Skip to main content

Dusseldorf education and international schools guide

It may not draw the fashionista crowds in the same numbers as its more glamorous Italian counterpart, Milan, but Westphalia’s capital, Dusseldorf, is the powerhouse of the German fashion industry as well as a major technology, media and financial centre. However, the city’s size means that there is only a limited choice when it comes to international schools.

Surprising fact! Dusseldorf is in the top ten rankings of highest standard of living cities, in the world, taking into account criteria such as transport, crime rates, housing and for us, most importantly, education. The small size of the city is an additional perk and expats find that they can live close to the centre (and schools) without breaking the bank. There is one odd paradox, it is known for both its pioneering influence on experimental and electronic music (on trend?) but also for preferring  ‘old-style’ pre-lager beer (out of touch?).

It is possible to plant yourself and your family on either side of the river, which is, literally and visually, at the heart of the city but it is not the only watery attraction as, right bang in the centre, is also the large and picturesque Hofgarten, awash with lakes, swans and beautifully kept, child-friendly, green spaces. Transport is swift and ubiquitous (bus, metro and tram) so whichever side of the river you choose to live on, getting to work or your child to school is a doddle, compared to most modern cities.

If you opt for the right bank, where the majority of businesses operate, it will probably be to the south, in Bilk, best known for its Amsterdamesque street, Die Karolingen (although the canal is a minnow by comparison) and the Sudpark. Alternatively, you might choose the northern area, Dusseltal, next to the misleadingly named Zoopark, opened at the end of the 19th century but now, sadly, animal-free.

On the left bank (reached by two bridges), most expats choose to live in Oberkassel with its art nouveau architecture or Niederkassel, which is home to a Japanese Temple, tea house, garden and the Japanese International School (teaching language Japanese) plus the majority of the large (by German standards) Japanese community.

International schools

The International School of Dusseldorf in Keiserswerth, is over 50 years old and has the largest cohort of US and UK students. It is close to the river on the right bank but still only 10-15 minutes’ drive from Oberkassel or Niederkassel on the other side. An example of how easy it is to navigate the city is, that even if you live in Bilk at the opposite end of the northwest/southeast diagonal, it only takes 20 minutes to get to the school by car, or less than an hour on the public.

The Sabis school, International School on the Rhine (actually in Neuss) in the southwestern corner of the left bank, is equally accessible by road from all the favoured expat areas. Public transport from Bilk and the rest of the right bank is slower and more complicated but the school offers a comprehensive bus service. You could walk to the Lycée Francais de Dusseldorf (providing a full French education, taught in French) if you live in Dusseltal or get to school in quarter of an hour by car (30 minutes by train) from either the left bank or Bilk.

Even though, St George’s School (smaller than the other two English language international schools), is technically in another city, Duisburg, it is still less than half an hour from the centre of Dusseldorf and only three quarters of an hour by train. One of the rare schools in Germany to offer the International Baccalaureate Careers Programme as an alternative to the IB Diploma.

For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Dusseldorf considered by expats'.

State schools

The vast majority of Germans attend state schools for the excellent reasons that the educational standard is high and they’re free. Schooling starts at six and covers elementary, middle and high school.

A possible disadvantage for expats (apart from language) is that students are formally tracked onto separate educational paths much earlier than in the UK, US or Canada. The system also presents a practical problem for expat families, with two parents at the coal-face, as they are usually only open in the mornings. Also, as they don’t operate all day, they tend not to offer any of the extra stuff that international parents are used to (sport, in particular).

Before and after-school care for primary school children is often provided by on-site school clubs (Schulhort or Kita for kindergarten children) but beware they can stop at 4 pm and always close by 6 pm. This can be a serious problem for people with high-powered jobs that don’t necessarily bide by the clock.

So, if you do choose to go down this route, you will have to be extremely organised and that starts with turning up at the local registry office, clutching the school application form, the child’s birth certificate, its passport, proof of residency and a medical certificate.

And finally…

Maybe not as edgy or cosmopolitan as Berlin or even Frankfurt, but if you are posted here, you can look forward to a more affordable and less stressful place to bring up and educate your children, right in the middle of western Europe.

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles


  • Special educational needs introduction

    Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need. Our SEN consultancy team advises on both special schools, and the mainstream schools with good SEN support, from reception through to the specialist colleges for 19+. Special Educational Needs Index

  • The Good Schools Guide International

    Corona Virus As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, The Good Schools Guide International offers the following guidance:  Determine the global situation and that of individual countries on government mandated school closures by accessing the UNESCO information on this link: https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-emergencies/coronavirus-school-closures.   For updates on the medical situation, go to  the World Health Organisation website at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports.  If you wish to contact one of our GSGI listed schools to discover their current status or any plans for alternate learning strategies, please go to our database to find email and phone numbers for each school https://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/international-search. If your company makes you brexit, The GSGI should be your first…

  • Uni in the USA... and beyond

    The British guide to great universities from Harvard to Hong Kong. We tell you how to choose, how to apply, how to pay.

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    At specialist music, dance or performing arts schools, the arts aren't optional extras. They’re intrinsic to the school curriculum. Students are expected to fit in high level training and hours of practice alongside a full academic provision. It's a lot to ask any child to take on, but for those with exceptional performing ability this kind of education can be transformative.

  • Finding a state grammar school

    There are currently around 163 state funded grammar schools located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. There are a further 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, but none in Wales or Scotland. Almost half of these are in what are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools. Grammar Schools further reading


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,200 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents