INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS & OTHER SCHOOLING OPTIONS FOR EXPAT CHILDREN IN BERLIN

Pic by Rainer Sturm/PIXELIO

That Berlin is a multicultural city is evident in the many options for bilingual childcare and schooling. In almost every neighborhood there are several child care centers and kindergartens with a bilingual language concept, mostly based on immersion - and there are a number of languages available. The range of bilingual or international primary and secondary schools is less extensive but is still considerable.

Creches & Kindergartens (taking children from 1 to 6 years old)*

Most of the child care centers, kindergartens and primary schools listed below offer so-called language immersion programs.  This means that there are two caretakers, one speaking English (or the institute’s designated language) and the other speaking German. German is integrated into daily life, while the language of communication, or immersion, is English (or Spanish, Turkish, French, Polish, etc.). Children have contact with both languages for approximately the same amount of time. The concept is designed for German children as well as for children with a bilingual background.

Berlin is also one of the top cities in Germany with regard to childcare for toddlers, and most kindergartens offer a daycare group for children starting at either 1 or 2 years old.


 

Primary schools (for children 6 to 12 years old)*

According to German law, you are required to enroll your child in school by the time he/she reaches six years of age. Berlin offers a vast landscape of primary schools offering bilingual or multilingual programs.  English, Russian, Polish, French, and Spanish are just some of the languages available, making it relatively easy to find a school where your child is exposed to his/her mother tongue.

Classes are mostly offered following the immersion concept, with native speakers teaching courses in German as well as in the students’ native language. All primary schools offer some form of afternoon childcare, taking into consideration the needs of parents who work. Some of the schools are private and require a tuition fee.

Generally, first and second graders are taught in combination classes, and the subjects are flexible, as educators assume that pupils of this age have very different skill levels. Over the course of the school year, teachers set up smaller working groups to respond to students’ progress and needs, enabling educators to help children explore and expand their skills on a more personalized basis.

Berlin has adopted a concept which has long been discussed in the rest of Germany: the timing of the transition between primary and secondary school. In contrast to other German states, where children attend primary school up to age 10, in Berlin and Brandenburg children attend primary school until age 12 (grade 6) and only then are evaluated regarding the best secondary schooling options. This is especially helpful for children who tend to be "late" developers.


 

Secondary schools (for children from 13 to 19 years old)*

After students graduate from primary school, there are three types of secondary schooling options in Berlin:

  • Integrated secondary schools ("Integrierte Sekundärschule") - designed as preparation for university or vocational training
  • High schools ("Gymnasiums") - designed as preparation for university education
  • Private foreign schools

Students who attend integrated secondary school or high school graduate with all of the available graduation certificates in Germany: Hauptschulabschluss, Realschulabschluss and Abitur. Depending on their individual profile, students can also graduate with an International Baccalaureate (IB) certificate or the foreign equivalent. Private foreign schools usually offer graduation certificates in accordance with the educational norms of their respective countries.

In a written evaluation at the end of a student’s primary school education, the primary school recommends the type of secondary school best suited to the student: an integrated secondary school or a high school. This recommendation is based on student performance, learning skills, and student preferences as well as matching offers from the different types of schools.

Parents are free to choose their child’s secondary school, which can be located in their district of residence or another district. It is important to consider, however, that schools sometimes receive more applications than they have space for. In this case, they make their admissions decisions based on a student’s distance from the school and whether they have siblings already attending the school.

While you have the freedom to select where your child attends school, it is important to consider the primary school’s evaluation to ensure that your child's capabilities match the secondary school’s requirements.  

For example, if you register your child at a high school (Gymnasium) despite a recommendation for an integrated secondary school, you must attend an additional consultation at the high school. In this case, it is up to you to make an appointment with the school(s) of your choice. In an interview, the school's admissions officer or the headmaster will discuss the school's expectations and requirements in more detail and complete a form verifying your participation in the consultation. This form must be submitted to all the schools to which your child is applying.

* We try to keep this page up-to-date, however, whether a creche group is opened or not depends very much on the number of children applying for one and the availability of a teacher.  For toddlers, it is therefore recommended to give all Kitas a call in case something changed.