62 Essay German German Library Psychology V

The responsibility for the education system in Germany lies primarily with the states (Länder), while the federal government plays a minor role. Optional Kindergarten (nursery school) education is provided for all children between one and six years old, after which school attendance is compulsory.[1] The system varies throughout Germany because each state (Land) decides its own educational policies. Most children, however, first attend Grundschule from the age of six to eleven.

German secondary education includes five types of school. The Gymnasium is designed to prepare pupils for higher education and finishes with the final examination Abitur, after grade 12 or 13. The Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediate pupils and finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife, after grade 10; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education and finishes with the final examination Hauptschulabschluss, after grade 9 and the Realschulabschluss after grade 10. There are two types of grade 10: one is the higher level called type 10b and the lower level is called type 10a; only the higher-level type 10b can lead to the Realschule and this finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife after grade 10b. This new path of achieving the Realschulabschluss at a vocationally oriented secondary school was changed by the statutory school regulations in 1981 – with a one-year qualifying period. During the one-year qualifying period of the change to the new regulations, pupils could continue with class 10 to fulfil the statutory period of education. After 1982, the new path was compulsory, as explained above.

Other than this, there is the Gesamtschule, which combines the Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium. There are also Förder- or Sonderschulen. One in 21 pupils attends a Förderschule.[2][3] Nevertheless, the Förder- or Sonderschulen can also lead, in special circumstances, to a Hauptschulabschluss of both type 10a or type 10b, the latter of which is the Realschulabschluss. The amount of extracurricular activity is determined individually by each school and varies greatly.

Many of Germany's hundred or so institutions of higher learning charge little or no tuition by international comparison.[4] Students usually must prove through examinations that they are qualified.

In order to enter university, students are, as a rule, required to have passed the Abitur examination; since 2009, however, those with a Meisterbrief (master craftsman's diploma) have also been able to apply.[5][6] Those wishing to attend a "university of applied sciences" must, as a rule, have Abitur, Fachhochschulreife, or a Meisterbrief. If lacking those qualifications, pupils are eligible to enter a university or university of applied sciences if they can present additional proof that they will be able to keep up with their fellow students through a Begabtenprüfung or Hochbegabtenstudium (which is a test confirming excellence and above average intellectual ability).

A special system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung allows pupils on vocational courses to do in-service training in a company as well as at a state school.[3]

History[edit]

Prussian era[edit]

Main article: Prussian education system

Historically, Lutheranism had a strong influence on German culture, including its education. Martin Luther advocated compulsory schooling so that all people would independently be able to read and interpret the Bible. This concept became a model for schools throughout Germany. German public schools generally have religious education provided by the churches in cooperation with the state ever since.

During the 18th century, the Kingdom of Prussia was among the first countries in the world to introduce free and generally compulsory primary education, consisting of an eight-year course of basic education, Volksschule. It provided not only the skills needed in an early industrialized world (reading, writing, and arithmetic), but also a strict education in ethics, duty, discipline and obedience. Children of affluent parents often went on to attend preparatory private schools for an additional four years, but the general population had virtually no access to secondary education.

In 1810, after the Napoleonic wars, Prussia introduced state certification requirements for teachers, which significantly raised the standard of teaching. The final examination, Abitur, was introduced in 1788, implemented in all Prussian secondary schools by 1812 and extended to all of Germany in 1871. The state also established teacher training colleges for prospective teachers in the common or elementary grades.

German Empire[edit]

When the German Empire was formed in 1871, the school system became more centralized. In 1872, Prussia recognized the first separate secondary schools for females. As learned professions demanded well-educated young people, more secondary schools were established, and the state claimed the sole right to set standards and to supervise the newly established schools.

Four different types of secondary schools developed:

  • A nine-year classical Gymnasium (including study of Latin and Classical Greek or Hebrew, plus one modern language);
  • A nine-year Realgymnasium (focusing on Latin, modern languages, science and mathematics);
  • A six-year Realschule (without university entrance qualification, but with the option of becoming a trainee in one of the modern industrial, office or technical jobs); and
  • A nine-year Oberrealschule (focusing on modern languages, science and mathematics).

By the turn of the 20th century, the four types of schools had achieved equal rank and privilege, although they did not have equal prestige.

Weimar Republic[edit]

After World War I, the Weimar Republic established a free, universal four-year elementary school (Grundschule). Most pupils continued at these schools for another four-year course. Those who were able to pay a small fee went on to a Mittelschule that provided a more challenging curriculum for an additional one or two years. Upon passing a rigorous entrance exam after year four, pupils could also enter one of the four types of secondary school.

