Germany – the land of free education

While spending another weekend in my hometown of Schweinfurt (in Franconia), I was again faced with the fact that most Germans assume education is free. Well, to them it is, as they never see a bill for educational purposes, or don’t directly see how their taxes are used. This social tradition of supplying people with free education is a laudable idea, but it also has its drawbacks.

As I conversed with my relatives, I mentioned that we had to start building up our oldest child’s college funds as he will graduate from high school in five years. Having attended Frankfurt International School, a private school, he would like to continue this life-style by attending university in another European country like England or Scotland. When I mentioned college fees, this seemed to be a foreign word at our table. We are an expat family and not interested in sending our child to a university in Germany just because it’s free of charge. We were told to take advantage of the free education. To Germans it does not matter which university is attended because under the “no tuition” policy, they are all the same.

While parents in the rest of the world often establish a college fund for their child as of the time of birth, Germans rely on the government to fund their education. As international-minded parents we supply our children with education to give them wings. More traditional-minded Germans, some of whom are even my age, want their children to inherit their house instead. One of my friends said, “Why should I spend money on education? He will inherit the house!” Yet education provides freedom. Having no higher education and a house will tie you down.

Most German parents are also reluctant to hire a tutor if the child is failing in a subject. First they blame the schoolteacher, of course, then they complain about having to spend money on education, and on top of that they expect the tutor to perform a miracle. In most Asian countries, however, students attend cram school and also take private lessons to stay ahead. They receive education so they will not fail.

A teacher’s work in Germany doesn’t really get appreciated– neither from the student body, the parents, nor the general population. Teachers’ services are “free,” and therefore not worth much. Granted, not all teachers are worth their salt. Some are unsuited for the profession, but their status as public officials provides a comfortable and often early retirement package, which even untalented teachers are reluctant to give up.

Teachers in public and private schools in Asia, on the other hand, are held in high esteem. Private education, such as tutoring, is paid very well. The teacher sometimes gets showered with gifts for his or her efforts. Parents appreciate teachers, because they PAY for the education.

Well, if a gift of, let’s say, € 5000 was almost dumped on me, maybe I would find it hard to appreciate too. But if I had to save money and work hard to afford the same service, I would look at the service and service provider differently.

In this respect, Germans are spoiled as education is seen as a by-product. There is very little competitiveness among students, which is just the extreme opposite in Asian students.

Germans need to be better educated about how lucky they have been in the past with regard to tuition fees. They might soon arrive at the end of this free educational ride.

Feel free to comment.


  1. I thought that Hessen were now charging tuition fees for higher education if you don’t complete the course quick enough?

  2. Yes, changes are taking place depending on what state you are in.
    In my writing though I wanted to focus more on people’s attitudes.

  3. says

    I want information for free education.

  4. Sydney Givan says

    Hi there. Thanks for this site. I read it regularly to see the latest info. Very educational writing.

  5. Education is a very significant part of just about every child’s life, but I actually do feel that public school grants children abilities and life instruction that the private as well as home schooling simply just is unable to help them learn. Interacting with others their own age along with stuff like that is vital to every single younger child.

  6. I want to say that I really like your website, just observed it the past week but I have been reading it increasingly since then.


  1. […] For most German parents, getting tutoring means supporting the child because of failing grades. On average, German parents will only get a tutor when they see no other way out of having to pay extra money on education. Some might feel it is the public school’s job to provide all the knowledge. You can read more on Germany – the land of free education […]

  2. […] is fun, but most Germans think of school as a burden, not a privilege. Again, any education that is free of charge (in reference to public schools) or subsidized  (kindergartens) must not have much […]

  3. […] previous post Germany – the land of free education prompted inquires under comments and by e-mail from […]

  4. […] Even social activities cost money, like singing in the school choir which will cost 8EUR per month.  Who says that German education is for free? […]

  5. […] the drop-out rate is high. I can’t speak for the quality of government-sponsored lessons, but free education is often seen as something […]

  6. […] we international parents start college funds as soon as a child is born. Germans feel entitled to free education. On the other hand, they have no qualms about spending lots of money on holidays. Some Germans find […]

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