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German educational policy varies somewhat between States but generally requires that children are educated in schools after the age of six. No home-schooling is allowed! State schools are free of cost.

It is common for expatriate parents, whose children are being educated outside Germany, to be required to complete a form confirming that their child is indeed enrolled in full-time education. Do not be surprised if you are asked to provide this information.

Creches and day care facilities for the under 3's are difficult to find. Creches and Day Care Centers often require early enrollment which limits space for people who relocate. As of August 2013, the state guarantees a spot for the one to three year olds, but you still need to search. Costs will depend on your income and the hours spent at the facility.

Kindergarten attendance is not obligatory, but most children attend at some time between 3 and 6 years of age. It is a good opportunity to interact with other children, socialize and learn the language. Applications usually need to be made in the Spring for entry in the Fall. There are costs involved which will depend on the kindergarten and how many hours are spent there.

Primary School (Grundschule) is obligatory for ages 6 to 12. Children must attend their local Grundschule unless, as in the case of expatriate families who educate their children outside the state system, you can show a need to attend an alternative school. While schooling is free of charge, expect costs for books, notebooks, writing utensils, sport clothes, outings etc. Primary school pupils will get a list of what they need to purchase before the beginning of the school year. Often the school day ends at 1 pm. The city offers day care (Kinderhort) for the rest of the day in which time lunch is eaten, homework is supervised and group activities are organized. The Kinderhort is not free of charge.

In their final year of Grundschule students are tested to see if they will attend a University-oriented high school (Gymnasium). This will lead on to  A-level or Advanced Placement type exams (Abitur) after class twelve.

If students do not make the cut into Gymnasium they will attend a more vocationally-oriented school either a Realschule or a Hauptschule. Families may select the secondary school they wish to attend.

Universities are either free or extremely low-cost in Germany. Many Universities offer both undergraduate and graduate programs in English.

There are a number of private schools in Germany as well as schools offering the International Baccalaureate program. Despite its reputation for rigorous and unbending academics, Germany has championed the Waldorf-Steiner educational philosophy and you can find these alternative schools in most communities.

It's quite common for students in high school to spend a year or longer attending an English language school abroad either as a boarder or as a home-stay student. This is becoming rarer, as the high school system had moved from 9 years (G-9) to eight years (G-8) to be more like other European countries.

Unlike the US or UK systems, German students are not under pressure to secure a University place in the last year of high school or by age 18/19 and they tend to attend University later, and for longer, than in other countries.

For information about educational options in Karlsruhe click here.