Nazi Germany[edit]

See also: Nazi university

During the Nazi era (1933–1945), teaching of National Socialist ideology was integrated into the school system, however the basic education system remained unchanged. The Hitler Youth accepted students aged 7-18, and education often focused more on Nazism and Nazi-related activities, rather than traditional academic subjects. Children who were not interested in learning about Nazism would automatically have all other aspects of their education suffer, and risk never graduating from school.

East Germany[edit]

Main article: Education in East Germany

The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) started its own standardized education system in the 1960s. The East German equivalent of both primary and secondary schools was the Polytechnic Secondary School (Polytechnische Oberschule), which all students attended for 10 years, from the ages of 6 to 16. At the end of the 10th year, an exit examination was set. Depending upon the results, a pupil could choose to come out of education or undertake an apprenticeship for an additional two years, followed by an Abitur. Those who performed very well and displayed loyalty to the ruling party could change to the Erweiterte Oberschule (extended high school), where they could take their Abitur examinations after 12 school years. Although this system was abolished in the early 1990s after reunification, it continues to influence school life in the eastern German states.[citation needed]

West Germany[edit]

After World War II, the Allied powers (Soviet Union, France, United Kingdom, and the U.S.) ensured that Nazi ideology was eliminated from the curriculum. They installed educational systems in their respective occupation zones that reflected their own ideas. When West Germany gained partial independence in 1949, its new constitution (Grundgesetz) granted educational autonomy to the state (Länder) governments. This led to widely varying school systems, often making it difficult for children to continue schooling whilst moving between states.

Multi-state agreements ensure that basic requirements are universally met by all state school systems. Thus, all children are required to attend one type of school (five or six days a week) from the age of 6 to the age of 16. A pupil may change schools in the case of exceptionally good (or exceptionally poor) ability. Graduation certificates from one state are recognized by all the other states. Qualified teachers are able to apply for posts in any of the states.

Federal Republic of Germany[edit]

Since the 1990s, a few changes have been taking place in many schools:

  • Introduction of bilingual education in some subjects
  • Experimentation with different styles of teaching
  • Equipping all schools with computers and Internet access
  • Creation of local school philosophy and teaching goals ("Schulprogramm"), to be evaluated regularly
  • Reduction of Gymnasium school years (Abitur after grade 12) and introduction of afternoon periods as in many other western countries

After 2000 much public debate about Germany's perceived low international ranking in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) there has been a trend towards a less ideological discussion on how to develop schools. These are some of the new trends:

  • Establishing federal standards on quality of teaching
  • More practical orientation in teacher training
  • Transfer of some responsibility from the Ministry of Education to local school

Overview[edit]

In Germany, education is the responsibility of the states (Länder) and part of their constitutional sovereignty (Kulturhoheit der Länder). Teachers are employed by the Ministry of Education for the state and usually have a job for life after a certain period (verbeamtet) (which, however, is not comparable in timeframe nor competitiveness to the typical tenure track, e.g. at universities in the US). This practice depends on the state and is currently changing. A parents' council is elected to voice the parents' views to the school's administration. Each class elects one or two "Klassensprecher" (class presidents; if two are elected usually one is male and the other female), who meet several times a year as the "Schülerrat" (students' council).

A team of school presidents is also elected by the pupils each year, whose main purpose is organizing school parties, sports tournaments and the like for their fellow students. The local town is responsible for the school building and employs the janitorial and secretarial staff. For an average school of 600 – 800 students, there may be two janitors and one secretary. School administration is the responsibility of the teachers, who receive a reduction in their teaching hours if they participate.

Church and state are separated in Germany. Compulsory school prayers and compulsory attendance at religious services at state schools are against the constitution. (It is expected, though, to stand politely for the school prayer even if one does not pray along.) In 1995, it was ruled that the Christian cross was not allowed in classrooms, as it violates the religious freedom of non-Christian students. The cross is allowed if none of the pupils object, but must be removed in the event of an objection.[7] Some German states have banned teachers from wearing headscarves.

Literacy[edit]

Over 99% of Germans age 15 and above are estimated to be able to read and write.[8] However, a growing number of inhabitants are functionally illiterate.[9]

Preschool[edit]

The German preschool is known as a Kindergarten (plural Kindergärten) or Kita, short for Kindertagesstätte (meaning "children's daycare center"). Children between the ages of 2 and 6 attend Kindergärten, which are not part of the school system. They are often run by city or town administrations, churches, or registered societies, many of which follow a certain educational approach as represented, e.g., by Montessori or Reggio Emilia or "Berliner Bildungsprogramm", etc. Forest kindergartens are well established. Attending a Kindergarten is neither mandatory nor free of charge, but can be partly or wholly funded, depending on the local authority and the income of the parents. All caretakers in Kita or Kindergarten must have a three-year qualified education, or be under special supervision during training.

