German School Levels


Table 1.--Germany. Age and form levels in state schools--Gymnasien / Oberschulen


……AGE………….....................FORM/GRADE..................
…………………......Classic* (1900) …...Modern (2003)
  • 3-5 …...…….... Kindergarten ……….. Kindergarten

    --- Move to Primary School (Grundschule/Volkschule) ---

  • 6-7 ….....…….... Year 1 …………........ 1st Class
  • 7-8 ….....…….... Year 2 …………........ 2nd Class
  • 8-9 ….....…….... Year 3.…………........ 3rd Class
  • 9-10 …....……... Year 4 …………........ 4th Class

    -- Move to Secondary School (Gymnasien / Oberschulen)--

  • 10-11 …...…….. Sexta** …………...... 5th Class
  • 11-12 …...…….. Quinta …………......... 6th Class
  • 12-13 …...…….. Quarta …………........ 7th Class
  • 13-14 …...…….. Untertertia ………....... 8th Class
  • 14-15 …...…….. Obertertia ………….....9th Class
  • 15-16 …...…….. Untersekunda ……..... 10th Class
  • 16-17 …...…….. Obersekunda ……..... 11th Class
  • 17-18 …...…….. Unterprima ………..... 12th Class***
  • 18-19 …...…….. Oberprima ………..... 13th Class****



* The old Latin names for the classes/grades in the Gymnasium are no more in much use as now the classes are here also counted beginning with the first class in the Grundschule till the (12th/)13th class for the „Abitur“
** In the 19th century children often begun their secondary studies in a Gymnasium at age 9 years following the „Volksschule“
*** in the DDR the total number of school years was 12, in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) it was (and is mostly ) 13 years.
**** Abiturklasse

Source: HBC German Reader.


German school are organized along the primary, secondary, and tertiary system that developed in other countries. The Germans were leaders in sponsoring state supported primary schools, significantly ahead of the British. The Germans are also notable for the development of pre-school Kindergarten. The academically selective seondary schools called grammar schools in Britain were the gymnasium in Germany. Germany is also notable for the development of some of the most prestigious universities in the world. The American Ph.D. is a degree derived from the German university tradition--Doctor of Philosophy. One of the notable development of the German universities beside their academic prestige was the development of the university drinking clubs or brotherhoods (Studentenverbindung / Brüderschaft).

Kinderheim

We are not entirely sure what a Kinderheim is. It seems to be some kind of child care facility and not a school. A German reader tells us, "A Kinderheim is not a Kindergarten. A Kindergarten is for pre-school children. The children in the picture look older, especially the girl. In this case it looks more to me like a home for recreation or vacation, which were called Kinderheim or Erholungsheim."

Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a classroom program designed for pre-school children. The precise age has varied over time. It has been conducted on a half and full day basis. The program is designed to developing social skills in a group setting that the children will need when they begin school. Kindergartens work on social skills, self-esteem, and early efforts to begin to develop a child's academic ability. The Germans are also notable for the development of pre-school Kindergarten, a major development in education. The first Kindergartens were introduced by Friedrich Fröbel in 1837. Because Kindergartens proved so important, Fröebel became an important figure in educational history, known as "Father of Kindergarten". Fröbel with his Kindergarten developed educational practices that have been widely adopted in pre-school education. Fröebelbelieved that play was an important part of the educational process for younger children. He saw his Kindergartens as places for children to learn from the social interaction with other children. Fröebel wrote a book explaining his theories and practices. His theories were not immediately endorsed by educational authorities. Many thought the idea of encouraging play as a valuable educational activity was perposterous. The Kindergarten movement, however, affected school systems around the world. Americans even retain the German name in their pre-schools, although it is often spelled kindergarden. Kindergartens were established in the 19th century, but did not become widely adopted until the 20th century. Children can go to Kindergarten , but it is not compulsory. Unlike other public schools, there are for most parents fees required to enroll children in Kindergarten.

