In Nordrhein-Westfalen, compulsory education starts with primary school (years 1-4), after which pupils have the choice between three different types of school in Germany’s multi-track educational system: Hauptschule ends after year 9 or 10 with a certificate called Hauptschulabschluss. Realschule ends after year 10 with the Realschulabschluss, Gymnasium ends after year 12 with the Abitur, which is the prerequisite to enter a university. In addition, there are comprehensive schools as well as the new secondary schools (since 2012) which combine various types of school under one roof and issue various school-leaving certificates. If the "Abitur" is done at the "Gesamtschule" this type of school continues until 13th form.
State schools are free in Germany. However, you have to pay for some of the books, teaching materials and excursions. In the field of general education, there are only a few private or international schools that charge fees. The local school authority can provide information about the particulars of the school system in your area.
The choice of school is usually made after a personal visit and consultation with a member of the school leadership team. The academic year begins after the summer holidays in August or September, depending on the federal state. In Germany, most classes are held during the morning hours. However, Nordrhein-Westfalen is currently expanding various forms of day schooling.