Kindergärten can be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or longer and may also house a Kinderkrippe, meaning crèche, for children between the ages of eight weeks and three years, and possibly an afternoon Hort (often associated with a primary school) for school-age children aged 6 to 10 who spend the time after their lessons there. Alongside nurseries, there are day-care nurses (called Tagesmutter, plural Tagesmütter – the formal, gender-neutral form is Tagespflegeperson(en)) working independently from any pre-school institution in individual homes and looking after only three to five children typically up to three years of age. These nurses are supported and supervised by local authorities.

The term Vorschule, meaning ‘pre-school’, is used both for educational efforts in Kindergärten and for a mandatory class that is usually connected to a primary school. Both systems are handled differently in each German state. The Schulkindergarten is a type of Vorschule.

Not without interest is the fact that in the German Empire, children were able to pass directly into secondary education after attending a privately run, charged "Vorschule" which then was another sort of primary school. The Weimar Constitution banned these, feeling them to be an unjustified privilege, and the Basic Law still contains the constitutional rule (Art. 7 Sect. VI) that: Pre-schools shall remain abolished.

Primary education[edit]

Parents looking for a suitable school for their child have a wide choice of elementary schools

  • State school. State schools do not charge tuition fees. The majority of pupils attend state schools in their neighbourhood. Schools in affluent areas tend to be better than those in deprived areas. Once children reach school age, many middle-class and working-class families move away from deprived areas.
  • or, alternatively

Homeschooling[edit]

Main article: Homeschooling international status and statistics § Germany

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany, so some families have sought asylum abroad in order to home-school their children.[11] The illegality has to do with the prioritization of children's rights over the rights of parents: children have the right to the company of other children and adults who are not their parents, also parents cannot opt their kids out of sexual education classes because the state considers a child's right to information to be more important than a parent's desire to withhold it. [12]

Secondary education[edit]

See also: Education in Berlin and Education in Hamburg

After children complete their primary education (at 10 years of age, 12 in Berlin and Brandenburg), there are five options for secondary schooling:

  1. Gymnasium (grammar school) until grade 12 or 13 (with Abitur as exit exam, qualifying for university); and
  2. Fachoberschule admission after grade ten until grade twelve (with Fachhochschulreife (between Abitur and Realschulabschluss) as exit exam) it is also possible to leave after grade thirteen and get either the ″fachgebundene Abitur″ (if you haven′t learned a language besides English) or get the ″Abitur″ (with a second language on European level B1) ;[13]
  3. Realschule until grade ten (with Mittlere Reife (Realschulabschluss) as exit exam);
  4. Mittelschule (the least academic, much like a modernized Volksschule [elementary school]) until grade nine (with Hauptschulabschluss and in some cases Mittlere Reife = Realschulabschuss as exit exam); in some federal states the Hauptschule does not exist and pupils are mainstreamed into a Mittelschule or Regionale Schule instead.
  5. Gesamtschule (comprehensive school)

(sorted by the quality and relevance of the exit exam. The comprehensive schools stands apart as it offers each of the mentioned exit exams)[13]

After passing through any of the above schools, pupils can start a career with an apprenticeship in the Berufsschule (vocational school). The Berufsschule is normally attended twice a week during a two, three, or three-and-a-half year apprenticeship; the other days are spent working at a company. This is intended to provide a knowledge of theory and practice. The company is obliged to accept the apprentice on its apprenticeship scheme. After this, the apprentice is registered on a list at the Industrie- und Handelskammer IHK (chamber of industry and commerce). During the apprenticeship, the apprentice is a part-time salaried employee of the company. After passing the Berufsschule and the exit exams of the IHK, a certificate is awarded and the young person is ready for a career up to a low management level. In some areas, the schemes teach certain skills that are a legal requirement (special positions in a bank, legal assistants).

Some special areas provide different paths. After attending any of the above schools and gaining a leaving certificate like Hauptschulabschluss, Mittlere Reife (or Realschulabschuss, from a Realschule) or Abitur from a Gymnasium or a Gesamtschule, school leavers can start a career with an apprenticeship at a Berufsschule (vocational school). Here the student is registered with certain bodies, e.g. associations such as the German Bar Association Deutsche Rechtsanwaltskammer GBA (board of directors). During the apprenticeship, the young person is a part-time salaried employee of the institution, bank, physician or attorney’s office. After leaving the Berufsfachschule and passing the exit examinations set by the German Bar Association or other relevant associations, the apprentice receives a certificate and is ready for a career at all levels except in positions which require a specific higher degree, such as a doctorate. In some areas, the apprenticeship scheme teaches skills that are required by law, including certain positions in a bank or those as legal assistants. The 16 states have exclusive responsibility in the field of education and professional education. The federal parliament and the federal government can influence the educational system only by financial aid to the states. There are many different school systems, but in each state the starting point is always the Grundschule (elementary school) for a period of four years; or six years in the case of Berlin and Brandenburg.