Primary School

German school are orgnized along the primary, secondary, and tertiary system that developed in other countries. The Germans were leaders in sponsoring state supported primary school, significantly ahead of the British. All children go to Grundschule (4 years, but sometimes 6--then called „Förderstufe“ ) This was formerly called Volksschule together with Hauptschule. Today it is the different (Bundes) Länder (federal countries), that tell how education should be. But you can say in general following: Children can go to Kindergarten (first introduced by Fröbel). Later after World Warv II all go to Grundschule (four years, but sometimes six) (former called Volksschule together with Hauptschule). Some of the academically cleaver children began secondary school in their 5th year. Some in small villages might wait until they were a little older to transfer to a secondary school. Village schools often had classes for children beyound the first 4 years. These classes, however, would not be called primary school even gthose they were held in the same schools with the primary school children.

Secondary Schools

Most German children attended primary school in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Relatively few children attended secondary school until after World War II. This was the common practice throughout Europe. Most students who went on the secodary school were from middle-class and other affluent families. Admission was competitive. Not only were their fees involved, but it mean the child had to be supported for several more years. This proved difficult for many orking-class families. There are two tracks for German secondary students. The parents can choose then around 10 years of age (appropriate learning level achieved) what track to choose.


Table 2.--Germany. Age and form levels in state schools: Hauptschule/Realschule/ Gesamtschule


……AGE………….....................FORM/GRADE..................
…………………......Classic* (1900) …...Modern (2003)
  • 3-5 …...…….... Kindergarten ……….. Kindergarten

    --- Move to Primary School (Grundschule/Volkschule) ---

  • 6-7 ….....…….... Year 1 …………........ 1st Class
  • 7-8 ….....…….... Year 2 …………........ 2nd Class
  • 8-9 ….....…….... Year 3.…………........ 3rd Class
  • 9-10 …....……... Year 4 …………........ 4th Class

    Move to Secondary School (Hauptschule/Realschule/ Gesamtschule#

  • 10-11 …...…….. Sexta** …………...... 5th Class
  • 11-12 …...…….. Quinta …………......... 6th Class
  • 12-13 …...…….. Quarta …………........ 7th Class
  • 13-14 …...…….. Untertertia ………....... 8th Class
  • 14-15 …...…….. Obertertia ………….....9th Class
  • 15-16 …...…….. Untersekunda ……..... 10th Class



* The old Latin names for the classes/grades in the Gymnasium are no more in much use as now the classes are here also counted beginning with the first class in the Grundschule till the (12th/)13th class for the „Abitur“
** In the 19th century children often begun their secondary studies in a Gymnasium at age 9 years following the „Volksschule“
# In some federals states the secondary schools are combined to socalled „Gesamtschule“ without a differentiating separation of the Gymnasium level.

Source: HBC German Reader.


Tertiary Education

Germany is also notable for the development of some of the most prestigious universities in the world. German was in the 19th century perhaps the most respected country in the world in terna of universitty education and research. The contribution of German university professors to 19th century science and industry is phenomenal. Every American chemistry student has used a bunsen burner. Few know it was invented by a Professor Bunsen at the University of Heildeberg. He and a colleague named Kirkoph discovered the light signature of elements now used in spectrophy and thus founded a whole new discipline of astrophysics. An entire book could be devoted to the discoveries that came from German Universities in the 19th century. This declined after World War I, but German universities coninued important research. It was German scientists just as World War II was breaking out that reported spliting the atom. The American Ph.D. is a degree derived from the German university tradition. Europeans from throughout central and eastern Europe came to Germany to study in universities there. Americans a studied in German universities. German was a major language for international science, one of the reasons it was in the curriculum of schools around the world, including America. This changed in the 20th century. World War I affected the universities somewhat. Fewer Europeans as well as Americans attended German Universuities. The teaching of German as a foreign language declined in America. World War II had even more of an affect. German universities were hot beds for the rising NAZI Party. NAZI policies of driving out Jews and independent thinkers also adversely affected German universities. Many university professors and other intelectuals forced to leave Germany came to America and had an important role in strenghtening the American university system. The decline in German universities can be followed by studying Nobel prize awards. Germany was by far the most important country in scientific Nobel prize awards and this only began to change with World War I and then more suignificanttly with the rise of the NAZIs. German universities today are strong, competent, and respected institutions, but do not have the luster that the universities had in the 19th century. Another factor has been the growth of English as a language for international science. One of the interesting developments of the German universities beside their academic prestige was the development of the university student movement in the 19th early 20th century. There were many university student leagues and fraternity in Germany. They had their rites and traditions. We have some information on these studentische Verbindungen or brotherhoods. A German reader tells us that, "Still today there are a few of these association left. Memorabilia about those gone days of university students are well loved collectibles today. We call all this stuff Studentika. We note all linds of postcards in the early 20th century of younger children dressed up in the regalia of these associations."

