Germany - Education

Most German schools are state run. Schools and kindergartens are the responsibility of the states, not of the federal government. Therefore, though the overall structure is basically the same, it is difficult for a pupil to transfer from one school to another. Attendance at all public schools and universities is free. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.6% of GDP.

German teachers are civil servants. They are required to have a teaching degree and are paid according to a uniform salary scale. Children start school after their sixth birthday and are required to attend on a full-time basis for nine or ten years, depending on the state of residence. Part-time enrollment is then permitted.

After four years of primary or elementary school (Grundschule), students choose from three types of secondary school. The best pupils go to a gymnasium, which prepares them for the university matriculation examination, or abitur. Next is the realschule, a middle-level school leading to technical job training and middle-management employment. The lowest type is the hauptschule, or general school.

The original East German school system has been abolished. However, a network of correspondence courses has developed, geared for those who wish to continue their studies while working. In Germany, vocational training is the rule. On-the-job training in an authorized company is combined with instruction in a vocational school. Vocational training is concluded by taking a theoretical and practical examination before a Board of the Chamber, and those who pass are given a certificate. This system of vocational training has clearly reduced youth unemployment.

In 1997 there were 3,859,490 pupils in 17,892 primary schools. Primary teachers numbered 224,517, and student-toteacher ratio stood at 17 to 1. In the same year, 8,382,335 students and 542,383 teachers were in secondary schools. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 15 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 87% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 88% of those eligible attended secondary school. At universities and other institutes of higher education, there were 274,963 teachers and 2,131,907 students enrolled.

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