1970198219912000
Hauptschulabschluss87,7 %79,3 %66,5 %54,9 %
Realschulabschluss10,9 %17,7 %27 %34,1 %
Abitur1,4 %3 %6,5 %11 %

Grades 5 and 6 form an orientation phase (Orientierungsstufe) during which students, their parents and teachers decide which of the above-mentioned paths the students should follow. In all states except Berlin and Brandenburg, this orientation phase is embedded into the program of the secondary schools. The decision for a secondary school influences the student's future, but during this phase changes can be made more easily. In practice this rarely comes to bear because teachers are afraid of sending pupils to more academic schools whereas parents are afraid of sending their children to less academic schools. In Berlin and Brandenburg, the orientation is embedded into that of the elementary schools. Teachers give a so-called educational (path) recommendation (Bildungs(gang)empfehlung) based on scholastic achievements in the main subjects (mathematics, German, natural sciences, foreign language) and classroom behavior with details and legal implications differing from state to state: in some German states, those wishing to apply for a Gymnasium or Realschule require such a recommendation stating that the student is likely to make a successful transition to that type of school; in other cases anybody may apply. In Berlin 30% - 35% of Gymnasium places are allocated by lottery. A student's performance at primary school is immaterial.[citation needed]

The eastern states Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia combine Hauptschule and Realschule as Sekundarschule, Mittelschule and Regelschule respectively. All German states have Gymnasium as one possibility for the more able children, and all states - except Saxony - have some Gesamtschulen, but in different forms. The states of Berlin and Hamburg have only two types of schools: comprehensive schools and Gymnasium.

Learning a foreign language is compulsory throughout Germany in secondary schools and English is one of the more popular choices. Students at certain Gymnasium are required to learn Latin as their first foreign language and choose a second foreign language. The list of available foreign languages as well as the hours of compulsory foreign language lessons differ from state to state, but the more common choices, besides Latin, are English, French, Spanish, ancient Greek. Many schools also offer voluntary study groups for the purpose of learning other languages. At which stage students begin learning a foreign language differs from state to state and is tailored according to the cultural and socio-economical dynamics of each state. In some states, foreign language education starts in the Grundschule (primary school). For example, in North Rhine-Westphalia, English starts in the third year of elementary school. Baden-Württemberg starts with English or French in the first year. The Saarland, which borders France, begins with French in the third year of primary school and French is taught in high school as the main foreign language.

It may cause problems in terms of education for families that plan to move from one German state to another as there are partially completely different curricula for nearly every subject.

Adults who did not achieve a Realschulabschluss or Abitur, or reached its equivalent, have the option of attending evening classes at an Abendgymnasium or Abendrealschule.

School organization[edit]

A few organizational central points are listed below. It should however be noted that due to the decentralized nature of the education system there are many more additional differences across the 16 states of Germany.

