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Germany Education Facts


The German states decide for themselves on educational issues, with the exception of practical vocational training. The school system therefore exhibits major regional differences in curricula, degrees and forms of schooling. There are few private schools.

School duty begins at the age of six and comprises twelve years. The first four years of school are the same for everyone. Then the grades, possibly together with the parents’ wishes, determine which of three alternatives to choose: a five-year general school (Hauptschule) with a focus on basic knowledge, followed by three years at a vocational school interspersed with apprenticeships at companies; a six-year realschule (Realschule), which provides qualification for further studies in, among other things, technology and administration, or a college preparatory high school. The high school students, and students with good results in the Haupt- and Realschule, who want to continue to higher education then undergo written and oral exams for the student degree (das Abitur). A fourth educational alternative has existed since the 1980s, especially in states governed by social democrats; a cohesive unit school (Gesamtschule) with elements from all three educational lines. In these schools going vanli g of a teaching all day, unlike in many other schools that only have classes in the morning. Students who do not reach the goals of teaching may have to go through a school year.

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Nearly half of all students choose a vocational preparation course that combines school and work practice. In Germany there is also a long tradition of an apprenticeship system and it is possible, for example, to learn health care and physiotherapy by doing internships instead of obtaining a formal education.

Higher studies are conducted at universities and colleges focused on technology, commerce and more. Even young people with degrees from Hauptschule and Realschule can apply to certain colleges. Germany’s oldest university was founded in Heidelberg in 1386.

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Proportion of children starting primary school

98.8 percent (2016)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

12 (2016)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

11.0 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

11.0 percent (2015)



AKK succeeds Merkel as CDU leader

December 7

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer becomes new party leader for the Christian Democrats (CDU) after Angela Merkel. That is clear since Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is called AKK because of his long, hard-to-pronounce name, defeated the more conservatively oriented lawyer Friedrich Merz. AKK wins by barely a margin in a party vote with 517 of 999 votes against 482 for Merz. Kramp-Karrenbauer stands close to Merkel politically and is the one Merkel advocated as his successor. Until now, AKK has been CDU’s party secretary – a post to which she was hand picked by Merkel this spring. Before that, AKK was head of government in the state of Saarland.

Demonstrations against coal power

1 December

Demonstrations against Germany’s use of coal power are being held in various parts of the country before the opening of the UN Climate Summit in the Polish city of Katowice. In Cologne, 10,000–20000 people demonstrate, and in Berlin, 16,000 are reported to have participated in marches, while the police estimate the figure to be 5000. Coal still accounts for close to 40 percent of energy production in the country.


Merkel plans to retire

October 29th

Angela Merkel announces she will not run as party leader for the Christian Democrats in the party congress in early December. She is withdrawing her candidacy as a result of the Christian Democrats’ decline in the Hesse state election. On the other hand, she is prepared to remain as Chancellor until the next election in 2021.

New election defeat for CDU and SPD in Hesse

October 28

Both the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats go back sharply in the state elections in Hesse. Both parties are returning by about eleven percentage points compared to the 2013 election. CDU will remain the largest party with 27 percent of the vote and 40 seats. The SPD and the Greens both receive 29 seats. The AFD is sitting in the state parliament for the first time with 19 seats.

Germany slows arms exports to Saudi Arabia

22 October

Germany is suspending its planned arms exports to Saudi Arabia for the time being. The reason is the death of Saudi regime critic Jamal Khashoggi – he died under unclear circumstances at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. Recently, Germany approved exports of military equipment to Saudi Arabia worth € 416 million in 2018, about SEK 4.5 billion. Exports from Germany to Saudi Arabia have mainly included patrol boats.

CSU backs big in Bavaria

October 13

The CDU’s sister party in Bavaria, CSU, is making a historic loss in the state election. The party loses more than 10 percentage points compared to 2013, but still becomes the largest party with 85 out of 205 seats in the state parliament. CSU is losing its absolute majority and the dominance it has had in Parliament since the 1960s. But it will be able to continue in office if it finds a partner. The SPD also declines sharply and slides down from second to fifth place with 22 seats. The AFD also receives 22 seats and thus takes its seat in its fifteenth state parliament.

