primary school

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lessons on the first day of school at a primary school in Bavaria

In the Federal Republic of Germany, elementary school refers to the schools that children in grades 1 to 4 attend (only in the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, grades 1 to 6). They are usually around six to eleven (or six to thirteen) years old. From the end of the 1960s, the primary school emerged from the lower grades of the elementary school , while the independent secondary school with grades 5 to 9 was organizationally separated from it. In contrast to the non-compulsory attendance of kindergarten or preschool , the general compulsory school attendance applies to primary school . In 2017 there were 15,465 primary schools in Germany.


Elementary school stalls for the Wolhynia Germans in Linstow
1970s style elementary school in Treia .

Before and in the imperial era until 1918, the primary school in the German-speaking area was called elementary school as well as elementary school . This designation is still used today in English as elementary school and in Italian as scuola elementare . In Germany, the compulsory primary school for all children was introduced for the first time by the Reichsgrundschulgesetz (see also Reichsschulkonferenz 1920 ). The mostly only three-class pre-schools for middle and higher schools, which mostly children from higher classes attended, ceased to exist by 1925. Such schools are forbidden by the Basic Law Art. 7 (6).


As a rule, grade classes are formed in primary school . In individual states such as North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Berlin, Brandenburg, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, however, educational policy initiatives aim to set up cross-year entry levels in grades 1 and 2, in which children from both grades should be taught together for up to three years. With a small number of students per year, so-called combined classes can also be formed, which combine other consecutive years.

A daily offer that includes at least five hours for all students is to be ensured in the Reliable Elementary School , which is offered in Lower Saxony, Bremen and Baden-Württemberg. The school offer in full half-day schools can also include four or four and a half hours in the 1st and 2nd school year. While in the full half-day school the students from the 1st to the 4th grade have 27.5 school hours per week, in the Reliable Elementary School there are 20 hours in the 1st grade, 22 hours in the 2nd grade, and 26 hours in 3rd and 4th grade. So that the children can stay in school from around 8 a.m. to around 1 p.m., the Reliable Primary School offers additional courses (supervision times). The care times are not supervised by teachers, but by cheaper pedagogical staff who are hired by the school within the framework of an hourly budget. At full half-day schools , care times are not necessary.

In elementary school are basic learning and working methods as well as mathematical , linguistic and sachunterrichtliche knowledge is taught that the foundation of secondary education in the secondary school , business school , junior high school , in school or in the comprehensive school place. In addition, aesthetic, cultural and often religious topics are also subjects of instruction.

As a rule, every school class has a class teacher ( class teacher principle ) who accompanies this class as long as possible throughout primary school and initially also teaches the majority of subjects because it is particularly important for children of primary school age to have a permanent reference person. This is often criticized for two reasons: On the one hand, elementary school teachers are often only trained in two subjects, which means that they may lack both technical and didactic knowledge in the other subjects (in North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, three subjects are compulsory). On the other hand, there is a strong correlation between the teaching methods of the teacher and the learning success of the students. The fact that most of the time one teacher teaches throughout the entire primary school period can have significant negative consequences for students in the event of a poorly teaching teacher or personal adjustment difficulties between teacher and student.

The range of subjects and the nomenclature in the respective federal states is different. Mathematics , German and general science are among the main subjects.

Elementary school districts

So far there are still so-called elementary school districts (also school districts ) in the federal states . According to their advocates, these districts should counteract the ghettoization of primary schools. In North Rhine-Westphalia the primary school districts were abolished on August 1, 2008. This means that parents can freely decide which school to send their children to. The municipalities may reintroduce the districts if necessary. Proponents of the primary school districts believe that the possibility of choosing a primary school other than the “locally responsible” primary school will bring the social selection process forward and promote it. In North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, the model of the widespread denominational schools has existed since the state was founded , preferring to take in pupils according to religious affiliation, which can make access to certain schools difficult for Muslim children, for example ( segregation , educational disadvantage in the Federal Republic of Germany ).

Private primary schools

Classroom at the private Catholic primary school in Neumarkt in the Upper Palatinate.

A growing number of elementary schools are organized as private schools . In order to found a private primary school, a special educational interest for the public must be proven; their offer must go beyond the public schools in the respective region. Since 1990, private primary schools have increased, especially in East Germany.

Over 8 percent of the pupils at general education schools in eastern Germany attended a private primary school in 2016, in the west only a little over 3 percent. In 2011, 11.6% of all private schools were primary schools (a further 11.2% were free Waldorf schools , which cover all levels). According to the Federal Statistical Office , 3.5 percent of all primary schools in the old federal states were privately owned in 2010. In the new federal states their share was 10.4 percent. In 2000 the proportion in Germany as a whole was still 2 percent.

