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European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

In Germany, compulsory education for children starts from the age of six years, and full-time schooling lasts nine years in most federal states. In North Rhine-Westphalia, Berlin, Brandenburg and Bremen, compulsory school attendance is ten years. Afterwards, adolescents are obliged to part-time vocational schooling if they do not continue attending a full-time school. This part-time compulsory education ends with the completion of the vocational training (2 – 3.5 years) or twelve years of attendance in full-time school. Additionally, part-time compulsory education ends in most federal states with the school year in which the student becomes 18 years old. The transition from primary to secondary education differs across the federal states in Germany. While in Berlin and Brandenburg elementary school (“Grundschule”) consists of six grades, primary education in the other federal states ends with the fourth grade. After the completion of primary school, children at the age of ten (respectively, twelve) enter secondary education, which consists of four different school types: “Hauptschule”, “Realschule”, “Gymnasium” and “Gesamtschule”. In most federal states parents can choose the type of school their children should attend freely. However, in the last grade of primary school, teachers have to write a letter of recommendation which proposes the type of school based on the ability and talents of the child. While in most federal states the teacher’s recommendation is only advisory and not binding, in Bavaria, Saxony, Thuringia, Brandenburg and Bremen, parents must follow the recommendation of the teacher. The “Hauptschule” focuses on students that did not perform well in primary school in most subjects. Since these children are rather unlikely to enroll in a university or a college, this type of school concentrates on rather practical skills in order to prepare for vocational education. The range of subjects at a “Hauptschule” is quite similar to those of the other schools, including mathematics, natural sciences and English. However, the pace of learning is slower at this type of school, which should coincide with the cognitive abilities of the children. The “Hauptschule” ends at the ninth or tenth grade depending on the federal state and the type of school-leaving qualification.