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How does the Berlin school system work?

All children who live in Germany must attend school for at least 9 years. In Berlin, all school children older than the age of ten have to go to school. You and your children have a right to be taught. Attending school is free.

An overview of the Berlin school system and different types of schools can be found on the Homepage for the Senate Administration for Education, Youth and Family Affairs.

Primary school

As a rule, all children from the age of 6 go to primary school or an interdenominational school. The primary schools in Berlin last as a rule for 6 years. Then, progression to another school is compulsory.

Children who go to an interdenominational school can stay there after the primary school period. All other children change to an integrated secondary school or high school according to their skills. All primary schools in Berlin are all-day schools. Further information on primary schools is available here.

The integrierte Sekundarschule (integrated secondary school)

In the integrated secondary schools, each individual is individually supported to the best of their abilities: The pupil is paramount: In the learning group and individually, work is done in stages, in small groups, projects and learning areas. That means more equal opportunities and more motivation for each pupil. The demotivating stationary learning is no more. All integrated secondary schools are all-day schools. All school degrees can be obtained: Berufsbildungsreife (certificate of vocational education – BB), the erweiterte Bildungsreife (extended certificate of education – eBB) or the Mittlere Schulabschluss (certificate of intermediate education – MSA), after 13 years the Abitur (= general high school certificate).

The Gymnasium (secondary school)

A great deal of self-motivation is expected from pupils at the Gymnasium. Pupils who attend the Gymnasium usually attend this school for six years (up to year 12) before they can take the final examination, the Abitur (= general higher education entrance qualification). Many Gymnasium have pedagogical – for example, scientific, musical, sporting or linguistic – focuses.


Berufsbildungsreife (certificate of vocational education) or erweiterte Bildungsreife (extended certificate of vocational education) (BB and eBB)
These qualifications are usually achieved after year 9 or 10 following a successful examination result and form the basis for commencing practical vocational training in a business.

The Mittlere Schulabschluss (certificate of intermediate education) (MSA)

To achieve this qualification, pupils must take a central examination at the end of year 10. The qualification entitles pupils to attend a Fachoberschule (technical secondary school) or a Fachgymnasium (technical grammar school) and under certain terms, to enter the upper secondary school.

Abitur (= general higher education entrance qualification)
The Abitur entitles pupils to attend a study program at an institution of higher education (university).

General: After achieving the Berufsbildungsreife (BB), erweiterte Berufsbildungsreife (eBB) or a Mittlerer Schulabschluss (MSA) qualification, there are many opportunities in Germany to continue to attend school and obtain the general higher education entrance qualification (Abitur), such as attending a Berufsschule (vocational college), for example.

Full day of education (supplementary assistance and care)

In Berlin, all primary and special-needs schools, integrated secondary schools, interdenominational schools and some secondary schools are full-day schools.
The supplementary assistance and care (eFöB), also called after-school care offers many opportunities in sport, music, games and leisure. Furthermore, various support aids, like language or homework assistance can be utilised. The participation at lunch is obligatory – please ask your child’s school for cost sharing.

Education and Participation for All

All children and youths should have a good education and the chance to participate in community and cultural life – also children from families with low income.
Therefore, there is financial support from the educational package, for example, promoting learning in schools, personal school requirements, excursions and class trips and leisure activities.
Further information on the educational package and support for families can be found here.

What is a Welcome Class? (language development)

Welcoming classes are learning groups for newly immigrated pupils who cannot speak any German. They are intended to support the children and youths and help them learn German as quickly as possible in small groups and integrate them into the German school system. Welcoming classes exist in all types of schools.
The children in the welcoming classes take part in educational life and the idea is to integrate them into regular lessons as early as possible (e.g. in sport, music, art).
As soon as their German is to a sufficient level (after roughly one year as a rule), the pupils are to be introduced into regular lessons and appropriate classes, according to age and knowledge.
Pupils of the welcoming classes can also take part, like everyone else, in the opportunities offered by all-day schooling (supplementary assistance and care).
In some shelters, there is a schooling offer. The state of Berlin makes every effort to integrate all children as quickly as possible into regular schooling. You should definitely seek advice on which options of schooling are best for your child.

If you are a refugee and you would like advice and information on issues regarding education, school, studying, youth or family, please contact the info point for the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Families.

How can I obtain a school-leaving certificate?

Firstly, find out about the Berlin school system.
The Senate Department for Education, Youth and Families has put together all the relevant information on their website under the heading Zweiter Bildungsweg (second chance learning) and also provides related links. There you can also find links to further information.
Find more information on school deadlines and when to register on the web pages for the relevant Senate Department listed under the particular type of school.

Information on content and participation in terms of religious studies,
ethics studies and sports studies in Berlin schools can be found on the web pages of the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Families.