If you are bringing your children with you to Germany, you should look into the question of childcare at the earliest opportunity and probably take steps to find a place for your children before arrival.
Children under three are cared for at nurseries, which often also offer daycare including a midday meal. However, in many towns and cities there is a severe shortage of places so it is important to try to organise childcare as early as possible before your arrival.
For children from three to six there are kindergartens. These are voluntary and often are only open in the mornings from about 8 am to midday. They often do not serve a midday meal. Again, in many towns and cities there is a serious lack of childcare places and you may have to join a waiting list, especially when looking for full-time care.
If you are looking for daycare for your child, you need to enquire about a “Tagesstättenplatz” (daycare place) which would either be at a "Kindertagesstätte" (daycare centre - Kita) or a "Ganztagskindergarten" (full-day kindergarten). Should you get a space in full-day care, usually a midday meal will be provided.
The costs of childcare vary according to the services provided (midday meal, children under three etc.). Furthermore, in state facilities, fees are staggered according to income.
Childminders, in German "Tagesmütter" or "Tagesväter" (day mothers or day fathers), provide individualised care and have more flexible hours. They usually look after several children at a time in their own homes. Childminders are trained and must have an official “Pflegeerlaubnis” (care licence) from the local "Jugendamt" (child and youth welfare services). You can find the names of childminders in small ads in the newspaper or ask the child and youth welfare services. The local authorities responsible for childcare may also be able to provide you with information about where you can look for a childminder.
And if you need a babysitters to look after your children for a few hours during the day or in the evenings, the best way is usually to ask colleagues or neighbours.
All children living in Germany are required to attend school between the ages of 6 and 15. The first stage of school is called “Grundschule” (Years 1-4). After this, there is a choice between three different types of school: “Hauptschule”, which continues until Year 9 or 10 and leads to a general school leaving certificate called “Hauptschulabschluss”; “Realschule”, which continues until Year 10 and culminates in an intermediate school leaving certificate known as “Realschulabschluss” and “Gymnasium”, which continues until Year 13 or 12 and leads to the senior school leaving certificate or “Abitur". The "Abitur" is the entrance qualification for higher education. Apart from these, there is also the “Gesamtschule”, a comprehensive school combining the three types of school under one roof where pupils are divided into groups according to their performance.
Attendance at state-run schools in Germany is free of charge. You do, however, have to pay for some of the books and teaching material as well as for excursions. There are only very few private or international fee-paying schools. The local “Schulamt” (education authority) can provide information on the situation in your area. "Grundschulen" are usually assigned based on the school district you and your family are living in. For upper school levels, you usually decide which school to choose after a visit and an interview with the headteacher. Depending on the Federal State, the school year normally begins after the summer holidays between July and September. At most schools in Germany, lessons only take place in the morning.
At present, however, many Federal States are reorganising and turning schools into full-day schools. There are various different day school models and different focus areas. In some schools it is compulsory to attend all day, in others, known as “Offene Ganztagsschulen” (open day schools), afternoon school is voluntary. Full-day schools provide lunch on the days they are open all day. Parents are expected to pay income-related contributions for full-day options. An additional charge is made for lunch.
- Information portal on the German education system
An information portal run by the Federation and the 16 Federal States in the Federal Republic of Germany on the German federal education system.
German Education Server
- Schools in Germany
Information on Germany’s school system and practical tipps on “how to recognise a good school”
- International Schools in Germany
Overview of international schools in Germany that offer International Baccalaureate programmes
International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO)