Germany:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education
- Belgium (Flemish Community)
- Belgium (French Community)
- Belgium (German-Speaking Community)
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom (England)
- United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)
- United Kingdom (Scotland)
- United Kingdom (Wales)
Types of Institutions
Since 2012, in the majority of Länder the Allgemeine Hochschulreife can be obtained after the successful completion of 12 consecutive school years (eight-year Gymnasium). At Gesamtschulen the Gymnasium course of education will not, as a rule, be reduced to eight years.
Common principles for upper secondary education were laid down by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz – KMK) in the agreement on the structure of the gymnasiale Oberstufe in the upper secondary level (Vereinbarung zur Gestaltung der gymnasialen Oberstufe in der Sekundarstufe II) of July 1972, amended in June 2013.
The gymnasiale Oberstufe is divided up into a one-year introductory phase and a two-year qualification phase. Grade 10 may have a dual function as the final year of schooling in lower secondary education and the first year of schooling in the gymnasiale Oberstufe. At the eight-year Gymnasium, successful completion of grade 10 will entitle the pupil to enter the qualification phase of the gymnasiale Oberstufe. At the nine-year Gymnasium, successful completion of grade 10 will entitle the pupil to enter the introductory phase of the gymnasiale Oberstufe. Building on the foundations laid at lower secondary level, the classes in the qualification phase are usually structured in relation to half-year terms. Whilst still required to take certain subjects or subject combinations during the qualification phase, they now have scope for individual specialisation. Related subjects are grouped together under main areas. The three main areas with examples of subjects they include are listed below:
- languages, literature and the arts
- (e.g. German, foreign languages, fine art, music)
- social sciences
- (e.g. history, geography, philosophy, social studies/politics, economics)
- mathematics, natural sciences and technology
- (e.g. mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, information technology)
Every single pupil is required to study subjects from each of these three areas right up to the completion of the upper level of the Gymnasium, including Abitur examinations. Religious education in line with the provisions of the Land and sport are also compulsory. German, a foreign language, mathematics and physical education as well as, as a rule, history and one of the natural sciences must be taken throughout the qualification phase of the upper level of the Gymnasium and results must be taken into account in the certificate of the Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife (general higher education entrance qualification).
The subjects at the gymnasiale Oberstufe are taught at different levels of academic standards in accordance with the Uniform Examination Standards in the Abitur Examination (Einheitliche Prüfungsanforderungen in der Abiturprüfung – EPA) and, in the future, the educational standards for the Allgemeine Hochschulreife). They are divided in courses at a basic level of academic standards and courses at an increased level of academic standards. The courses at a basic level of academic standards teach the propaedeutics of scientific work, and the courses at an increased level of academic standards provide in-depth teaching of the propaedeutics of scientific work by way of specific examples. The courses at a basic level of academic standards in the subjects German, mathematics and foreign language comprise at least three weekly periods. The pupils are required to choose at least two subjects at an increased level of academic standards, comprising at least five weekly periods, or at least three subjects at an increased level of academic standards, comprising at least four weekly periods, one of which being either German, a foreign language, mathematics or a natural science. The Länder regulate the further details in their own responsibility. Generally, the pupils are required to take two foreign language courses during the introductory phase. Pupils who have not or not continuously been taught a second foreign language before entering the gymnasiale Oberstufe are required to take a second foreign language course throughout the gymnasiale Oberstufe. The four or five subjects of the Abitur examination must include:
- at least two subjects at an increased level of academic standards
- two of the following three subjects: German, foreign language or mathematics
- at least one subject from every main area of compulsory subjects (the Länder may decide at their own discretion whether or not religious education can represent the social sciences area)
The gymnasiale Oberstufe has also been established in other types of school in addition to the Gymnasien. In some Länder, these include the kooperative Gesamtschule, integrierte Gesamtschule and the Berufliches Gymnasium.
For the geographical accessibility of schools in the secondary sector, the information on the geographical accessibility of primary schools applies.
Admission Requirements and Choice of School
Admission to courses of general education at upper secondary level is based on leaving certificates and qualifications acquired at the end of lower secondary level. For the possibility of gaining admission into a specific school, see the section on the organisation of the lower secondary level. The admission requirements for the gymnasiale Oberstufe are set forth above.
Age Levels and Grouping of Pupils/Students
At the latest upon entrance into the gymnasiale Oberstufe, the pupils are no longer taught in annual classes. The class unit is replaced by a system of compulsory and elective subjects, with the possibility of individual specialisation. The gymnasiale Oberstufe is divided into a one-year introductory phase and a two-year qualification phase, whereby grade 10 may have a double function as last school year of the lower secondary level and first school year of the gymnasiale Oberstufe. During the qualification phase, courses are structured in half-year terms, defined thematically, and assigned to subjects to which specific curricula apply. The courses provided are principally divided up into different levels of academic standards: courses at a basic level of academic standards and courses at an increased level of academic standards. Within the scope of the relevant agreement of the Standing Conference, the responsibility for the organisation of lessons and for the design of the compulsory and elective subjects with the possibility of individual specialisation lies with the Länder. The above explanations regarding the gymnasiale Oberstufe equally apply to the Berufliche Gymnasien.
Organisation of the School Year
For the organisation of the school year in the secondary sector, the information on the organisation of the school year in the primary sector applies.
Organisation of the School Day and Week
There is no fixed end to teaching times at upper secondary level (Sekundarstufe II). The weekly instruction time at the gymnasiale Oberstufe usually is also 30 weekly periods which are taken within the framework of courses at a basic level of academic standards and of courses at an increased level of academic standards.
At the eight-year Gymnasium, the number of weekly periods at lower and upper secondary level is generally increased by two to four weekly periods. To guarantee the mutual recognition of the Abitur, all Länder have to ensure teaching of a total of at least 265 weekly periods in the lower secondary level and the gymnasiale Oberstufe to which up to five hours in elective subjects may be added.
For general information about the daily and weekly timetable and the five-day or six-day week, see the section on the organisation of the primary sector.