  • Every state has its own school system.
  • Each age group of students (born roughly in the same year) forms one or more grades or classes ("Klassen") per school which remain the same for elementary school (years 1 to 4 or 6), orientation school (if there are orientation schools in the state), orientation phase (at Gymnasium years 5 to 6), and secondary school (years 5 or 7 to 10 in "Realschulen" and "Hauptschulen"; years 5 or 7 to 10 (differences between states) in "Gymnasien"[15]) respectively. Changes are possible, though, when there is a choice of subjects, e.g. additional languages; Then classes will be split (and newly merged) either temporarily or permanently for this particular subject.
  • Students usually sit at tables, not desks (usually two at one table), sometimes arranged in a semicircle or another geometric or functional shape. During exams in classrooms, the tables are sometimes arranged in columns with one pupil per table (if permitted by the room's capacities) in order to prevent cheating; at many schools, this is only the case for some exams in the two final years of school, i.e. some of the exams counting for the final grade on the high school diploma.
  • There is usually no school uniform or dress code existing. Many private schools have a simplified dress code, for instance, such as "no shorts, no sandals, no clothes with holes". Some schools are testing school uniforms, but those are not as formal as seen in the UK. They mostly consist of a normal sweater/shirt and jeans of a certain color, sometimes with the school's symbol on it. It is however a common custom to design graduation class shirts in Gymnasium, Realschule and Hauptschule.
  • School usually starts between 7.30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and can finish as early as 12; instruction in lower classes[which?] almost always ends before lunch. In higher grades[which?], however, afternoon lessons are very common and periods may have longer gaps without teacher supervision between them. Usually, afternoon classes are not offered every day and/or continuously until early evening, leaving students with large parts of their afternoons free of school; some schools (Ganztagsschulen), however, offer classes or mainly supervised activities throughout the afternoons in order to offer supervision for the students rather than increasing the hours of teaching. Afternoon lessons can continue until 6 o'clock.
  • Depending on school, there are breaks of 5 to 20 minutes after each period. There is no lunch break as school usually finishes before 1:30 for junior school. However, at schools that have "Nachmittagsunterricht" (= afternoon classes) ending after 1:30 there's sometimes a lunch break of 45 to 90 minutes, though many schools lack any special break in general. Some schools that have regular breaks of 5 minutes between every lesson and have additional 10 or 15 minute breaks after the second and fourth lesson.
  • In German state schools lessons have a length of exactly 45 minutes. Each subject is usually taught for two to three periods every week (main subjects like mathematics, German or foreign languages are taught for four to six periods) and usually no more than two periods consecutively. The beginning of every period and, usually, break is announced with an audible signal such as a bell.
  • Exams (which are always supervised) are usually essay based, rather than multiple choice. As of 11th grade, exams usually consist of no more than three separate exercises. While most exams in the first grades of secondary schools usually span no more than 90 minutes, exams in 10th to 12th grade may span four periods or more (without breaks).
  • At every type of school, pupils study one foreign language (in most cases English) for at least five years. The study of languages is, however, far more rigorous and literature oriented in Gymnasium. In Gymnasium, students can choose from a wider range of languages (mostly English, French, Russian - mostly in east German Bundesländer - or Latin) as the first language in 5th grade, and a second mandatory language in 7th grade. Some types of Gymnasium also require an additional third language (such as Spanish, Italian, Russian, Latin or Ancient Greek) or an alternative subject (usually based on one or two other subjects, e.g. British politics (English & politics), dietetics (biology) or media studies (arts & German) in 9th or 11th grade. Gymnasiums normally offer further subjects starting at 11th grade, with some schools offering a fourth foreign language.
  • A number of schools once had a Raucherecke (smokers' corner), a small area of the schoolyard where students over the age of eighteen are permitted to smoke in their breaks. Those special areas were banned in the states of Berlin, Hessen and Hamburg, Brandenburg at the beginning of the 2005-06 school year. (Bavaria, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony 2006-07)). Schools in these states prohibit smoking for students and teachers and offences at school will be punished. Other states in Germany are planning to introduce similar laws.
  • As state schools are public, smoking is universally prohibited inside the buildings. Smoking teachers are generally asked not to smoke while at or near school.
  • Students over 14 years are permitted to leave the school compound during breaks at some schools. Teachers or school personnel tend to prevent younger students from leaving early and strangers from entering the compound without permission.
  • Tidying up the classroom and schoolyard is often the task of the students themselves. Unless a group of volunteering students, individuals are being picked sequentially.
  • Many schools have AGs or Arbeitsgemeinschaften (clubs) for afternoon activities such as sports, music or acting, but participation is not necessarily common. Some schools also have special mediators who are student volunteers trained to resolve conflicts between their classmates or younger students.
  • Only few schools have actual sports teams that compete with other schools'. Even if the school has a sports team, students are not necessarily very aware of it.
  • While student newspapers used to be very common until the late 20th century, with new issues often produced after a couple of months, many of them are now very short-lived, usually vanishing when the team graduates. Student newspapers are often financed mostly by advertisements.
  • Usually schools don't have their own radio stations or TV channels. Therefore, larger universities often have a local student-run radio station.
  • Although most German schools and state universities do not have classrooms equipped with a computer for each student, schools usually have at least one or two computer rooms and most universities offer a limited number of rooms with computers on every desk. State school computers are usually maintained by the same exclusive contractor in the entire city and updated slowly. Internet access is often provided by phone companies free of charge. Especially in schools the teachers' computer skills are often very low.
  • At the end of their schooling, students usually undergo a cumulative written and oral examination (Abitur in Gymnasien or Abschlussprüfung in Realschulen and Hauptschulen). Students leaving Gymnasium after 9th grade do have the leaving examination of the Hauptschule and after 10th grade do have the Mittlere Reife (leaving examination of the Realschule, also called Mittlerer Schulanschluss).
  • After 10th grade Gymnasium students may quit school for at least one year of job education if they do not wish to continue. Realschule and Hauptschule students who have passed their Abschlussprüfung may decide to continue schooling at a Gymnasium, but are sometimes required to take additional courses in order to catch up.
  • Corporal punishment was banned in 1949 in East Germany and in 1973 in West Germany.
  • Fourth grade (or sixth, depending on the state) is often quite stressful for students of lower performance and their families. Many feel tremendous pressure when trying to achieve placement in Gymnasium, or at least when attempting to avoid placement in Hauptschule. Germany is unique compared to other western countries in its early segregation of students based on academic achievement.

