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Public-sector schools and privately maintained schools

Stühle in einem Klassenzimmer

School maintaining body for public-sector schools is usually a local authority (commune/ district) or, less commonly, the Land. Private schools are maintained by a nonprofit-making body (especially churches and non denominational backers) or private individuals. The maintaining body is responsible for the establishment, maintenance and administration of the school and normally bears the material costs (whilst the staff costs for teachers at public sector schools are borne by the Land).

Attendance at all public-sector schools is free of charge. Educational materials, especially textbooks, are also frequently provided free of charge or on loan; when possession of such materials passes to the pupils, parents may be required to contribute to the costs.

In North Rhine-Westphalia two types of privately-maintained school are to be differentiated:

  • Alternative schools (Ersatzschulen) and
  • Additional schools (Ergänzungsschulen).

Alternative school

An Alternative School (Ersatzschule) is a school whose curriculum is compatible with the educational system in North Rhine-Westphalia; as a rule school leaving certificates are acknowledged; parents may enrol their children without special permission. Alternative schools receive subsidies from the federal state (Bundesland) of North Rhine-Westphalia. School fees may be charged but must be socially equitable. State-approved alternative schools often do not charge tuition fees or they only charge moderate fees or guarantee relief to pupils whose parents are of limited financial means (e.g. reduction in school fees, reduction for additional siblings attending the same school).


The  Independent Bonn International School (opens in a new tab) (IBIS) and the  École Française de Gaulle-Adenauer (opens in a new tab), grades 1–4, are bilingual alternative schools with a special curriculum.

Additional school

An Additional School (Ergänzungsschule) is a school whose curriculum differs in varied ways from the educational system in Germany. There are German additional schools providing general and vocational education. Besides there are foreign and international additional schools. Leaving certificates may not be acknowledged for German academic careers. To receive a leaving certificate corresponding to the qualification gained at public-sector schools the pupils of a German additional school providing general education have to take an external examination, i.e. an examination before a state examining board at a public-sector school. 

The structure, content and educational aims of the instruction provided at the foreign and international schools correspond largely to the regulations that apply in the respective foreign country.

The foreign/international schools are not subject to the control of the German state education inspectorate.

International and/or foreign additional schools are mainly open to children residing only temporarily in Germany and who need either their national or an international type of school education. Parents have to notify the enrolment (e.g. in the case of an acknowledged international additional school with IB program) or to apply for a special permission.

Additional schools always charge school fees; they live on it. Public subsidies are not granted.


The  Bonn International School (opens in a new tab) (BIS), grades 1-12, is an international additional school with IB program.