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Overview of Education System in Germany

Geographical Location

Germany, a country located in Western and Central Europe. With its central location in the heart of the continent, Germany is the hub of Europe. Berlin is the capital of Germany. It shares a border with nine different countries. Germany is a federal parliamentary democracy made up of 16 states. Each state holds its own constitution, parliament, and government. Germany is the economic and technological powerhouse of the united Europe, which is progressively spreading out.

Prominent Features of Education System

Historically to Present
The educational system of Germany is transforming. The major alteration was the reorganization of the secondary school (Gymnasium), i.e. the nine years education was changed into an eight year education to get the Abitur, which means secondary education after twelve or thirteen years of schooling. Additionally, the academic system had changed because of the Bologna reform, which targeted at establishing internationally recognized degrees and enhancing the calibre of teaching. The degrees obtained are now called bachelor’s and master’s. German universities have moved to a “three-tier” system set out by the Bologna Process, i.e. most programs in Germany are now three-year bachelor’s and two-year master’s degrees.
Germany adopts a ‘dual education system’ with the principle of learning and research. German universities have a great allure for students from all over the globe.

Education Position of Germany

Germany ranks 15th with an overall score of 68.2 (as per 2013 data) in higher education system by the U21 Ranking of National Higher Education System. The overall score is obtained on the basis of resources, connectivity, environment and output.

In terms of study destination for international students: In the year 2000, 175,000 international students had elected to study at German institutions; in 2011, international student enrollment reached over a quarter million, making Germany the fourth most popular study destination worldwide.

Compulsory Education

Education is compulsory until 9th grade in Germany. It is compulsory for the children between 6 to 16 years of age. The system varies throughout Germany because each state decides its own educational policies.

Education System

Academic standards at German universities are top-notch. Education, science & research has been playing a key role in the German society.

The responsibility of the education system in Germany rests with the states while the federal government plays a minor role.  Optional kindergarten, i.e. nursery school education is offered for all children between two to six years of age, after which schooling is mandatory.

The German education system offers different paths for students based on individual ability. At the age 6, children enter the elementary school (Grundschule). Following the elementary school, students enter one of several school forms at the lower secondary level:

The Hauptschule: refers to secondary school from grades 5-9 in most states and leads to getting of the Hauptschule certificate and then to part-time enrollment in a vocational school combined with apprenticeship training until the age of 18.
The Realschule: grades 5-10 in most states and leads to getting of the Realschule certificate and then to part-time vocational schools, higher vocational schools or continuation of study at a gymnasium.

The Gymnasium: refers to high school, i.e. grades 5-13 in most states and leads to the Abitur and prepares students for university study or for a dual academic and vocational credential.

Hauptschule: The Hauptschule provides basic instructions to the students.

Realschule: The Realschule provides students with an education which combines both broad and practical education from the 5th through the 10th grade, but the accent is on liberal education.

Gymnasium: The Gymnasium provides students with a liberal education and traditionally leads to study at the university.

Gesamtschule: Also, known as comprehensive schools take students of all ability levels in the 5th through the 10th grades.

Berufsschule: The Berufsschule is an upper secondary school form which students may enter to pursue part-time academic study combined with apprenticeship, following the successful completion of either the Hauptschule or Realschule.

Statistics: Germany has 415 officially recognised institutions of higher education:  6 colleges of education, 16 colleges of theology, 29 colleges of public administration, 51 colleges of art, 106 universities and 207 universities of applied sciences. German universities and colleges offer more than 13,500 degree programs to more than two million students

Language of instruction: The language of instruction at German universities is usually German. Besides, English is demanded for certain fields of study.

Standardised Tests or Entrance Exam: Standardized tests are the gateway to enter into the universities of your choice.  
a.    Abitur – Test for German students who want to apply to a university in Germany.
b.    Graduate Level
For engineering courses, some universities in Germany may demand GRE
For Business management courses, some universities in Germany require GMAT scores.
c.    Language Proficiency

If the course is completely in German, then proof of proficiency in German language:
  • German as a Foreign Language Test (TestDaF)
  • German Language Test for the Admission of Foreign study applicants (DSH)
If the course is in English, then proof of proficiency in English:
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of 550 and higher (PBT), 213 and higher (CBT), 79 and higher (IBT)  
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score of 6.0

International Students

Germany is one of the world leaders in terms of being the land of choice for international students to study or carry on their education. One of the strongest motivators is the finance, i.e. the tuition fees in German universities are really low compared to North America and other developed nations. In a survey on the internationalization of German universities conducted by the German National Association for Student Affairs (in German: the Deutsches Studentenwerk or DSW) the number of students from abroad coming to study in Germany has increased every year since 1997. The number of international students grew from 100,033 in 1997 to 189,450 in 2006. At present, the number of overseas students in Germany is 280,000 (2013 academic year). Of these, about 95,000 are of non-EU origin, according to the DAAD, i.e. The German academic exchange service.  Of all the international students who graduated in Germany in 2012, 13% came from China, 7% from Turkey, and 5% from Russia.
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