Living in Munich?
Childcare and Education in Munich
The first rule of the German education system is that there is no German education system. Confused? The explanation is actually rather simple. As Germany is a federal republic, its 16 states are semi-autonomous in some areas. Education is one of them. Therefore, the school system differs greatly between Munich and Hamburg, which makes moving within Germany somewhat complicated for families with kids. The following description applies to the Bavarian school system, but not necessarily to that in, for example, Berlin.
Preschool Applications Are Competitive in This City
Most preschool kids aged three to six attend a Kindergarten, run by the municipal administration, a private organization, or a religious association (mostly the Catholic or Lutheran Church). Unlike state schools, kindergartens are not free of charge. Monthly fees can vary greatly depending on whether you choose to send your child to a public or private kindergarten, or even a specialized one, with fees ranging from around 100 EUR to over 1,000 EUR a month. Younger kids are looked after at a nursery or daycare facility. However, demand for childcare exceeds supply in the Greater Munich Area. Quite a few mothers even apply for a place before they have given birth.
Would you like to send your kid to a bilingual or foreign-language daycare or pre-school? There are several private associations in Munich that organize nurseries and kindergartens for English-speaking, French, Italian, and Spanish children. Some international schools also have facilities for toddlers and pre-school kids.
Also take a look at our in-depth article on Childcare and Kindergartens in Germany in order to learn more about pre-school childcare in Germany.
Four Years of Primary Education
For children in Munich, obligatory schooling begins at the age of six or seven, depending on the kid’s birthday and his or her individual development. In the fourth (and last) year of primary school, you may notice some parents beginning to panic. Their child’s academic progress — i.e. their grades in math, German, and social studies — now decides which type of secondary school the student may attend.
This system has often been criticized as selective, stressful for ten-year-olds, and biased against kids from working-class or immigrant families. Still, it probably won’t change any time soon. So, according to the child’s report cards, there are three kinds of secondary school to choose from.
Various Options for Secondary School
The Mittelschule (formerly called Hauptschule) offers mandatory basic education in grades five to nine, preparing students for vocational training. Nowadays, its reputation has suffered a considerable decline, and it is often snubbed by families with an academic or upper-middle-class background. Partly as a reaction to such criticism and prejudice, most Mittelschulen in Munich offer a voluntary tenth grade. Graduates can thus take the exam for a more advanced secondary certificate, the mittlere Reife.
Normally, the mittlere Reife is the school-leaving certificate offered by the Realschule. The latter includes grades five to ten of secondary school and forms the basis for commercial training. The kind of secondary school supposed to prepare graduates for university is called Gymnasium.
The Gymnasium teaches students from grade five to twelve. In the final grade, they have to take the German high-school exam (Abitur). This sort of secondary education places a higher emphasis on foreign languages, especially English, French, and Latin; it often caters to students with particular academic or artistic interests (sciences, social studies, humanities, arts, music, etc.) who plan to continue their education at university.
In addition to the three basic kinds of secondary school, there are a variety of other schools available. Most of them are supposed to make sure that a student from Hauptschule can later receive a Realschule-style education, or that someone who didn’t attend a Gymnasium can go on to university or a polytechnical college after all.
Education for Expatriate Children
The above-mentioned public education system can, however, have some disadvantages for expat kids. The language in the classroom is German, and grades in German as a subject play an important role in the academic selection process. If you plan on staying in Munich when your kid attends the decisive fourth grade, this might have repercussions for the kind of school he or she will attend later on. Furthermore, expat kids with parents on a short-term assignment might not be bothered to learn German at all if they’ll leave again in 12 or 18 months.
On the plus side, the public education system in Munich is free, and students from state schools in Bavaria tend to achieve relatively good results in international assessment studies. For expat families who consider settling in Munich, local schools may be a suitable and cheap option.
International Schools in Munich
Those who can afford paying high tuition fees and who prefer to send their kids to an international school fortunately also have several options in the Munich area.
- Bavaria International School
- European School Munich
- International Bilingual School Munich
- Japanese International School Munich (website in Japanese only)
- Jewish Primary School SINAI (website in German only)
- Lycée Français Jean Renoir (website in French only)
- Munich International School
- Phorms Primary School & Gymnasium
- St George’s School Munich
For more in-depth information on the German school system, international schools, universities in Germany, the local language and more, check out our Extended Guide section on Family, Children and Education in Germany
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