Germany is a federal parliamentary republic in western-central Europe. It consists of 16 constituent states.
Over 99% of Germans aged 15 and above are estimated to be able to read and write. Responsibility for educational supervision in Germany is primarily organised within the individual federal states. A system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung ("dual education") allows students in vocational training to learn in a company as well as in a state-run vocational school. This successful model is highly regarded and reproduced all around the world.
Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years old, after which school attendance is compulsory for at least nine years. Primary education usually lasts for four to six years and public schools are not stratified by academic ability at this stage. In contrast, secondary education includes three traditional types of schools focused on different academic levels: the Gymnasium enrols the most gifted children and prepares students for university studies; the Realschule for intermediate students lasts six years; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education. Since the 1960s, a reform movement has attempted to unify secondary education in a Gesamtschule (comprehensive school); several West German states later simplified their school system to two or three tiers.