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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Primary education


5.Primary education

Last update: 23 March 2023

As a rule, in the year in which children reach the age of six, they are obliged to enter primary education. Primary education comprises grades 1 to 4 or 1 to 6 (Berlin and Brandenburg). It is provided in primary schools and as part of comprehensive school types.

General objectives

The tasks and objectives of the Grundschule are determined by its position within the school system. The primary school's role is to lead its pupils from more play-oriented forms of learning at pre-school level to the more systematic forms of school learning, and also to direct the form and content of teaching programmes towards the different learning requirements and capabilities of individual pupils.

In June 2015, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) resolved "Recommendations on the work in the primary school" ('Empfehlungen zur Arbeit in der Grundschule') which amounted to a fundamental realignment and reorganisation. The recommendations are currently being updated and supplemented in the light of the results of the relevant school performance coparisons tests, among other things.

According to the recommendations, the task of the primary school is to enable basic school education in a joint educational programme for all children. The goal is to acquire and extend basic and adaptable competences. These include above all the key competencesin the areas of linguistics and mathematics, which form a basis for not only all other educational areas in the primary school but also for continuing education as well as lifelong learning and independent appropriation of culture. The nationwide educational standards in the subjects German and mathematics are hereby decisive for the primary sector, grade 4 (resolutions of the Standing Conference of 15 October 2004 as amended on 23 June 2022). The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) as well as the Perspectives Framework for General Studies (Perspektivrahmen Sachunterricht) also provide an orientation.

Primary schools cater for the heterogeneity of their pupils through individualised and differentiated lessons that are oriented on their initial learning situation. Decisions on the content and didactics as well as determinations as regards targeted methods, social forms, ways of working and task formats are taken by the teaching staff on the basis of the individual premises and needs of the learners.

Specific legislative framework

The Basic Law (Grundgesetz) and the constitutions of the Länder include a number of fundamental provisions on schools (inspection, parents' rights, compulsory schooling, religious instruction, privately-maintained schools) which also have a bearing on primary schools. The legal basis for the Grundschule as the first compulsory school for all children is to be found in the Education Acts and the Compulsory Schooling Acts of the Länder as well as in the Schulordnungen (school regulations) for the primary school enacted by the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs in the Länder.