School year[edit]

The school year starts after the summer break (different from state to state, usually end/mid of August) and is divided into two terms. There are typically 12 weeks of holidays in addition to public holidays. Exact dates differ between states, but there are generally six weeks of summer and two weeks of Christmas holiday. The other holiday periods occur in spring (during the period around Easter Sunday) and autumn (during the former harvest, where farmers used to need their children for field work). Schools can also schedule two or three special days off per term.

Timetables[edit]

Students have about 30-40 periods of 45 minutes each per week (depending on year and state), but especially secondary schools today switch to 90 minutes lessons (Block) which count as two 'traditional' lessons. To manage classes that are taught three or five lessons per week there are two common ways. At some schools teaching 90 minutes periods there is still one 45-minute lesson each day, mostly between the first two blocks; at other schools those subjects are taught in weekly or termly rotations. There are about 12 compulsory subjects: up to three foreign languages (the first one is often already taken in primary school, the second one beginning in 6th or 7th grade, another is taken somewhen between 7th and 11th grade), physics, biology, chemistry, civics/social/political studies, history, geography (starting between 5th and 7th grade), mathematics, music, visual arts, German, PE and religious education/ethics (to be taken from primary school on). The range of offered afternoon activities is different from school to school however, most German schools offer choirs or orchestras, sometimes sports, theater or languages. Many of these are offered as semi-scholastic AG's (Arbeitsgemeinschaften – literally "working groups"), which are mentioned, but not officially graded in students' reports. Other common extracurricular activities are organized as private clubs, which are very popular in Germany.

TimeMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
08.00–08.45EnglishPhysicsBiologyPhysicsGreek
08.45–09.30HistoryEnglishChemistryMathematicsChemistry
09.30–09.40break
09.40–10.25LatinGreekMathematicsLatinEconomics
10.25–11.10GermanGeographyReligious studiesGreekGerman
11.10–11.30break
11.30–12.15MusicMathematicsGeographyGermanBiology
12.15–13.00Religious studiesCivic educationEconomicsEnglishLatin
13.00–14.00break
14.00–14.45ArtsIntensive course
14.45–15.30Intensive courseGreek
15.30-16.15PE
16.15–17.00PE

There are three blocks of lessons where each lesson takes 45 minutes. After each block, there is a break of 15–20 minutes, also after the 6th lesson (the number of lessons changes from year to year, so it's possible that one would be in school until 4 o'clock). "Nebenfächer" (= minor fields of study) are taught two times a week, "Hauptfächer" (=major subjects) are taught three times.

In grades 11–13, 11–12, or 12–13 (depending on the school system), each student majors in two or three subjects ("Leistungskurse"). These are usually taught five lessons per week. The other subjects ("Grundkurse") are usually taught three periods per week.

TimeMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
08.00–08.45EnglishReligious studiesFrenchPhysicsGerman
08.50–09.35EnglishReligious studiesFrenchPhysicsGerman
09.55–10.40GermanGeography/Social Studies (taught in English)MathematicsGeography/Social Studies (taught in English)Mathematics
10.45–11.30GermanGeography/Social Studies (taught in English)MathematicsGeography/Social Studies (taught in English)Mathematics
11.50–12.35PhysicsPolitics-EconomyHistoryEnglishFrench
12.40–1.25PhysicsPolitics-EconomyHistoryEnglishFrench
1.40–2.25Arts"Seminarfach"+HistoryPE (different sports offered as courses)
2.30–3.15Arts"Seminarfach"+HistoryPE (different sports offered as courses)

+"Seminarfach" is a compulsory class in which each student is prepared to turn in his/her own research paper at the end of the semester. The class is supposed to train the students' scientific research skills that will be necessary in their later university life.

There are huge differences between the 16 states of Germany having alternatives to this basic pattern such as Waldorfschulen or other private schools. Adults can also go back to evening school and take the Abitur exam.

Public and private schools[edit]

In 2006, six percent of German children attended private schools.[16]

In Germany, Article 7, Paragraph 4 of the Grundgesetz, the constitution of Germany, guarantees the right to establish private schools. This article belongs to the first part of the German basic law, which defines civil and human rights. A right which is guaranteed in this part of the Grundgesetz can only be suspended in a state of emergency, if the respective article specifically states this possibility. That is not the case with this article. It is also not possible to abolish these rights. This unusual protection of private schools was implemented to protect them from a second Gleichschaltung or similar event in the future.

