The evaluation of a given pupil's performance is based on all the work he/she has done in connection with the class in question, specifically written, oral and practical work. Papers and written exercises are spread evenly over the school year. The requirements in this work are gauged to meet the standards laid down in the curricula. Oral work refers to oral contributions made by pupils and evaluated in class. Practical achievements serve as the basis of evaluation particularly in such subjects as sport, music, and arts and crafts.
As a rule, performance is assessed according to a six-mark system adopted by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (Kultusministerkonferenz)
- very good = 1
- good = 2
- satisfactory = 3
- adequate = 4
- poor = 5
- very poor = 6
The Länder may provide for other forms of performance assessment except in the case of leaving certificates.
Each pupil's performance is set out on a school report or a learning development report twice a year in the middle and at the end of the school year. In Bayern, in grades 5–8 the intermediate report can under certain conditions be replaced by at least two or more written notices detailing marks. At the Mittelschule in Bavaria, the interim report card can in selected grades be replaced by a documented learning development interview. During the school year, each assignment is marked by the respective subject teacher. On the report, the marks for each subject are given either by the subject teacher or, on the subject teacher's recommendation, by a teachers' conference known as the Klassenkonferenz. In addition to the marks in the various subjects, the report may contain comments or marks on class participation and social conduct at school.
The evaluation of a pupil's performance is a pedagogical process; but it is also based on legal and administrative regulations, whereby the teachers and the teaching staff as a whole are given some scope for discretion.
In December 2012 the Standing Conference adopted a "Recommendation on the recognition and evaluation of extracurricular learning outcomes in lower secondary level" ('Empfehlung zur Anerkennung und Bewertung einer außerunterrichtlich erbrachten Lernleistung in der Sekundarstufe I'). Learning outcomes achieved by pupils outside lessons, particularly in work placements and competitions, are in future to be given greater recognition and evaluated also. Recognition can take the shape of a supplement to the certificate, a partial credit towards a subject mark or, under certain conditions, a separate mark.
To ensure the comparability of the pupils’ performances, increasingly orientation and comparative tests are being held in the Länder.
Progression of Pupils/Students
Promotion of a pupil to the next grade depends on his/her level of achievement at the end of the school year as documented in the report received in the middle and at the end of the school year. An adequate mark (mark 4 or ausreichend) or better is generally required in each of the subjects that have a bearing on promotion. As a rule, poor or very poor marks in one subject can be offset to a certain extent by at least satisfactory marks in others.
Whether or not to promote the pupils in a given grade is generally decided by the Klassenkonferenz, which is attended by all the teachers who have taught those pupils, and, sometimes, also by the Lehrerkonferenz (teachers' conference), which is attended by all teachers of a particular school. The decision is noted on the report issued at the end of the school year. In some Länder, pupils who initially have not been promoted to the next grade may, in certain school types and in certain grades, at the beginning of the next school year be granted a probationary promotion by the teachers’ conference and/or take a re-examination in order to be subsequently promoted, in each case provided that certain conditions are fulfilled. A pupil who has not been promoted must repeat the last year attended. Depending on the type of school, in the school year 2021/2022, 2.3 per cent to 5.1 per cent of pupils in lower secondary level repeated a year. If a pupil's performance is far superior to that of the rest of the class, it is possible to skip a year according to the regulations of the Länder.
If there is a risk of a pupil's not being promoted, in the majority of Länder the school must report this to the parents by noting it in the mid-year report or sending a written notice prior to the date on which the decision is to be taken. Some Länder introduced an obligation of the school to provide assistance in cases of a pupil’s promotion being at risk. In such Länder, pupils at risk of not being promoted are for example supported through individual assistance programmes or holiday classes.
Generally speaking, it is possible to transfer between courses of education or school types.
In some Länder, depending on the type of school or in all types of school at lower secondary level, there is no repetition of grades or repetition of grades does not take place in every grade. Pupils generally move up to the next grade at the start of the new school year.
On completion of the courses of education in lower secondary level, the pupils receive a leaving certificate, provided that they have successfully completed grade 9 or 10. In most of the Länder pupils are required to sit central examinations at Land level in order to obtain the leaving certificate. As a rule, pupils at the Gymnasium, which also comprises the upper secondary level, are not issued leaving certificates at the end of the lower secondary level, but a qualification to attend the gymnasiale Oberstufe, the upper level of the Gymnasium. Pupils who have not achieved the goal of the course of education they were pursuing receive a school-leaving report (Abgangszeugnis) instead. The forms for leaving certificates are prescribed by the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of each Land. School-leaving certificates and reports are issued by each school and signed by the head teacher and class teacher. The stages of education successfully completed and qualifications acquired for continued education are noted on the leaving certificates.
Qualification after grade 9
At the end of grade 9, it is possible in any Land to obtain a First School Leaving Certificate (Erster Schulabschluss). A leaving certificate is issued after grade 9 if adequate marks (mark 4 or ausreichend) or better are received in every subject or on total average. In some Länder, the first school leaving certificate is attained by successfully completing grade 9 and/or passing a final examination. At lower secondary level schools that go beyond grade 9, a corresponding qualification can be obtained in most Länder if certain marks are achieved. This first school leaving certificate in general education is usually used for admission to vocational training in the so-called duales System (dual system). In addition, it qualifies a pupil, under specific conditions, for admission to certain Berufsfachschulen (a certain type of full-time vocational school). Moreover, it is a prerequisite for subsequent admission to certain Fachschulen (schools for continued vocational training) and institutions offering secondary education for adults known as Zweiter Bildungsweg.
In some Länder, it is possible to obtain a qualifying first school leaving certificate testifying to an above-average performance. At the end of grade 10, in some Länder, an extended first school leaving certificate may be acquired which, under certain conditions, allows admission to further Berufsfachschulen.
Qualification after grade 10
At the end of grade 10, it is possible in any Land to obtain a Intermediate School Leaving Certificates (Mittlerer Schulabschluss). In the majority of Länder, this certificate is issued after successful completion of grade 10 and after passing a final examination. The Mittlerer Schulabschluss can be obtained after grade 10 at other types of lower secondary schools as well if certain standards of achievement are met, and also at the Berufsschule with the requisite achievement level or average mark. It qualifies a pupil for admission to courses of upper secondary education, e.g. at special Berufsfachschulen and at the Fachoberschule, and is also used for entering a course of vocational training within the duales System (dual system).
Entitlement to proceed to the gymnasiale Oberstufe
The entitlement to attend the gymnasiale Oberstufe (upper level of the Gymnasium) is obtained, as a rule, if certain standards of achievement are met, at the end of grade 9 or grade 10 at the Gymnasium. An entrance qualification required for transfer to the gymnasiale Oberstufe may also be obtained at a school leading to the First School Leaving Certificate or the Intermediate School Leaving Certificate if certain performance requirements are fulfilled.
Mutual recognition of leaving certificates and qualifications
Qualifications and entitlements obtained after grades 9 and 10 are mutually recognised by all the Länder provided they satisfy the requirements stipulated by the Standing Conference. The requirements are laid down in the 1993 "Agreement on types of schools and courses of education at lower secondary level" ('Vereinbarung über die Schularten und Bildungsgänge im Sekundarbereich I') as periodically amended and in the agreements on educational standards for the Hauptschulabschluss (grade 9) and the Mittlerer Schulabschluss (grade 10) in 2003 and 2004.