High school diploma: What you should know about it

A secondary school leaving certificate is required for many training occupations, but also when changing to the upper level of a grammar school. Find out here about the curriculum of a secondary school and how your child can achieve the secondary school certificate. You will also find out how the final exams at the secondary school work and what opportunities are open to your child after school.

What is in the curriculum for secondary school?

The curriculum for the Realschule specifies which subjects are taught at the Realschule, in which class these subjects are compulsory or just optional and how many weekly hours of teaching time are required for a subject. It is specified which content and topics are to be dealt with in the various subjects in the lesson. The curriculum also determines the approximate course of your child’s schooling at the Realschule.

What exactly is included in the curriculum for the Realschule differs from state to state. Because school education is not the responsibility of the federal government, but is a matter for the individual state governments. That’s why every Ministry of Education can set up its own curriculum that sets the educational standards for the federal state in question. The individual schools are obliged to adhere to this curriculum for the Realschule and to align their teaching accordingly.

Central final examinations are held after the tenth grade in order to check within the federal state whether all pupils have the same level of education at the end of the Realschule period. The various ministries of education in the individual federal states set the tasks in the examination subjects. This makes it easier to compare the performance of students within a federal state and it can be checked whether the curriculum for the Realschule is being followed at all schools.

General goals and contents in the curriculum for the Realschule

According to the curriculum for the Realschule, students from the fifth to the tenth grade should be given a practice-oriented general education. Both practical skills and interest in theoretical backgrounds and connections should be promoted in the Realschule. The lessons prepare the students both for professional life and for the possible visit to the upper level at the  grammar school  .

Important learning goals in the curriculum for the Realschule are practical learning, career orientation, teamwork, flexibility, willingness to perform, time management, resilience and communication skills. All teaching content that is provided for in the curriculum for the Realschule should be conveyed in such a way that the connection to real life becomes clear.

The fifth and sixth grades at the Realschule are also called the probationary level. The two school years serve to enable the students to get used to everyday school life at the Realschule. You can also check how your child is coping with the requirements. Up until the beginning of the ninth grade, your child has the opportunity to change schools at any time.

Classes and learning groups at the secondary school

In the first two years at the Realschule, classes take place in fixed classes. After that, the students choose compulsory subjects that correspond to their interests and thus also have a few lessons in differently composed learning groups.

subjects taught at the secondary school

The curriculum for the Realschule defines various optional and compulsory subjects that are to be taught at Realschulen. According to the Realschule curriculum, the main subjects German, mathematics and English are usually taught four to six hours a week.

Pupils are also required to take part in physical education and religious education, or ethics classes. These minor subjects are allocated two lessons per week.

In addition to the mandatory minor subjects, students should choose at least one subject from one of the following areas:

  • Natural science subjects in the curriculum for secondary school:  biology, chemistry, physics, technology, computer science
  • Social science subjects in the curriculum for secondary school:  geography, history, politics, economics, philosophy, work theory, home economics, social studies, accounting, pedagogy
  • Foreign languages ​​in the Realschule curriculum:  French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch
  • Artistic subjects in the curriculum for secondary school:  art, textile design, music, handicrafts

Pupils at the Realschule can choose a foreign language focus and study a second foreign language in the sixth grade. In the seventh grade, according to the curriculum for the Realschule, all students have to choose an elective subject and focus on the natural sciences, social sciences or the arts. In the ninth grade there are other special subjects to choose from, for example an additional foreign language, home economics, education or economics.

The high school diploma

A Realschule certificate is an intermediate school certificate that your child can take in Germany after the tenth grade at the Realschule. With a high school diploma, your child has the opportunity to attend the upper level of a grammar school or vocational college in order to obtain a higher degree there. However, a Realschule certificate is also required for numerous training occupations. Depending on the federal state, the secondary school leaving certificate is referred to as a middle school certificate, a lower secondary school certificate, a technical college certificate or a middle school certificate.

Secondary school leaving certificate from other schools

Even if your child finishes school at a grammar school or comprehensive school after ten years of school, it still has a secondary school leaving certificate. There are also vocational schools where your child can graduate from high school.

The exam for the high school diploma

The pupils at the Realschule have to pass a final examination after the tenth school year in order to achieve the Realschule certificate. In all federal states except Rhineland-Palatinate, this test is administered centrally by the responsible Ministry of Education. The students are tested in the subjects math, German and a foreign language – in most cases English. In Bavaria there is also a fourth elective, for example a natural science or a second foreign language.

Exactly how the exams are conducted varies from state to state. Usually, students write a thesis in each subject; sometimes they also have to take an oral exam or submit a project.

Didn’t pass the exam?

If the students successfully complete the tenth grade at the Realschule, but do not pass the final exam, they do not receive a Realschule certificate. In this case, you leave the Realschule with the so-called extended Hauptschule certificate .

After high school graduation

After graduation, your child has many different options. After all, a high school diploma entitles your child both to attend upper secondary school and to start an apprenticeship, for example in public service or in the commercial, social and technical fields. Your child will have the following options after graduation:

  • education
  • Internship
  • Voluntary social year
  • High school diploma or high school diploma
  • Further training for additional qualifications

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