How to Find a Good School in Berlin
If you're considering moving to Berlin with children, one of the most important considerations for you would probably be their education.
In Germany the responsibility for provision of state education lies with the states. Until recently the system was widely regarded as outdated, despite 99% literacy rates, and Berlin made reforming moves in 2010/11. The previous secondary school system which included four different types of secondary school was simplified in order to combat inequality.
There over 900 different public and private schools in Berlin. Making the right choice for your child will depend on their age, German language proficiency and the length of your intended stay in Germany.
State Schools in Berlin
The state school system includes six years of elementary schooling where students are taught together in Grades 1 and 2 before moving into traditional year groups in Grade 3, when they also begin learning a foreign language.
There are two types of elementary school: open and compulsory all day schools. The former have days which run from 7.30am to 1.30pm with optional tutoring/supervision before and after school while the latter have days which run from 8am to 4pm for four or five days a week.
Children are guaranteed a place at their local elementary school. Schools hold registration days for six year olds about six months before the start of the new school year.
There are also two kinds of secondary school since the 2010/11 reforms.
Integrated Secondary Schools are the most common type, with school days running from 7.30am to 4pm. They offer different ability streams up to Grade 10 where three different types of academic and vocational exam certificates are available to school completers. Students can stay on for another three years to take their Abitur which provides access to tertiary education.
Gymnasiums are more like English Grammar Schools or US prep-Schools. They are more geared towards academic achievement and gaining Abiturs which point in a particular career direction.
Bilingual State Schools in Berlin
There are also 17 elementary schools and 13 secondary schools in Berlin which offer bilingual education from the 1st Grade. Languages supported include English, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Turkish.
Bilingual state schools offering places to english speaking students include Berlin Cosmopolitan School (Grades pre-School to 11), Quentin Blake School (Grades 1 to 6), Charles Dickens School (Grades 1 to 6) and the Nelson Mandela School (Grades 1 to 13). Places at all bilingual schools are limited and oversubscribed. Applications are made through the local authority (Bezirksamt).
Private Schools in Berlin
There are at least 10 private primary schools and 4 private secondary schools in Berlin. You can find out more about them via the Association of German Private Schools (Verband Deutscher Privateschuleverbände).
Typical school fees are around €5,000 per year for tuition - more for bilingual schools.
International Schools in Berlin
The following are all international schools in Berlin.
Berlin International School - located in Schmargendorf this school offers bilingual English-German schooling from first Grade through to IGCSEs and then the International Baccalaureate.
Berlin British School - located in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf this school offers schooling in English (with German language tuition), to the British Curriculum, from pre-school years to Grade 13. Tuition fees from €3,685 to €14,083 per year.
Berlin Brandenburg International School - located in Kleinmachnow, to the southwest of Berlin, this is an international boarding school which offers the International Baccalaureate program from pre-school. Tuition fees rise to €17,100 while boarding fees (Grades 9-12 only) are an additional €17,800.
John F. Kennedy School - located in Shönow, to the southwest of the city, this school offers bicultural German-American tuition from Kindergarten to High School. Students work towards a US HIgh School Diploma as well as their Abiturs.