The largest network of private schools in Germany are the Waldorfschulen. These ‘alternative’ schools are run based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, known as anthroposophy. Similar in many aspects to the Montessori schools and normally offer schooling from kindergarten through to the early years of secondary education. Waldorf schools emphasise the importance of developing a child’s creativity and the curriculum places considerable emphasis on arts.
Religious schools are present throughout Germany. Most depend on state funding for their survival. Many religious schools are heavily oversubscribed, as they’re perceived as being more effective than normal state or other private schools. There’s no need for a family to be practicing members of a particular faith for their children to attend a religious school. But pupils must show due respect for it beliefs and traditions and will be required to abide by its customs (e.g. concerning diet or dress).
When choosing a private school, you should check the following points:
- Does the school have a good reputation? When was it established?
- Does the school have a sound academic record? What percentage of pupils receive good examination passes and go on to university?
- How large are the classes and what’s the student-teacher ratio?
- What are the qualifications for teachers and what nationality are they?
- Which countries do the students come from?
- What languages are used? Are there special classes for student needing German tutoring?
- What are the school terms, holiday periods and school hours? These won’t necessarily coincide with those of state schools.
- What does the curriculum include? What examinations are set?
- What are the facilities for art and science subjects?
- How is discipline handled?
Before making a final choice, it’s important to visit the schools on your shortlist during term time and talk to teachers and student. After enrolling your child(ren), make sure you communicate with them, talk to teachers, ensure you keep an eye on progress and listen to comments and complaints. Going to school in a foreign environment can be a tough experience for kids, so give them all the support you can.
Germany’s international schools can be found in cities or regions with a high concentration of diplomats or multinational firms (such as Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin). Most use English as their main language and range from kindergarten level to American high school diploma or International Baccalaureate. Enquire at your country’s embassy or consulate about international schools where you will be living as they will usually be able to give you good information.