Learning content and learning objectives

The learning content in the main subjects of mathematics, German, and subject teaching are:

Since Christian religious instruction is guaranteed in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (GG) as a subject in agreement with the religious communities (churches), it is also offered at primary schools (with the exceptions of the federal states according to the Bremen clause ). Non-participation is possible, teachers may not be forced to do so. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania a framework plan for philosophizing with children was drawn up.

Other subjects that are only partially taught by specialist teachers are:

  • Music (voice, Orff instruments )
  • Art (graphic basics for drawing, but also free expression in painting)
  • Sports
  • Media education (partially introduced): Working independently on the computer and discovering new media. Primary school students take part in regular IT lessons from the 4th grade . The first steps are taken from the 2nd grade. You will learn how to use the hardware and software as well as how to write with word processing programs, how to paint with simple graphics applications and how to work on the Internet . When working on the Internet (public space), attention is drawn to the dangers. Hort children get through Hort offers the opportunity to engage in the media room (PC) independently under professional guidance. This promotes several skills at the same time.

Debate on the promotion and selection of school children after primary school

The primary school is currently the only type of school in Germany in which (almost) all children of a year have to study together. The advantages of learning together are seen primarily on the cultural and social level. At the performance level, no disadvantage of learning together can be proven. The IGLU study assigns good effectiveness to the German primary school; the performance spread between the children is comparatively low. The top performance is well represented, even if not as pronounced as in the top countries in the IGLU ranking.

Some education experts interpreted the PISA studies in such a way that learning together would also be beneficial for children in secondary school , and rekindled the long-standing debate in Germany on structural reform of the German school system . Among other things, an expansion of the primary school, for example to the 6th (as is currently common in Berlin and Brandenburg) or to the 8th school year, is required. In Berlin and Brandenburg, however, there is already a differentiation between German, mathematics and English in the orientation level up to grade 6, so that there is hardly any difference in content to the integrated comprehensive school . The introduction of the second foreign language from the 6th grade creates additional differences in many federal states.

Several other studies support this requirement . The International Elementary School Reading Study (IGLU) found that elementary school students performed much better internationally than 15-year-olds. One after the other, the second IGLU study, the country comparison of the second PISA study and the long-term study of the AWO study found that regularly pupils with non-academic or financially disadvantaged parents received a lower school career recommendation from the teachers despite equally good or better grades. The Kultusministerkonferenz (KMK) then only saw a need for action in raising the awareness of teachers, but not in changing the time of selection.

Cornelia Kristen (2002) stated that early selection is detrimental to foreign children. If they did the same, they received worse school grades and they had to attend schools that were not challenging. A regional study from 2013 shows for Bavaria that the performance of secondary and secondary school pupils declined after the separation from sixth to fourth grade. According to this, the students lack the incentive to perform because “the die has already been cast”. Alba et al. a. (1994) found that Turkish and Italian migrant children in particular did poorly in the German education system and did not perform well in line with their intelligence. Greek migrants, on the other hand, did well. In a study of guest workers at VW in the 1960s and 1970s (2012), the historians Hedwig Richter and Ralf Richter showed why the Italian children, along with the Turkish children, fared so badly in contrast to those of other immigrant groups, and refer, among other things, to those at the time still high illiteracy rate of the corresponding immigrant groups, which - as always with massive educational deficits - has a strong impact on the next generation.

On October 5, 2012, the first nationwide performance comparison of primary schools was presented at the Conference of Ministers of Education in Berlin. The Institute for Quality Development in Education , which carried out the comparison, examined the performance of more than 30,000 children from over 1,300 German primary and special schools in the 16 federal states. The children from southern and eastern German countries did the best; the city-states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen were the losers in the comparison. The study made it clear that in addition to the educational policy of the federal states, social origin still has a strong influence on the children's learning success.

The German Association of Philologists advocates retention of the four-year elementary school and a selection of performance from the age of ten among the teachers' associations. He is of the opinion that a differentiation of the educational programs for the weaker as well as the higher-performing students is more advantageous and leads to more educational equality, because everyone can be better supported according to their individual personality profile and their learning speed, but a longer joint lesson hinders precisely this. The integrative school systems of some federal states also did not show better results.

A comparison of grades and transitions to lower secondary level

According to the IGLU study, children from the so-called "lower" classes of origin ("working class") are less and less likely to receive a recommendation from teachers for high school if they have the same reading and cognitive skills. In 2016, with the same skills, children from the "upper" service classes were 3.37 times more likely than children from the "working class" to receive a recommendation from a grammar school. This means that children with the same skills are increasingly disadvantaged according to the IGLU study with "lower" origins.