Germany extends border controls

October 12

The German government extends border controls at the borders with Austria and Denmark for another six months. Germany was one of the EU countries that introduced controls in 2015 in the passport-free Schengen area as a result of the EU refugee crisis. According to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the reason for the decision was that many migrants still managed to cross the borders illegally.


Merkel and Erdoğan try to heal open wounds

September 29th

Demonstrations are held both for and against Turkey’s President Erdoğan as he inaugurates one of Europe’s largest mosques in Cologne as a round-up on a state visit. Turkey, whose economy has deteriorated, wants better relations with Europe’s strongest business community. Germany, for its part, is interested in Turkey being able and willing to keep its agreement with the EU on restricting refugee flows. Chancellor Angela Merkel says when they have been hit that “deep disagreement” remains in issues such as human rights. Germany has criticized mass arrests in Turkey, while Erdoğan is unhappy that Germany does not release terror-accused Kurds and supporters of the Gülen movement, which he accuses of a coup attempt.

German police chief kidnapped murder suspect

September 27th

A criminal investigation is underway against Germany’s national police chief Dieter Romann, after he personally retrieved a murder suspect in Iraq from Kurdistan. The Iraqi, who has been seeking asylum in Germany, has admitted the murder of a 14-year-old girl and is also suspected of raping an 11-year-old. He was arrested in northern Iraq in June by Kurdish forces, who handed him over to Romann at Erbil’s airport. No extradition request had then been made to the Baghdad government.

Button on Merkel’s nose

September 25

Chancellor Merkel faces a setback when the CDU and CSU will vote for group leaders in the Bundestag. Instead of appointing Merkel’s candidate and trusted Volker Kauder, who led both parties in the Bundestag for 13 years, the rather unknown member Ralph Brinkhaus is elected new group leader. The vote is seen as a sign that the Christian Democrats no longer have full confidence in Merkel, whose reputation has also been marred by the trips surrounding the dismissal of the former intelligence chief.

The Catholic Church apologizes for sexual abuse

September 25

A research report on behalf of the German Bishops’ Conference shows that over 3,600 children, mainly boys, have been sexually abused and exploited by German Catholic priests between 1946 and 2014. According to the information, the German Catholic Church apologizes to the victims and promises that the perpetrators will be made to answer.

The intelligence chief is dismissed after a government dispute

September 18

The head of the country’s intelligence service BFV Hans-Georg Maassen leaves his post after being caught in blustery weather after questioning the authenticity of video footage from the public showing right-wing extremists attacking and chasing immigrants in the city of Chemniz. Maassen was also criticized for having had meetings with right-wing extremist groups and representatives of the AFD. SPD leader Andrea Nahles demanded that Maassen be fired, which however, the Mass’s chief of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, opposed. In the end, a compromise was made in an attempt to resolve the crisis. According to this, Massen would leave his post, but at the same time be promoted to Deputy Head of the Ministry of the Interior. After strong criticism from the opposition and agitated reactions from the public, it all ended with the mass not getting a permanent managerial post but instead becoming adviser to Seehofer.


Right-wing extremists cause rattles

August 28th

For a few days, right-wing extremists gather to protest in the city of Chemnitz in the state of Saxony against the killing of a German man in a quarrel with two men of foreign background. The protesters are reportedly harassing and chasing people who are perceived as foreigners. On one occasion, the right-wing extremists are said to be close to 6,000, while around 1500 left-wing activists are holding counter-demonstrations. Police in the city find it difficult to control the protests and are forced to call for reinforcements. Chancellor Merkel condemns the violence and hate propaganda. Right-wing demonstrations and counter-demonstrations by leftist groups continue for a few days thereafter and the violence leads to people being injured.

