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Relocating with children – The German school system

A relocation to another country is always an exciting part of your life. When you are being relocated in your mid 20ies, it’s much easier than if you’re doing it between 30 and 40 years old. That’s because you might be Single or have a partner, but have not settled down as much as an older person might have. Most of the assignees aged under 30 do not have kids yet. If you have kids, it’s much more complicated and there will be a lot more things to think of and to organize. Therefore, it’s always good to have a relocation provider as a helping hand.

If you can choose when to go on an assignment, it’s a good time when your baby is just born or when your child goes to nursery. In this stage, the children do not have friends yet and it’s much easier to take them out of their familiar environment. Also you or your spouse could take parental leave whilst you’re on assignment.

If your child is already in kindergarten age, that would be a good phase as well. Your child could go into the local kindergarten and could at the same time learn the language. The teachers would only speak the foreign language with your child and your child could adapt to the circumstances really quickly and learn the language in a playful way. At home you would still talk in your own language. In this way your child is being raised bilingually with mother speakers for both languages. Giving your child into a local kindergarten would be the best solution. In Germany you need to pay for kindergarten and you can book different hours. You decide how many hours your child will go. For example, you can start with four hours two days a week and raise it slowly (if the kindergarten has availability). In this way your child can learn being away from home and will get used to the new environment step by step.

In Germany you can also bring your child into international child care. Depending on the size of the city, there will be different international institutions. If the city is rather small, they might not have international kindergartens. But if it is a big city, there will be various options. Information about the local institutions can normally be found on the homepage of the city.

If your child is in primary school age or even older it is an important decision, which way of education should be gone. There would be the local schools, but therefore at least good German skills would be necessary. For the local schools it is required to speak German and a child who is not fluent in German would be desperate really quickly because he or she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the other kids. Apart from the local schools there are several international schools. Again, the bigger the city, the more choices you have. It is important to inform yourself early enough about the application process and fees. Public schools in Germany are for free, but international schools do charge high tuition fees. Not just the language would be different in an international school, but also the way of learning and the whole school system. At a British school for example you would have a British curriculum, at a French school, you would get the French baccalaureate as certification. Since the education of your kids is really important, you should do enough research in advance. If you’re struggling and need any assistance, Inhouse Mobility would be happy to support you.

In Germany childcare starts with nurseries or nannies. You can either bring you baby to a nursery or a nanny/babysitter can come to your house or even pick your baby up to do the childcare at her house with some more babies. At the age of three you would start going to kindergarten. With five or six years you start preschool and do certain preschool activities, but still in your kindergarten. The only difference is you will be prepared for school more intensively. Finally, with six or seven years old you can go to the “real” school. The so called Grundschule goes from grade 1 to 4, after that you can decide whether to send your child to Mittelschule/Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium. Which school you choose depends on the intelligence of your child. If school has always been a struggle for your child, the Mittelschule/Hauptschule would be the best solution. You get a basic graduation after nine years of school and the education level is lower than on the two alternatives. The education level on the Realschule is a bit higher and school will be finished after grade 10. You will get a certificate that allows you to start an occupation that requires training. With this certificate you are not allowed to study. The third alternative is for children who didn’t have any problems at school. Gymnasium ends with grade 12/13 (depending on the State of Germany) and with the Abitur you are allowed to enter university. If you have chosen Realschule but you decide to continue going to school after grade 10, you could still switch to FOS (Fachoberschule) to get a limited Abitur after grade 12 or the complete certificate for entering university after class 13.

The German school system can be displayed as follows

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