TechnologieRegion Karlsruhe TechnologieRegion Karlsruhe

Educational opportunities in the TRK

From kindergarten up to university and on to life-long learning: The educational services in Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion are characterized by diversity, high standards, broad networks, and short distances. Schools of all kinds are represented: 446 elementary, lower secondary and special schools, 51 intermediate secondary schools (Realschule) as well as 33 vocational schools and 47 general high schools (Gymnasium). In addition to this, there are also specialized schools like the Waldorf schools and private high schools, as well as the multilingual European School Karlsruhe.  Wherever you live within the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion, your children are not far from any school type of your choice. The education system is connected with one another which is another advantage of our region and an aspect both parents and children appreciate and benefit from. This section gives you an initial overview of the German school system including its different types of school. 

Types of schools in Germany 

In Baden-Wuerttemberg - as in all of Germany - school is compulsory. All children and young people whose residence, habitual abode or place of work or vocational training is in Baden-Wuerttemberg must attend school.

Compulsory schooling requires attendance in class and at other mandatory events organized by the school as well as compliance with the school rules of the school type attended. A vast majority of schools in Germany are state-run. Therefore, your children can attend these schools free of charge.

Children who reach the age of six by September 30, i.e. who celebrate their sixth birthday before then, are subject to compulsory schooling and must attend an elementary school.

Since the 2005/2006 school year, the age requirement has become a bit more flexible, as it was expanded to the entire sixth year of the child's life (from October 1 to June 30). Children who turn six between October 1 and June 30 can be enrolled in school by their parents without further formalities. Ultimately though, it is up to the school directors to decide whether a child is accepted in that school.


In general, the elementary school in question will send invitations to parents with the dates when their child can start school. If this is not the case, parents must personally contact the elementary school where they live.

Parents are not free to choose the elementary school their child is to attend. In general, children attend the elementary school in the district where their parents have their residence or habitual abode. In specially justified exceptions, your child can apply to change school district and go to a different elementary school. Children attend elementary school for four years.

To register for school, the child must go to the school for evaluation and the following documents must be submitted:

  • Identification card of the legal guardian (generally mother or father)
  • Birth certificate or certificate of descent of the child
  • Registration certificate of the school administration office

After elementary school, children must attend one of the following secondary schools: technical secondary school/lower secondary school, intermediate secondary school (Realschule), comprehensive school or general high school (secondary level I). Attendance at these schools is compulsory for five years.


At a glance

  • In Germany, all children of a certain age must attend school
  • The compulsory school period, or full-time school attendance requirement is nine or at most ten years everywhere in Germany.
  • Legal guardians are responsible for ensuring that their children attend school.
  • Elementary school lasts 4 years. The elementary school your child attends is determined based on your address; you are thus not free to choose any elementary school.
  • Elementary school is followed by secondary schools: technical secondary school/lower secondary school, intermediate secondary school, comprehensive school or general high school.
  • Intermediate secondary schools end after 10th grade when students receive their diploma (intermediate level), which is required for most vocational training professions.
  • High schools end after the 12th or 13th grade (depending on whether they follow the G8 or G9 model), after which students can earn their Abitur certificate, which entitles them to study at university.

Technical secondary schools and lower secondary schools

The primary educational goal of technical secondary Schools ("Werkrealschule") and lower secondary Schools ("Hauptschule") is to identify and develop potential talents of the students, to contribute to successful educational biographies. The guiding didactic vision is continuous individual support of students, with an emphasis on planning career options in all grades.

The following elective subjects are a core element of technical and lower secondary schools' curriculum:

  • Healthcare and social occupations
  • Business and information technology
  • Nature and technology

They are taught in 8th, 9th and 10th grade. They are part of a long-term concept for broad-based career guidance based on their scholastic needs. The elective subjects are intended to provide an orientation to help students choose a vocational training program.

The guiding principle of the technical and lower secondary schools is continuous individual support in all grades.

Junior high school

In six years (years 5 to 10), intermediate secondary schools (so-called “Realschulen”) provide a self-contained, extended general education and expanded general knowledge. This forms the basis for practically-oriented careers where tasks with higher independence, responsibility and management requirements must be performed.