New asylum handling is being tried in Bavaria

1 August

Seven special facilities for asylum seekers open in Bavaria. They are part of the German Interior Minister Seehofer’s comprehensive plan to change asylum management. The purpose of these asylum centers is for asylum seekers to stay at the same place throughout the asylum process, from the time the application is submitted and up to a decision. Waiting times should thus be reduced and expulsions of those who reject their application should be facilitated. People who are denied a residence permit must be sent back to their home country directly from the center. Seehofer’s hope is that more German states will follow Bavaria’s initiative. As the centers are opened, changed family reunification rules for refugee families will also come into force. Refugees with a limited residence permit should be able to reunite with their families. Each month, around 1,000 refugees will be selected, who may be reunited. The possibility was stopped in 2016 by the German government in connection with the wave of refugees.


Germany removes sanctions against Turkey

July 21st

According to the government, a restriction on export guarantees to Turkey will not be renewed. In addition, the German Foreign Ministry removes a text warning Germany to travel to Turkey because of the risk of being arrested. The changes in the German attitude have taken place since Ankara has lifted the state of emergency that prevailed in the country for two years.

Nynazist gets life imprisonment for racist murder

July 11

Beate Zschäpe was a member of the Nazi terror cell National Socialists Underground (NSU). Between 2000 and 2007, they murdered nine migrants and one police officer and carried out two bomb attacks and several bank robberies. Today, only Beate remains alive since the two other members Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos committed suicide after a failed bank robbery in 2011.

Trump is pushing Merkel over NATO

July 11

President Trump picks up leaders of other NATO countries at the two-day summit in Brussels. Trump is demanding that members increase their contributions to two percent of GDP now immediately instead of the year 2024 as planned. He also demands that all countries in the long term allocate 4 percent of GDP to NATO. Trump is particularly reliant on Germany contributing 1.24 percent of the US’s 3.50 percent. Citing Germany buying gas from Russia, Trump is accusing Germany of being Russia’s “prisoner”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel replies that she knows very well what it means to live under Russian domination and that she is glad that reunited Germany has the opportunity to make its own independent decisions. After two days of negotiations, Trump claims that all countries have agreed to increase their contributions and that NATO is now “much, much stronger than two days ago”. According to Trump, US involvement in NATO remains very strong, mainly due to the other member states pledging to pay more.

The government parties agree on a new migration agreement

July 5

Now the Social Democrats (SPD) also approve the migration agreement that Angela Merkel signed with her Minister of the Interior CSU politician Horst Seehofer in early July. However, some modifications are made. SPD leader Andrea Nahles says that Germany will not act on its own, but that steps must be taken to speed up the process of sending people who have applied for asylum in another EU country back (according to the EU’s Dublin Regulation,a person fleeing to Europe seeking protection in the first safe country they come to). The leaders of the CDU, CSU and SPD agree that no so-called transit centers should be established instead, asylum cases will be handled at police stations. Seehofer has backed from the proposal that asylum seekers registered in another EU country should be able to be rejected directly at the border following pressure from Merkel, Italy and Austria.

CSU remains in government after agreement with Merkel

July 3

The urgent crisis for the German government to crack seems to be over. This since Chancellor Angela Merkel and Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer from CSU have concluded an agreement on migration policy. The agreement means that checks will be strengthened along the border with Austria in order to make it possible to reject people who have applied for asylum in another EU country. National transit centers should also be set up where these asylum seekers are to stay, pending their return to the EU country where they first applied for asylum (which is about 15 percent today). It is not yet clear how the Social Democrats, who are also part of the government, adhere to the agreement. The Social Democrats have previously opposed further tightening of the asylum rules.

Merkel’s migration policy is supported by the CDU

July 1st

At a party meeting, the CDU adopts a resolution supporting Merkel’s line on the issue of migration and the agreement recently agreed by EU countries. The big question now is how the CDU’s coalition partner CSU, led by Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer, will react. Seehofer has threatened to put in place plans to start rejecting refugees at the border already registered in another EU country. To appease him and the CSU, Merkel points out that bilateral agreements have been reached with Spain, Greece and another twelve other EU countries that they will take back asylum seekers. Merkel also wants to set up special reception centers for asylum seekers already registered in another EU country, pending their return.


