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School system & compulsory education in Germany
The school system in Germany
In Germany, the federal states are responsible for school education, i.e. each federal state has different school laws. In almost all federal states, including Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate (including the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region), children usually attend primary school for 4 years after their 6th birthday. After primary school, the children change to different school programmes, which lead to different degrees: Hauptschule (or secondary school, usually leads in 5 years to a degree called "Hauptschulabschluss" or "Berufsreife"), Realschule (or middle school, leads in 6 years to the "mittlere Reife") and Gymnasium (academic high school, leads in 8 or 9 years to a degree called "Abitur" or "Hochschulreife". It is the general qualification for university entrance.). Further school types are called "Integrierte Gesamtschule" (integrated comprehensive school, a school in which the children can achieve all degrees), "Werkrealschule" or "Realschule plus".
Compulsory education for children and adolescents
Attending school is compulsory in Germany. Children and adolescents are required to attend school from a certain age (when they turn 6 years old) to a certain age or until the completion of a school career.
How is compulsory schooling for refugees regulated?
Is there a difference between compulsory education and the right to attend school? Compulsory schooling begins six months after immigration from abroad. It regularly ends when adolescents turn 18 years old. In contrast, the right to attend school exists from the very beginning, i.e. even before attending school starts to become compulsory. This distinction helps children who may be traumatised from being overrun with an obligation to attend school immediately after their arrival in Germany. It should give them time to orient themselves in their new environment and to come to terms with the experiences of flight. If they trust themselves to attend school earlier, however, this is possible.
Do the prospects of staying in Germany make any difference to compulsory schooling for refugees?
No, there is no difference here. Compulsory schooling begins six months after the refugees immigrate and continues - regardless of their prospects of staying - until they have fulfilled their obligation to leave the country.
What educational opportunities does the school system offer for young refugees?
In the municipalities, children and young people are often taught in special classes. In these classes, children and adolescents from refugee families are introduced to the German language in such a way that they can take part in regular lessons or, depending on their recognised school-leaving certificate from their home country, subsequently complete an apprenticeship or attend another full-time vocational school.