Relative chances of teachers having a grammar school preference for children from the service class ( EGP I and II) compared with children from the working class (EGP V, VI and VII) in IGLU 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
2001 4.18 3.49 2.63
2006 4.06 3.40 2.72
2011 4.48 4.07 3.14
2016 5.13 4.76 3.37
Explanation of the models:

Model I: Without control of covariates.
Model II: control of cognitive abilities.
Model III: Control of cognitive skills and reading competence (international scaling).

The grades are the most important factor for the type of school attended, but not the only one. German children attend secondary school less often than foreigners, even if their grades are equally bad. Instead, they go to secondary school more often. When transitioning to high school, however, there is no longer any effect of nationality. The fact that fewer foreigners than Germans attend grammar school is due to the grades.

Above all, children with a migration background have poor chances of going to a grammar school or junior high school if they attend school with many other children of this origin. At such schools they perform worse and achieve lower grades than at socially more heterogeneous schools. In view of the pronounced ethnic segregation tendencies in the German primary school system, this result is of particular importance. Because especially in segregated school systems, immigrant children are particularly likely to end up in elementary school classes, whose student body is composed of relatively homogeneous students at a low level.

Education policy representation of teachers

The Education and Science Union (GEW) as the DGB trade union and the Education and Training Association (VBE) as a member of the German Association of Civil Servants represent the interests of primary school teachers as trade unions in the area of ​​collective bargaining and in educational policy discussions. There are also denominational ( VkdL in the CGB ) and other associations ( Waldorf teachers , teachers of the Montessori schools ). A current point of contention is the (costly for state budgets and private schools) wages of primary school teachers at the same level as other school teachers, whose introduction Berlin is the pacemaker in Germany.


See also

Portal: Education  - Overview of Wikipedia content on education


  • Jürgen Reyer: Introduction to the history of kindergarten and elementary school. Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn 2006, ISBN 3-7815-1442-0 .
  • Astrid Kaiser, Silke Pfeiffer: Elementary school education in modules. Schneider Verlag, Baltmannsweiler 2007, ISBN 978-3-8340-0286-0 .
  • Günther Schorch: Study book primary school pedagogy. Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn 2007, ISBN 978-3-8252-2951-1 .

Web links

Commons : Primary schools in Germany  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Elementary school  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Statista: General education schools by type of school. Retrieved August 28, 2018 .
  2. Reichsgrundschulgesetz of April 28, 1920
  4. The work in the primary school ( Memento from March 31, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), decree of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Education of February 3, 2004, came into force on August 1, 2004
  5. a b Carola Sonnet: Private education for the little ones . In: Handelsblatt . January 25, 2013, p. 66 f .
  6. ^ Heinrich Böll Foundation, Prof. Koinzer: Private schools. August 1, 2016, p. Fig. 1 , accessed on August 28, 2018 .
  7. Framework plan for elementary school philosophizing with children. Retrieved July 6, 2019 .
  8. a b c Cornelia Kristen: Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium? Ethnic differences at the first educational transition. In: Cologne journal for sociology and social psychology. Vol. 54, Issue 3, 2002, pp. 534-552.
  9. CES ifo: Bavaria: Early division of secondary and secondary school students leads to falling school performance .
  10. ^ Richard D. Alba, Johann Handl, Walter Müller: Ethnic inequalities in the German education system. In: Cologne journal for sociology and social psychology. 46, No. 2, 1994, pp. 209-237.
  11. Hedwig Richter, Ralf Richter: The "guest worker" world. Life between Wolfsburg and Palermo. Schöningh, Paderborn 2012; Hedwig Richter, Ralf Richter: The victim plot. Problems and new fields of German labor migration research. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte . No. 1, Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, pp. 61–97, (PDF).
  12. Comparison of federal states: primary schools in the south are top, city states are behind. on, October 5, 2012.
  13. Key proposal on the school structure
  14. Ruven Stahns, Svenja Rieser and Eva-Maria Lankes: Classroom management, social climate and cognitive activation in German lessons in fourth grades, in: Anke Hußmann, Heike Wendt, Wilfried Bos, Albert Bremerich-Vos, Daniel Kasper, Eva-Maria Lankes, Nele McElvany , Tobias C. Stubbe, Renate Valtin (Eds.): IGLU 2016. Reading Skills of Primary School Children in Germany in International Comparison, p. 245
  15. Peter Rüesch: Does school play a role? School conditions of unequal educational opportunities for immigrant children. A multilevel analysis. Lang, Bern 1998.