EU agreement on migration

June 29

The EU countries, after lengthy negotiations, finally agree on a compromise, which means that EU countries should be able to form special reception centers for migrants coming via the Mediterranean. In addition, it is necessary to investigate whether similar centers can be formed outside the EU in North Africa. However, many issues are left unresolved after the EU meeting. It is unclear which EU countries are willing to host reception centers and there is still disagreement about how asylum seekers who are deemed to have asylum reasons should be allocated among Member States. Chancellor Merkel says, however, that she is satisfied with the agreement and sees it as a step towards a jointly functioning system for receiving asylum seekers in the EU.

The issue of migration triggers the government crisis

June 18

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer from CSU is trying to introduce new border controls as part of a comprehensive plan to redevelop the asylum system. He wants, among other things, refugees already registered in another EU country to be rejected at the border. Chancellor Merkel has rejected the proposal because it could jeopardize the EU’s immigration system and threaten the free movement of the EU. Not least if several EU countries implement the same rules as Seehofer proposes. None of the parties wanted to give in and the coalition government looks dangerously close to cracking, but Merkel is finally able to convince Seehofer that they will await an EU summit where decisions on the entire Union’s asylum policy will be taken before Germany implements any change on its own.

Increased border cooperation with Austria

June 3

German police in Bavaria will cooperate more with Austrian police on the control of the common border. Even in the Brenner Pass in the Alps, connecting Italy and Austria, the two countries’ police forces will cooperate more. The purpose is to improve law enforcement and prevent illegal immigration. Migrants who enter the country illegally often hide in wagons on freight trains passing through the Brenner Pass.



SPD gets its first female party leader

April 22

Former Labor Minister Andrea Nahles, also group leader of the party in the Bundestag, is elected new party leader for the SPD. She becomes the party’s first female leader. She defeats another woman, Simone Lange, with two-thirds of the vote, but it is a worse result than many judges had expected.


Russian diplomats are expelled

March 27th

Germany expels four Russian diplomats as a result of a nerve poisoning attack on a Russian former spy and his daughter in the UK in early March. It is taking place in concerted action with some 20 countries, mainly in the EU, in solidarity with the British government accusing Russia of being behind the attack. In total, over 100 Russian diplomats are expelled, 60 of whom are from the United States. Moscow denies all involvement in the poison attack and threatens with countermeasures.

Merkel’s new government takes office

14th of March

The Bundestag chooses Angela Merkel as Chancellor with the numbers 364-315. She is then formally appointed to the post by the country’s president. Her new government is joining Heiko Maas as Foreign Minister, Olaf Scholz as Minister of Finance, Horst Seehofer as Minister of the Interior and Ursula von der Leyen as Minister of Defense.

Eight right-wing extremists receive prison sentences for refugee attacks

March 7

Two men from the city of Freital in eastern Germany are sentenced by a Dresden court to ten years in prison after forming a terrorist group which, among other things, carried out blast attacks in 2015. Another six people receive prison sentences of between four and eight years. The attacks have been targeted at refugee homes and left-wing politicians’ homes and offices with the help of powerful fireworks pieces purchased in the Czech Republic.

Ready for new German government

March 5th

Two-thirds of the SPD members vote yes to the party forming government together with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. After five months of negotiations, all the time with the threat of new elections looming in the background, it is now clear that Germany will soon have a new large coalition government between the SPD and the CDU / CSU.


IT attacks against the Ministry of Defense and Home Affairs

February 28

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry confirms information that the German intelligence service is investigating hacker attacks against the Ministry of Defense and the Interior. Malicious programs should have attacked the data networks, which was discovered in December 2017. A Russian hacker group called Fancy Bear or APT28 is believed to be behind the IT attack.

