So, to German high school! Now, this is where it gets interesting because there are different types of secondary school.
According to German concepts of education, there is real value in starting to "sort" students according to their natural (and somewhat chosen) proclivities for academics at high-school age.
There is, of course, some flexibility - just because you choose one stream does not mean you cannot cross over and opt for a traditionally more academic or vocational stream later.
Which are the types of secondary Schools in Germany?
Aimed at students who plan to go for tertiary or university-level education, Gymnasium schools typically offer rigorous levels of academic education. Here, students study from the ages of 10 to 18 years, which spans the 5th to 13th grade of education.
Once they've hit grade 11, their intended preparation begins: students enter the Gymnasiale Oberstufe, which is a two-year prep level for their final exams. These are for the Abitur, or Abi: the qualification students need to graduate from the Gymnasiale Oberstufe and progress to university. Gymnasium students can also choose to study certain courses at a further advanced level known as Leistungskurse.
Realschule schooling is the most common form of secondary education.
Although not considered as prestigious, maybe, as the Gymnasium schools, Realschulen still offer a highly academic environment with a range of subjects including one to two foreign languages. Subjects and skill levels prepare students for mid-level jobs in businesses and industry.
Education here cumulates in a Realschulabschluss diploma, allowing students to take training courses, vocational qualifications, apprenticeships in commercial trade, or to pursue medical studies.
Students in a Realschule complete their studies aged 15 or 16. From here, they can opt to transfer to a Gymnasium and complete the Abitur exams if they wish to go to university.
This is a vocational school for students between the ages of 10 and 15–16. It's intended for students who will eventually enter a trade or an apprenticeship and aim to work in industrial sectors.
Gesamtschule and integrated schools
Integrated schools, or Gesamtschulen result from education lawmakers wanting to create a school system that was not only more inclusive but that also offered more than one kind of educational stream.
In some regions, schools will amalgamate the Hauptschule and Realschule curricula or stream students according to their abilities. All three education options - Hauptschulabschluss diploma, apprenticeship options, or further study for the Abi - are open to them.
How many years is high school in Germany?
High school years in Germany vary by which stream or level you choose to study at. Most schools take students until 15 or 16 years of age. The Gymnasium students end at age 18 (grade 13).