State or private school

Choosing how to educate your child

In Germany, state education is generally perceived to be of higher standard than private education. However, in some cases (especially for foreigners) a private education might be better for your child.

Most Germans only send their children to a private school for religious or philosophical reasons, if they’re ‘difficult’ or need specific help. For this reason, don’t assume that German private schools are “automatically better” than state schools – in some cases, they’re actually worse!

However, there are some good reasons why you may consider sending your child to a private school, such as:

  • Language: Most state schools in Germany only offer education in German. Be aware that the German state school system generally makes little or no concessions to non-German speakers, e.g. by providing intensive language courses. This can make the first few months quite an ordeal for non-German-speaking children. Due to language and other integration problems, enrolling a child in a German state school is recommended only if they are going to spend at least a year there.
  • Recognition abroad: In some cases, the German examinations might not be recognized in your home country (or the country where you plan to live after leaving Germany). If applicable, check whether the German Abitur (high school diploma) is recognised as a university entrance qualification in your home country.
  • School hours & boarding: Most German state schools only have school hours in the morning (with little or no activities in the afternoon). In some states, there are also compulsory Saturday morning classes. If you’re working, this might not be the perfect solution for your family life. Also, some people want to send their children to a boarding school, which are rare in the state school system.
  • Extracurricular activities: Be aware that most state school offer little or no extracurricular activities (such as music, clubs and sports). If you want your child to do these activities at school (remember there are also other options), you might be better off with a private school.
  • Religion and other aspects: Most German state schools have compulsory religious education (although in some schools you can take your child out of these classes), most international schools don’t. Also, nearly all German state schools are co-educational. If you want your child to go to a single-sex school, you will probably have to look for a private school.

For many expatriates living in Germany, the choice between a state and a private school is a difficult one. In any case, you should check the school’s records (both on state and private schools), speak to teachers and parents of children attending the school and obtain the opinions and advice of others who have been faced with the same challenge.

Further reading

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