Ersatzschulen are ordinary primary or secondary schools which are run by private individuals, private organizations or religious groups. These schools offer the same types of diplomas as in public schools. However, Ersatzschulen, like their state-run counterparts, are subjected to basic government standards, such as the minimum required qualifications of teachers and pay grades. An Ersatzschule must have at least the same academic standards as those of a state school and Article 7, Paragraph 4 of the Grundgesetz, allows to forbid the segregation of pupils according to socioeconomic status (the so-called Sonderungsverbot). Therefore, most Ersatzschulen have very low tuition fees compared to those in most other Western European countries; scholarships are also often available. However, it is not possible to finance these schools with such low tuition fees: accordingly all German Ersatzschulen are subsidised with public funds.

Some students attend private schools through welfare subsidies. This is often the case if a student is considered to be a child at risk: students who have learning disabilities, special needs or come from dysfunctional home environments.

After allowing for the socio-economic status of the parents, children attending private schools are not as able as those at state schools. At the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for example, after considering socioeconomic class, students at private schools underperformed those at state schools.[17] One has, however, to be careful interpreting that data: it may be that such students do not underperform because they attend a private school, but that they attend a private school because they underperform. Some private Realschulen and Gymnasien have lower entry requirements than public Realschulen and Gymnasien.

Special schools[edit]

Most German children with special needs attend a school called Förderschule or Sonderschule (special school) that serves only such children. There are several types of special schools in Germany such as:

  • The "Sonderschule für Lernbehinderte" - a special school serving children who have learning difficulties
  • The "Schule mit dem Förderschwerpunkt Geistige Entwicklung" - a special school serving children who have very severe learning difficulties
  • The "Förderschule Schwerpunkt emotionale und soziale Entwicklung" - a special school serving children who have special emotional needs

Only one in 21 German children attends such a special school. Teachers at those schools are qualified professionals who have specialized in special-needs education while at university. Special schools often have a very favourable student-teacher ratio and facilities compared with other schools. Special schools have been criticized. It is argued that special education separates and discriminates against those who are disabled or different. Some special-needs children do not attend special schools, but are mainstreamed into a Hauptschule or Gesamtschule (comprehensive school) and/or, in rare cases, into a Realschule or even a Gymnasium.

Elite schools[edit]

There are very few specialist schools for gifted children. As German schools do not IQ-test children, most intellectually gifted children remain unaware that they fall into this category. The German psychologist, Detlef H. Rost, carried out a pioneer long-term study on gifted children called the Marburger Hochbegabtenprojekt. In 1987/1988 he tested 7000 third graders on a test based on the German version of the Cattell Culture Fair III test. Those who scored at least two standard deviations above the mean were categorised as gifted. A total of 151 gifted subjects participated in the study alongside 136 controls. All participants in the study were tested blind with the result that they did not discover whether they were gifted or not. The study revealed that the gifted children did very well in school. The vast majority later attended a Gymnasium and achieved good grades. However, 15 percent, were classified as underachievers because they attended a Realschule (two cases) or a Hauptschule (one case), had repeated a grade (four cases) or had grades that put them in the lower half of their class (the rest of cases). The report also concluded that most gifted persons had high self-esteem and good psychological health.[18] Rost said that he was not in favour of special schools for the gifted. Gifted children seemed to be served well by Germany's existing school system.[19]

International schools[edit]

As of January 2015 the International Schools Consultancy (ISC)[20] listed Germany as having 164 international schools.[21] ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and is international in its orientation."[21] This definition is used by publications including The Economist.[22] In 1971 the first International Baccalaureate World School was authorized in Germany.[23] Today 70 schools offer one or more of the IB programmes including two who offer the new IB Career-related Programme.[24]

International comparisons[edit]

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), coordinated by the OECD, assesses the skills of 15-year-olds in OECD countries and a number of partner countries. The assessment in the year 2000 demonstrated serious weaknesses in German pupils' performance. In the test of 41 countries, Germany ranked 21st in reading and 20th in both mathematics and the natural sciences, prompting calls for reform.[25] Major newspapers ran special sections on the PISA results, which were also discussed extensively on radio and television. In response, Germany's states formulated a number of specific initiatives addressing the perceived problems behind Germany's poor performance.[26]

By 2006, German schoolchildren had improved their position compared to previous years, being ranked (statistically) significantly above average (rank 13) in science skills and statistically not significantly above or below average in mathematical skills (rank 20) and reading skills (rank 18).[27][28] In 2012, Germany achieved above average results in all three areas of reading, mathematics, and natural sciences.[29]

The PISA Examination also found big differences in achievement between students attending different types of German schools.[30] According to Jan-Martin-Wiadra: "Conservatives prized the success of the Gymnasium, for them the finest school form in the world – indeed, it is by far the number one in the PISA league table. But what they prefer to forget is that this success came at the cost of a catastrophe in the Hauptschulen."[31] The socio-economic gradient was very high in Germany, the students' performance there being more dependent on socio-economic factors than in most other countries.[27][28]

