Last Updated on September 24, 2023
I continue to be dissatisfied with the German gymnasium. In these two posts more about clever Elsa, marks, learning content, a roof without walls, GFS and choosing a profile.
Part 2 German Gymnasium school. Profile choice, marks and inclusion
Gymnasium in Germany. First year
4th grade. Gymnasium or Realschule?
Secondary schools in Bavaria
Education system in Baden-Württemberg
Secondary schools in Schleswig Holstein and other Bundesländer
Bilingual children. 1
Learn by heart everything – according to the principles of clever Elsa
Let’s say right away about the pros, in order to maintain some objectivity.
- English is taught well
- technical equipment is good
- there are still teachers for whom the children themselves are important, but there are very few of them and they are limited by the bureaucratic Ordnung
What I don’t like about the German gymnasium:
- The basic knowlege was removed because there is no time. They put a roof without walls
- much more complex things were brought down. Since there is not enough basic knowledge for these complex things and they are not age-appropriate, children do not understand them and are forced to learn everything by heart
- individual preferences are not taken into account
- learning is based on an in-depth study of separate single topics. It’s like driving a spotlight in the dark and illuminating certain places. Will the viewer understand the whole picture? Only if he has a remarkable mind and a rich imagination (and mistakes will be inevitable).
- a lot of learning by heart without a purpose of things that are hardly related to general knowledge and will be useful only to few children.
Do you know the German fairy tale about clever Elsa? This is about a very smart girl who went down to the cellar for beer and made up a story about the future potential troubles of her future baby from her future potential husband. Reminds me a lot of a German Gymnasium.
Offtopic. However, in Germany as a whole, this fairy tale is alive and well, especially in the German bureaucracy. Why is it so killing all your nerves? Precisely because it is trying in advance to prevent all possible dirty tricks on your part. At the very beginning of my German life, I was not given a visa for six months, because, according to the employee, I was going to come to Germany, divorce my husband and marry a German.
So it is in gymnasium. Why do they teach so many unnecessary things? Because what if this child, one out of a thousand, wants to take Abitur in physical education, and in the 7th grade he still cannot do a somersault on parallel bars and run a marathon? So the girls’ physical education teacher said at the parent meeting: “What if? And we will now work hard!” So please, an hour of running in your free time.
What if this child, one of 100 thousand, wants to work at sewage treatment plants, but how did he still not learn them in detail in the 6th grade? So they answer in detail in the biology test: what are the names of all parts of the treatment facilities and what kind of processes take place there.
At the same time, basic knowledge has been pushed out somewhere, no one knows where (maybe kindergarten?), because there is not enough space for them. But for a “decent” education from the 19th century – fluency in Latin and music theory for those who do not play any instrument – there is enough time.
A lot of learning is always good?
Unfortunately, this is the case when more does not mean better.
Anyone who has studied a foreign language as an adult will say (unless, of course, he is a polyglot): even if at first you made a powerful breakthrough and learned a whole level in a short period, then you will be forced to give this knowledge time to settle down.
knowledge for memorization – they must be regularly repeated
knowledge for understanding – age-appropriate, from simple to complex and having vertical (one follows from the other) and horizontal connections between each other
and additional knowledge in small print in the margins for those who are interested.
And the student must understand what exactly to memorize and what is additional. This is not the case in the German gymnasium, all topics are equally important.
There is also no age match. And if you don’t understand something by age, then you have only one way out – to learn it without understanding. This is especially evident in the subjects of the natural science cycle (see Biology and Geography below).
Content connections are random. There is a sequence of content only in languages, history (without prehistory and mostly Europe) and partly in mathematics, but there is an algebro-geometric polka, so the sequence is lost.
As a result, at the end of the year, the whole package flies out of the crowded brain. It’s some kind of intellectual bulimia. As my child says: “I study all the time, but I don’t know anything!”