Parties agree on government cooperation

February 7

The Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats are now agreeing to form a joint government after they have negotiated both the policy to be pursued in a number of areas – from arms exports and immigration to climate issues – as well as which party should receive which ministerial posts. Before a new coalition government can be formed, however, the SPD members need to give their approval. A postal vote will be conducted within the next few weeks among some 460,000 SPD members. Martin Schulz announces shortly after the negotiations have concluded that he will step down as party leader for the SPD.


Merkel wants to strengthen EU foreign policy

January 24th

At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Chancellor Merkel calls for a more unified and clearer foreign policy on the part of the EU. She believes that the Union has not acted sufficiently forcefully and coordinated in the war in Syria, crises in Africa and in the face of threats from the Islamic State.

Record in arms sales

January 24th

An investigation by the German state TV and radio company ARD shows that the coalition government between the Christian Democrats and the SPD has exported weapons for a larger sum than any other German government in modern times. The difference has been particularly significant when it comes to exports to non-EU or NATO countries. Under the current government, these exports have been in excess of EUR 14 billion. Compared to Merkel’s previous government (2010-2013), this is an increase of 47 percent.

The AFD is given the chair of Parliament’s Budget Committee

January 23

The fact that the AFD, which previously had difficulty obtaining important information in Parliament, manages to take up the powerful position of budget committee leader is due in large part to the fact that the SPD and the Christian Democrats appear to be on the way to forming a joint government. If this locks, the AFD will become the largest opposition party in the Bundestag.

The SPD votes yes to government negotiations

January 21st

With little margin, the SPD agrees to start official negotiations with Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc. The fact that just over half of the SPD participants at the party congress vote yes is seen as a sign that there is dissatisfaction with the actions of the SPD leader Martin Schulz, not least that the SPD is considered to have received too few of their own heart issues in the joint agreement with the CDU / CSU, which will form the basis for the negotiations.

German industry calls for mass investment to meet climate targets

January 19

The German Industry Federation BDI publishes a new report, which concludes that investment of EUR 1.5 trillion is needed for Germany to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent compared to 1990 levels. To achieve the even higher climate target of a 95- Percentage reduction requires investments of the equivalent of 2.3 billion euros.

Special item is set up against anti-Semitism

January 19

The Bundestag voted yes to appoint a reporter to work against anti-Semitism. Among other things, a special strategy will be devised that will stop crimes with anti-Semitic background. The Christian Democrats, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP are behind the proposal, which is supported by the AFD. The left votes against. The party believes that the bill puts too much emphasis on the migration from the Middle East and North Africa is one of the problems behind new anti-Semitism, although it is also mentioned that right-wing groups are mainly behind anti-Semitic crimes. According to the Interior Ministry, right-wing extremist views were still behind 94 percent of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the country in 2016.

AFD presents immigration-critical bill

January 19

The AFD, the first right-wing party to have its seat in the German Bundestag, presents its first bill in Parliament. Not surprisingly, this is a law that strikes against refugees. Specifically, the party proposes that the current stop for immigration of relatives for refugees – those who have received subsidiary protection, ie shorter residence permits in the country due to circumstances in their home country that make it dangerous for them to return – should become a permanent law.

The number of asylum seekers is falling

January 17

According to the State Agency for Migrants and Refugees (BAMF), 186 644 people sought asylum in Germany in 2017. That was just over a hundred thousand fewer than the year before. The reason for the decline in asylum applications, not least compared to the record year 2015, is according to Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, mainly that the roads used by the refugees to enter the EU via the Balkans and Mediterranean countries have been closed.

Breakthrough in government negotiations

January 12

Finally, the Christian Democrats CDU / CSU and the Social Democratic SPD agree on a common platform for continued negotiations to form a joint government. Not least, the parties succeeded in agreeing on refugee policy, where they agreed to limit the reception of asylum seekers to around 200,000 per year, a claim from CSU that the SPD previously opposed.

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