A teacher is teaching her pupils

How does the German school system work?

All children who live in Germany must attend school for at least 9 years. You and your children have a right to be taught. Attending school is free.

Primary school

All children usually attend primary school from their 6th birthday. Basic knowledge of German, mathematics, general studies, art, music and sport is taught in primary school. Primary schooling in Berlin lasts 6 years, then attendance at a secondary school is required.
After primary school, children and young people in Berlin attend an integrierte Sekundarschule (integrated secondary school) or a Gymnasium (grammar school).

The integrierte Sekundarschule (integrated secondary school)

In the integrated secondary school, pupils are supported depending on their needs and looked after the entire day. Children and young people can complete various qualifications: 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).


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).

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.

Information regarding benefits for education and participation, i.e. grants and meeting costs for day trips, class and KiTa trips, joint lunches, sport, culture and leisure, learning support, personal school supplies and journeys to school can be found under the question: What support is available for families?

What is a Welcome Class? (language development)

Children and young people who do not speak German first attend their own class and learn German. These classes are called welcome classes or transitional classes and make starting a mainstream school easier. It should be possible to transition to a mainstream school after one year at the latest.
An educational program is available in many places of accommodation. The State of Berlin is making efforts to integrate all children as quickly as possible into mainstream schooling. You should be advised without fail on which opportunities for education are possible 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 German 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.
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.