They do not build the whole house from the foundation to the roof, but the bay is a piece of the foundation, putting a third of the bricks of the walls into discord and crushing it all with a roof from above. From the basic topics, separate examples are snatched out, which are analyzed in detail.
Naturally, different subjects are different, and a lot depends on teachers – how blindly they follow the program.
Subjects in German gymnasium
There is such a general trend in high school (Oberstufe): what was in grades 9-10, then they learn again in depth for Abitur. Materials of grades 5-8 are not repeated or deepened.
The main thing that is best learned, it must be admitted, is modern languages. In grade 11, English can be at the C1 level (they offer to pass the CAE), the second language – B2, the third – B1 at least. But by the way, it is in modern languages that they retain the standard pattern of gradual learning of tenses and grammatical constructions and expected themes. No one jumps anywhere, no one decides to give the material of the institute in the 7th grade, and cross out basic knowledge.
My son read all of Potter in English for pleasure. And he is not a super talent and has no 1 in Zeugnis, but such a lazy average guy.
4 lessons in the week
Textbook Ideen. Schroedel. I don’t like the textbook in this class, in the 5th and 6th grades it was much better
Previously, German stood out from others with its closeness to reality and modern methods.
In 6th grade there still were:
more interesting literature, such as scary stories,
writing training – descriptions of animals, sequence of actions, description of subject, Bericht (report), presentation of the situation on behalf of another hero,
fables (including writing a fable),
“The Hobbit” as the main work for reading.
From spelling they took das and dass. As always – the minimum. From the theory of language – tenses of verbs, active-passive, adverbs, predicate.
But in the 7th grade, all this turned into almost pure literary criticism. At the same time, the textbook is defective – you cannot take it and learn something. This is the unfortunate type of textbook that a teacher should accompany. A lot of things are not for the age of 13-year-olds. The teacher, however, himself uses hardly half of this textbook, in contrast to the 6th grade. If they use everything, then there will be the same mess with the race, as in mathematics.
They omitted creative writing, informational texts (as they almost always do), novellas, calendar stories (apparently they mean very short stories), theatrical texts, the art of argument, analysis advertisements, short films (analysis of the trailer, poster, review).
The Nibelungenlied and one modern teenage book were examined in detail. They did a retelling of the text. Now the ballads are on. Lyrical hero, text analysis, meter, rhyme.
They wrote a dictation, a characteristics of the hero (this is when both appearance and character). Now they will write a ballad test.
I’m sorry that they don’t write on free topics and write very little in general. And when they need to write something for control, they do it with little or no preparation. Characteristics of the hero (Charakterisierung) is a complex type of essay. They took it orally. Then they wrote once at home, and without feedback – my child asked separately to explain to him what was wrong, the rest did not. And the next day, control work.
From German as a language there was in the 7th grade:
the transition of different parts of speech into nouns (and, accordingly, capitalization)
comma in nested constructions
You can also repeat the separable verbs.
And this is all with German as a language. Theory of language, where are you?
In total, over three years spelling was spent well if two months (not at all in the fifth grade and a month each in the 6th and 7th grades). At the same time, only difficult topics were covered. Basic spelling was not repeated. Everything that your child managed to learn in elementary school is what he have left.
At the same time, marks for spelling are given as if they were taught it long and hard. Even teachers of other subjects have the right to reduce the mark by a point for errors. True, so far they are only threatening, but no one has yet taken the risk.
4 lessons per week, extra for 6th grade slow learners
Textbook Lambacher Schweizer, Klett. Normal, if you teach a child where to find the information he need.
There seems to be no additional lesson for weak students in the 7th grade. They suggest coming once a week to the room where tutors are on duty – students from 9th grade. Those who went say that after the explanations they finally stopped understanding anything 🙂
The speed has decreased a little, but the topics are difficult. Plus, there is the lack of training in brackets and other calculation rules since the 5th grade. This system of jumping on the topic “a week in each class” shows itself to be completely inoperative. Especially fractions are still not understood, because after the 6th grade no one repeated them.