On passing the final examination after 10th grade, students earn intermediate educational qualifications (intermediate level).

Graduation from any type of Realschule entitles students to

  • start vocational training in a recognized training profession and in a regulated training program
  • transfer to single or multi-year vocational schools
  • transfer to single or multi-year vocational colleges
  • transfer to a vocational or general high school.

At this point, your children can transition from a Realschule to a Gymnasium (regular high school), for example. To do so, they must have good to very good grades.

Comprehensive school

Comprehensive schools are efficient, socially just schools particularly committed to democratic values that offer all educational standards of schools of general education.

Comprehensive schools can encompass grades 5 to 10 (secondary level I), possibly also grades 1 to 4 (elementary level) and 11 to 13 (secondary level II). Until the end of secondary level I, all graduation options remain open.

Possible qualifications:

  • Lower secondary school diploma after 9th or 10th grade
  • Intermediate level school diploma after 10th grade
  • University admission qualifications after secondary level II (three more years after 10th grade) either at the comprehensive school itself if there are enough students, or at another general high school or vocational high school.

Students can transfer from comprehensive schools to any school of general education in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Germany at any time. In addition to this, from 8th grade on, students can also transfer to six-year “add-on” vocational high schools in Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Comprehensive schools can be chosen regardless of where the child lives, students are not bound to a specific district.

General high school (Gymnasium)

General high schools teach a broad-based and in-depth general education, which enables students to study at university afterwards.
As of school year 2004/2005, an eight-year high school system was introduced for all students entering fifth grade. For information on this, see the Ministry of Culture website in the section on general high schools.
Starting from the 2012/2013, the Ministry of Culture offers the option at 44 selected schools of an alternative nine-year program, leading up to the university admission qualification exam (Abitur) at general high schools. For the locations of these model schools and for further information, see section “Modellversuch G8/G9” (in German) on the Ministry of Culture's website.

The following types of general high schools exist:

  • High schools specializing in languages
  • High schools specializing in the humanities
  • High schools specializing in the natural sciences
  • High schools specializing in the fine arts
  • High schools specializing in music
  • High schools specializing in sports
  • “Add-on” high school (from 7th grade or from the introductory year of the upper high school level)

On completing 10th grade or 11th grade in the G9 model schools (end of secondary level I), students are credited with the high school diploma (technical college admission qualification).
If they pass the university admission qualification examination (Abitur), students are entitled to be admitted to university.If students drop out of high school after one year in the course system or do not pass the Abitur, the high school can subsequently issue an admission qualification for universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulreife) on request, if the pre-exam sections of the requirements were completed and the student can verify an at least two-year vocational training program or a one-year internship (including a voluntary social or ecological year or corresponding work as part of the German voluntary service). The Fachhochschulreife entitles students to study for degrees at universities of applied science in all federal states except Bavaria and Saxony.

Private Schools

A vast majority of schools in Germany are state-run. In addition to these schools, you can also choose from private and international schools, which charge fees.

The German Constitution guarantees the right to establish private schools. Private schools can be run by private individuals or legal entities of private or public law (e.g. foundations, associations, churches, companies).

There are private schools of general education and vocational private schools (e.g. vocational schools, vocational colleges, vocational high schools).

Private schools which have an equivalent in the public school system are called supplementary schools (Ersatzschulen); they also include the Waldorf schools.

Attending private schools (supplementary schools) fulfils your child's obligation to attend school. At supplementary schools, you as parents can assume that the didactic objectives, facilities and academic education of the teaching staff are no worse than at public schools. Non-state-recognized supplementary schools, known as approved supplementary schools, are not authorized to award state qualifications themselves; examinations are held externally (external examinations). Therefore, you should inquire whether your chosen supplementary school is state-recognized, and thus authorized to hold examinations and award certificates.

European School Karlsruhe (ESK)

Albert-Schweitzer-Straße 1
76139 Karlsruhe
Tel.  +49 (0) 721 6 80 09 0
Fax.  +49 (0) 721 6 80 09 50

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