Most of us, hopefully, believe, everyone is born equal, but surely by the time they are 10 we know if they are idiots or not?
It sounds harsh, it sounds very utilitarian, it sounds like a way to create a generation of emotionally crippled kids. But it seems to work. Listen Direct or on iTunes, the German education system seems harsh, but it really does work. Show 009 of Three Wise Guys.
I suppose I should explain this a little better first… Firstly, I’m originally from New Zealand, our education system is pretty similar to most of the western world, kids go to Kindergarder when they are 3 and 4 for a few hours a day, learn basic ABC’s 123’s, but mostly just developmental things, like playing and being social, leaving Kindergarder most kids can’t read or write or count past 10 unless their parents taught them individually. Then you have primary school from 5-12. There is no entry criteria for primary school, while it is expected most kids would know basic ABC’s and 123’s, they are still covered in the first year along with the foundations of reading and writing, each year getting progressively harder, by the time you leave, you should have decent literacy, Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the basics of algebra (More being aware of them more than being able to do them. Throw in some basic social sciences like history and geography and simmer. In primary school you have one teacher for the entire day who handles all the different classes.
Some schools separate the last two years, when the child is 11-12, and have a intermediate school, kind of a practice highschool, but these are not terribly common.
Then on to highschool, where for the first time, classes are taught by different teachers in different classrooms. You start having to do every class option for at least one term, then every year you get to drop those you dont want and pick up more specialized classes, for the first two years there is just basic, Math and Science, but after 15, they split into different disciplines like Statistics, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, ect
Then on to university or a trade school at 18 if they wish.
This by in large, is similar to how most of the western world handles education, with slight differences in testing and what year certain things are done.
When I first came to Germany 3 years ago I thought their system brutal, harsh, liable to destroy any student thrust into it. But after seeing the system in action for 3 years, I think we should hold it up as the ideal.
They have kindergarden, but theirs runs to 6, and in the last year tends to be a little more proactive in real teaching.
Primary School starts at 7 and goes to 10-11. Now by in large it is fairly similar to most of the west in what they teach and how it is taught.
Where the real difference comes in is the final year. At the end of the final year, the teacher evaluates the student, and recommend them what level of highschool to go to, yes they have different grades of school. Before I get into that, I will point out, it is only a recommendation, and while it would obviously be smart to follow it, many parents dont, forcing their children into a higher grade than they can handle, this system has been tweaked several times over the last few years, taking power away from teachers and giving it to parents, which sadly, while we would hope to be a good thing, has resulted in chaos as demanding parents push their children more than they can handle.
For their equivalent of highschool, the German separate into three different levels, the bottom is called “Hop school” and is very basic level of education, focusing more on classes, such as design drawing, woodwork ect, also classes are more designed to be fun and interactive to keep the children amused and paying attention. Students placed here are not of high academic prowess, and usually end up in blue collar work or trade professions. This level finishes at 15, where they can then leave to the work force or get tested into the next rank, which is…
The middle rank is “Real School” which is pretty much the equivalent of what most of the western world does for highschool, maybe a bit easier or more focused on “interactive learning” than the standard western school. These schools finish at 16, and children who go to them often move on a work/learn system that is very popular in Germany, where you study for 10-15 hours a week at a school, and spend the rest of the time at on the job learning/working. Jobs such as secretarial work, admin, computer tech, offer are common from this grade. If a child wishes to they can test at the end of this school to continue to…
The final grade of school is Gymnasium, which doesn’t have a translation really. This runs all the way up to 17. While they do receive students who are graduated from the lower level schools, it is not terribly common, and they usually lose more through dropping out to the lower grades than they get from people moving up (Especially since parents have been able to over ride teacher recommendations). Gymnasium is a step above what most western schools are, and in the final few years, are more similar to university courses than standard high school. The students are lectured at and are expected to motivate themselves. While a teacher is able to help, learning is self disciplined by in large. I would place most students who graduation from Gymnasium at or above many 1st or 2nd year university students from other nations.
At the face of it this system seems really hardcore, judging a 11 year old, guiding their future life plans from such a young age? It is harsh. But it has been shown to work time and time again. My highschool which took everyone had very smart kids, and real trouble makers, and thank God those kids dropped out at 15 (as soon as they are allowed to in NZ) because the rest of us could focus more.
How much better would your school have been if the kids who didnt want to learn werent there, and most of the students where at your grade of learning?
If you hated highschool because it was hard or not your thing, would you not have preferred a school tailored to teach you life skills and fun interactive learning?
The system at this moment has been broken a bit by the Green Government who took the power to place students away from teachers who knew the academic prowess of their students, to the parents, who by in large, force their children into high levels than they can handle, causing massive drop outs from the top level and lower learning standards for everyone involved. While the idea of parents having a say sounds right on the surface, teachers in Germany study for years in this system, parents are quite often blind to what is really in their childs best interests. In the old system, if a parent really didnt agree with the decision of the teacher, they could request a meeting or outside testing, but it was rare, as most had been through the system their selves and knew it worked.
I originally though that by placing a child in the mid level school you had decided their fate for ever and denied them access to university (as only students from gymnasium are granted university access), but they always have the option of being tested up if they wish. But most are happy to be placed into any level of school.
There is no real stigma about being in the “Dumb” school, as they are often more than happy to be in that level of school and move onto trade jobs, they never wanted a more academic path.
Considering the problem New Zealand and many western nations are facing with to many university graduates and not enough people in the trades, maybe a system tailored to the skills of the students is best.
Granted it took me years to get used to the system, and to this day, something about it still seems harsh. But with all the options given, and the results that speak for them selves. I cant honestly find a good reason not to support this system of schooling.
I give a much more detailed description on the levels of schooling in the show here, or listen to iTunes with all the episodes, this is show 009, with questions from Preston and Aaron about the problems many in the west think the system has. At the least it is something to ponder.