

Borwinschule Rostock

die Schule. Photo by Marcus Sümnick from Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The school system differs region to region; I always found it very confusing as there are so many different types of schools to choose from. I’ll be using the Bavarian school system as an example in this post to give you an insight on the topic.

It all starts with die Grundschule:

die Grundschule is from the ages six to ten years old. This is the same as a primary school and the years go from 1 to 4.

After primary school you can choose between three different schools:

die Mittelschule

die Realschule

das Gymnasium

die Mittelschule (middle school):

In middle school you have the years 5 to 9/10, for eleven to sixteen year olds. You finish the school with an erfolgreiche Abschluss (if you complete the school up to year 9), mittlerer Abschluss (if you complete the school up to year 10) or qualifizierende Abschluss (an extra certificate you can earn in year 9).

die Realschule (secondary modern school):

This is also years 5 to 10. The difference to the middle school is here you can choose from three education topics:

  • I. Mathematisch – naturwissenschaftlich – technischer Bereich

Mathematic – scientific – technical field

  • II. Wirtschaftlicher Bereich

Economical field

  • III.a. zweite Fremdsprache Französisch

second language French

  • III.b. musisch-gestaltenden/hauswirtschaftlichen/sozialen Bereich

music composition/home economics/social field – this depends on what the school has to offer.

das Gymnasium (grammar/high school):

This school is from the years 5 to 12 and has a more in depth education. If you attend this school you have the qualification for university and you finish the school with Abitur.

Once you complete one of the three schools the further options are:

Berufsschule mit dualen System (trade school with dual system):

This is years 10 to 13 and the education is split between classes and work, for example you would have alternating weeks at school and at a workplace.

Berufsfachschule (vocational school):

Here you only have classes; however you may need to do a certain amount of practical work outside of school in order to finish the course. The schools are specialized to a certain career, for example Altenpflege (care for the elderly) or Fremdsprachenberufe (foreign language jobs)

FOS und BOS (Fachoberschule und Berufsoberschule)

In both schools you have the chance to attain an abitur if you haven’t got one already. To get into BOS you have to have completed a Berufsausbildung (career education). BOS only takes one year to complete as you already have the practical experience from your last education. At the FOS you don’t need this previous experience; however the course takes two years to complete because it includes the practical experience that you need.

Photo by Ivo Schwalbe from Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I hope this post clears up any confusion with the school system in Germany! As I said before, this is just for Bavaria and could be different in another part of Germany.

Thanks for reading 🙂


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About the Author: Larissa

Hello I'm Larissa. I live in Germany and I am half German and half English. I love sharing my passion for Germany with you through my posts! Apart from writing posts I teach fitness classes in Munich.


  1. Robert:

    Hi Larissa:
    Just a question, when you say that “after primary school you can choose”. Does it mean it is a student decision, or it is a teacher decision which at the age of ten decides the career path for the student.
    I heard that it is a teacher´s decision according to the performance of the student during that period.


    • Larissa:

      @Robert Hi Robert,
      Yes you’re right it does depend on the student’s performance at school. The teacher would recommend to the parents which school would be best for their child and the parents and teacher would make the decision together.
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Irene Hogan:

    Thanks for that, I have often wondered about the school system.

  3. Joseph T. Madawela:

    that seems to be a logical system, it seems to allow the person more options to progress through life

    • Larissa:

      @Joseph T. Madawela There are a lot of options indeed Joseph,
      Thanks for reading the post!

  4. Timothy Sullivan:

    Good explanation but one big mistake you made a couple of times made it a bit confusing, here is an example from your text where the word “years” was used, where the word you should have used is “grades” or “grade”

    and the years go from 1 to 4
    …..and the grades go from 1 to 4
    or, even better:
    …..and it goes from 1st to 4th grade

    “Years” denotes age, “grade” refers to which class you are in. A 6 year old child is in the first grade (erste Klasse) a 10 year old child is usually in the 4th grade (vierte Klasse) aND a 16 year old would be in the 10th grade (zehnte Klasse)

    • Larissa:

      @Timothy Sullivan Hi Timothy,
      Thanks for the comment. As I’m from England we say “year” instead of “grade”, sorry if that made it a bit confusing!

  5. Pius Gross:

    Thank-you for the explanation.

  6. Eduard:

    If I got this right: you can go to university only if you followed a Gymnasium with a successful Abitur?
    Or is it possible even if you went to a FOS or BOS?

    • Larissa:

      @Eduard Hello!
      Yes you get your Abitur at the Gymnasium and then you can apply for university, but if you don’t go to a Gymnasium then later on you can go to FOS or BOS to get your Abitur and apply for university then!
      Thanks for reading,
      Larissa 🙂

  7. Lorraine:

    Thanks for the post. How about university?