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Most expat children attend international schools in Munich where, besides being exposed to different cultures, they also receive an education in their home language. Alternatively, expats could send their children to a public or private school in Munich, where they are likely to integrate with local children, and the local culture, quicker than at international schools.
Public and private schools in Munich
Tuition for private and public schools is usually affordable or free from kindergarten up to university level, but the language of instruction is German. This can be highly beneficial for younger students, but it's often difficult for older students to adapt to.
Children usually attend kindergarten at the age of three, and start Grade 1 at grundschule from age six. All pupils learn a standardised curriculum until Grade 4, after which they attend one of three types of schools: hauptschule, realschule or gymnasium. The child's academic ability usually determines which school they attend, but the final decision rests with the parents.
Regardless of which kind of school they attend, all students have to complete at least nine years of education. Schooling is usually conducted during the morning, and they often receive a lot of homework, so they can't get too involved in extra-curricular activities.
Hauptschule offers the same subjects as realschule and gymnasium, but teaches at a slower pace and includes vocational courses. In Grade 10, students study at a vocational training school and then attend berufsschule, where they receive further education and apprenticeship training up until Grade 12.
Realschule, on the other hand, is attended all the way through Grade 10 and students go straight to berufsschule. Depending on their academic progress, realschule students can go to a gymnasium upon graduation.
Gymnasium is generally accepted as being aimed at academically-inclined students. It covers Grade 5 through 13 and students receive the Abitur qualification when they graduate.
International schools in Munich
International schools in Munich are more directly aimed at expat students and offer modern facilities and more extra-curricular activities than most public and private German schools. The majority of the international schools in Munich offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum, while a few offer curricula from specific countries, such as the UK and the US. But these benefits come at a price, and fees can be high, particularly for senior grades. Space may be limited at these schools, so expat parents planning a move to Munich need to apply as early as possible.
Special-needs education in Munich
Children in Germany, regardless of disability, have the right, according to the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), to early childhood education, and primary, secondary and tertiary schooling. Children with disabilities are supported as far as possible in mainstream schools and there have been recommendations for increasingly inclusive educational practice in general education and vocational schools.
The goal is to enable children to be educated together regardless of ability and to guarantee and develop the standards achieved in special-education teaching, advisory and support services. Ultimately, the government tries to ensure that those with special needs can comfortably attend their nearest school, have access to the same standard of education as their peers, learn and play in a safe environment and be able to make good academic and social progress.
Tutoring in Munich
Education is extremely highly valued in Germany, and tutors are widely used to improve and assist children's schooling. Tutors might be employed to assist in specific subjects such as maths or science, or expat parents will often hire a tutor to improve their child's German language proficiency. Tutors are further used in preparation for important exams or for university entrance exams.
Newcomers to Germany might also find that their child may benefit from having a guiding hand in navigating a new school system or just to build some confidence. Top private tuition companies include Lernwerk and Teachers24 Network.
► International Schools in Munich is essential reading for expat parents
►See Education and Schools in Germany for more on the local system
"The school hours are very frustrating. Most schools start very early, at 8am (or sometimes even 7:30am) and then finish at midday, meaning if both parents work, you have to organise after school care (or hort, as it is called in German). Also in primary school there seems to be very strong focus on academic achievement with homework every day, even for six-year-olds."
Read more of Phil's (a New Zealand expat) thoughts on expat life in Munich.
Are you an expat living in Munich?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Munich. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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