Best age to start secondary school in Germany

In German, there is no difference in the curriculum between 8 and 9 years, only in the urgency of the courses. Students enter secondary school from Year 5 onwards. The first two years are the Orientation Stage, where students experience a jump from primary school to secondary school. The true secondary stage is about six to seven years, from Grade 7 to Grade 12 or 13.

International students are not eligible at any age or grade level. Germany restricts international students to be at least 14 years old at the time of entry and to have completed Grade 8 (Form 2) and be ready to enter Grade 9 in Germany. Many parents are worried about their young children and want to wait until they are older before allowing them to go abroad independently. International students can only apply to German schools for three to four years, depending on their academic performance and ability to apply for a place in one of the grades from Grade 9 to Grade 11 or 12. The vast majority of secondary schools do not readily accept interns in the last two years of secondary school because these two years are the preparatory years for the Abitur (university entrance examination) and the performance in these two years directly affects the Abitur score.

Unlike the DSE, IB and A-Levels, the Abitur is not only the final exam, but also the last two years of secondary school, and is scored on a weighted basis. This grading method reduces the pressure on students in the university entrance examination and makes it easier to observe the stability of students’ academic performance, although the university entrance examination is still important because it has the highest weighting. In order to provide a stable environment for Abitur candidates to prepare for the exams in a familiar learning mode, German secondary schools do not randomly accept new students in these two important years.

Hong Kong students who are interested in studying in German secondary schools can apply after completing Form 4 or Form 5 at the latest, and enter a two-year university entrance examination preparation programme in Germany. If they miss this golden opportunity, they will have to wait for the DSE to apply for a German university directly afterwards. Parents need to plan and arrange the study plan with their children as early as possible to help them set clear goals.

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Alby W. S. Wong

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