Performance on PISA 2003 (points earned) by school attended and social class
type schoolsocial class "very low"social class "low"social class "high"social class "very high"
Hauptschule400429436450
Gesamtschule438469489515
Realschule482504528526
Gymnasium578581587602
PISA 2003 – Der Bildungsstand der Jugendlichen in Deutschland – Ergebnisse des 2. internationalen Vergleiches.[32]

Some German teachers' representatives and a number of scientists disputed the PISA findings.[33] They claimed, amongst other things, that the questions had been ill-translated, that the samples drawn in some countries were not representative, that German students (most of whom had never done a multiple choice tests in their lives before) were disadvantaged by the multiple choice questions, that the PISA questions had no curricular validity and that PISA was "in fact an IQ-test",[34][35] which according to them showed that dysgenic fertility was taking place in Germany.[36][37][38][39][40] Additionally, the OECD was criticized for following its own agenda of a strictly economically utilitarian education policy—as opposed to humanist education policy following the German ideal of Bildung—and for trying to establish an educational testing industry without democratic legitimation.[41][42]

Apprenticeship[edit]

Germany has high standards in the education of craftspeople. Historically very few people attended college. In the 1950s for example, 80 percent had only Volksschule ("primary school")-Education of 6 or 7 years. Only 5 percent of youths entered college at this time and still fewer graduated. In the 1960s, 6 percent of youths entered college. In 1961 there were still 8,000 cities in which no children received secondary education.[43] However, this does not mean that Germany was a country of uneducated people. In fact, many of those who did not receive secondary education were highly skilled craftspeople and members of the upper middle class. Even though more people attend college today, a craftsperson is still highly valued in German society.

Historically (prior to the 20th century) the relationship between a master craftsman and his apprentice was paternalistic. Apprentices were often very young when entrusted to a master craftsman by their parents. It was seen as the master's responsibility not only to teach the craft, but also to instill the virtues of a good craftsman. He was supposed to teach honour, loyalty, fair-mindedness, courtesy and compassion for the poor. He was also supposed to offer spiritual guidance, to ensure his apprentices fulfilled their religious duties and to teach them to "honour the Lord" (Jesus Christ) with their lives. The master craftsman who failed to do this would lose his reputation and would accordingly be dishonoured - a very bad fate in those days. The apprenticeship ended with the so-called Freisprechung (exculpation). The master announced in front of the trade heading that the apprentice had been virtuous and God-loving.[44][45][46] The young person now had the right to call himself a "Geselle" (journeyman). He had two options: either to work for a master or to become a master himself. Working for another master had several disadvantages. One was that, in many cases, the journeyman who was not a master was not allowed to marry and found a family. Because the church disapproved of sex outside of marriage, he was obliged to become a master if he did not want to spend his life celibate.[47] Accordingly, many of the so-called "Geselle" decided to go on a journey in order to become a master. This was called "Waltz" or Journeyman years.

In those days, the crafts were called the "virtuous crafts" and the virtuosness of the craftspersons was greatly respected. For example, according to one source, a person should be greeted from "the bricklayer craftspersons in the town, who live in respectability, die in respectability, who strive for respectability and who apply respectability to their actions"[48] In those days, the concept of the "virtuous crafts" stood in contrast to the concept of "academic freedom" as Brüdermann and Jost noticed.

Nowadays, the education of craftspersons has changed - in particular self-esteem and the concept of respectability.[49] Yet even today, a craftsperson does sometimes refer to the "craftspersons codex of virtues" and the crafts sometimes may be referred to as the "virtuous crafts" and a craftsperson who gives a blessing at a roofing ceremony may, in many cases, remind of the "virtues of the crafts I am part of". Also certain virtues are ascribed to certain crafts. For example, a person might be called "always on time like a bricklayer" to describe punctuality.[50]

Sign of different coexisting school types on a school complex in Germany
Classroom furniture from 1900 (left) to 1985 (right)
Pupils of the Gymnasium Nonnenwerth, an all-girls Catholic school in 1960
Overview over German school system
Education system in Germany
Standard classroom at a primary school in Germany
The Witten-Annen Freiligrathschule, a Hauptschule
Cadets of the German Navy taking exercises in front of one of the gyms of Germany's naval officers school, the Marineschule Mürwik
A special school for children with special emotional needs in Kötitz, Germany
St. Afra is one of few specialist schools that serve only gifted children
A Meisterbrief (master craftsman's certificate) from the Berliner Handwerkskammer (Berlin chamber of handicrafts), the motto on the certificate reads "Work is the ennoblement of the citizen; boon will be the reward for his labour
A master discusses a vacuum compressor with his apprentice and several other craftsmen
A German roofer thatching a roof with reeds (he is wearing the traditional waistcoat and trousers of a craftsman)

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