Geman School System

A German reader has kindly submitted an essay to help us better understand the German school system. As he explains primary and secondary schools are modern concepts. We have used this basic system so that German schools can be compared to those in other countries. But this division is sonewhat artificial. Thus the essay from our German reader gives a clearer explanation of the rather complicated German school system. "I will mainly cover the time up to about 1950. There was not much change in the educational structure during the NAZI era. (The Nazis had other intentions, such as changing the curriculum and personnel issues such as discharging Jewish teachers and teachers not sympathetic to the Nazi program.) After the war the occupation forces (US, UK, France, and Soviet; and to a lesser account Canada and other neighbour states) implemented modifications basrd on educational models in their countries. Schools faced enormous problems after the War. There was ashortage of qualified teachers, buildings were destroyed or damaged, school books books were in short supply. I recall just beginning Gymnasium. I started to learn English in Stuttgart (American occupation zone). We got American books in use for GIs' continuing education. After 1950 there were a lot of modifications by the German governments in the Western occupation zones. The Western occupation authorities allowed German officials to persue educational policies with little interference. State governments were still responsible for education and thus there were differences in various parts of the country. Northern states tended to persur "social" progrms to provide "equal opportunities". Southern states (Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg) tended to be more traditional. The situation was different in the Sovietoccupation zone. I know less about this and thus will not cover it. Educational reform has continued today. Parents who do not like the reform ideasare now sending the kids to private, often clerical schools--if they can pay the fee. Other parents choose the more traditionsal "Gymnasien" which introduces Latin in the first secondary grade. I shall use old German terms. The distinction into "primary/secondary level" is rather new. You know that we now use a lot of American/English terms, the socalled "Denglish". It is a somewhat subjective presentation; you know, I am rather conservative, although as a retired university professor still interested in how we got our young students from the German school system. There are a lot of variations which are impossible to cover all. I hope that I didn't miss anything of high importance."

Reader Comments

A German reader writes, "We used to have the following school system: The volksschule had 4 year classes. Who would stay in the Volksschule had to be in the 4th class section 5 till section 6. That was the law. A student could move from the 4th class (Volksschule) into the four year trade school according to his chosen profession. A student also could go into an 8-year gymnasium. However, he had to do an acceptance examination with graduation after 8 years before going to university. Everything was free, even today. In the trade school a student started to be a pupil, then journeyman and after getting his diploma he was a master. For example, my father was a master shoemaker, my uncle a master carpenter and another one a master tailor, They used to be important people for them one would take off the hat and say: "Good day Mr. Bricklayer".. Times have changed. Now they say: Hi what's your name? Oh I see, hi Mabama. See ye.".

Notes

There are Förderschulen (formerly called Sonderschulen, but because this term was negative they changed it) for children with special needs (disabled, blind or deaf children). There are also ways in doing some extra work for Realschüler or Hauptschüler to reach the level of Abitur (Austrian: Matura) and later go perhaps to University. It’s called “zweiter Bildungsweg” You can visit courses at the evenings “Abendschule” or got to “Fachhochschulen” to get there. The term “Landen” is seldom used today, only in songs or formal language.

Other Countries

While all countries have organized their educational systems on the basis of primary and secondary systems. There are major differences among the different countries. The different coubntry educational systems and grade levels can be quite consusing. As a result we have compiled separate pages for several different countries to help readers compare the different system. We only have a few countypages prepared, but hope to eventually add additional pages as HBC expands.







HBC






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Created: September 23, 2002
Last updated: 2:49 PM 6/27/2015