There is a lot of geometry in the 7th grade, so even such a complex new topic as equations was completely lost in geometry. They are studied interspersed with graphs, linear functions and triangles. The thing, of course, is related, but the children get confused. Separate lessons would be better, I still do not understand what is the advantage of mixing algebra and geometry.
Grade 6 – 4 lessons per week (plus extra for those who are lagging behind)
Grade 7 – 4.5 (!) Lessons per week (plus an extra one for those who are lagging behind)
Well, what can I say after two years of this torture. People, don’t choose Latin. Only if you are going to law school or want to become a gymnasium teacher, does this make at least some minimal sense. And the problem isn’t that it’s boring.
There are 7 (5 main and 2 additional) declensions in nouns, each of which has five cases and 2 number forms. Total 70 endings. They partially repeat, but not always. At the same time, you need to know whether the word is masculine or neuter – they can refer to different declensions, but in the initial form they have the same endings, that is, this is also should to be learned.
Adjectives have forms of three genders, five cases, and plus six more tables of some special variants and two tables of comparative degrees. There are about 130 endings in total.
Pronouns are also partially declined by gender, case and number. About 50 forms.
Verbs. In total, about 200 regular non-repeating forms and the need to know the conjugation type. And 8 more auxiliary verbs with 32 forms each.
And the main cherry on this cake. You cannot use tables and dictionaries. You have to learn all this by heart. And never, never, never in your life after school, do not use it.
I understand that Latin can be taught as a base for European languages, as they advertise. Ok, for this we learn words. Develops logic. Well, relatively, there is also illogical there. You can play chess instead. But memorizing about 450 endings at least does not seem adequate to me. These endings are not relevant for modern languages. They are not relevant to anyone at all.
And most importantly, I am terribly sorry for this wasted time, which they took away from really necessary knowledge, having so many problems with mathematics and natural sciences.
2 lessons per week
Textbook Westermann. Not bad.
The peculiarity of history lessons in the German gymnasium is that it is taught from a social point of view. So far (grades 6-7) there were practically no dates and events. From dates – only a few dates of large periods, from events – only something very global like the Reformation. In addition, everything is very Eurocentric, but not Germanocentric. Rather, in general, about society in a particular period, how they lived, social relations, social pyramids, nutrition, economics, science. No states, no wars. Names – only selectively, mostly some laws of well-known sovereigns-legislators. The world except Europe – rare and very few.
On the one hand, I like this kind of history, I had too much political history in the school. But I still think that basic knowledge should be also in political history. Key moments in the history of the main states and the largest rulers (and not only European ones) – in fact, this is such a necessary basis. It is somehow strange to me that neither Mesopotamia, nor Sparta, nor megaliths, nor Jeanne d’Arc, nor the Vikings, and many others appear in history lessons. At least introductory lessons with the main framework should have been.
In the 6th grade, Egypt was very detailed, then a little ancient people, then Greece (fewer than Egypt), then Rome (fewer than Greece). The transition from the Romans to the Middle Ages disappeared somewhere.
Middle Ages in Europe, medieval society, social pyramid, agriculture, village life, city formation, monastery, crusades.
Renaissance, economics, science, art, witches, Leonardo (very detailed).
Reformation. Peasant War. Typography. 30 years war
Louis 14. French Revolution.
Briefly about the world:
mongols, Ottoman Empire – book spread
Columbus. Ancient civilizations of America on a book spread for each.
Slavery, colonization of America.
I looked further into the curricula – and no one is going to teach history one more time from the beginning. The abitur, apparently, includes topics after the Reformation and mainly the 19th-20th century. The themes, however, differ in different lands and in different years.
from 7th grade, 2 lessons per week
Textbook Dorn Bader, Westermann. Bad
For some reason, physics begins with acoustics and optics, and not with mechanics. I couldn’t find a reason why. But children do not understand the topic. The study of waves is connected with chemistry (it will be from grade 8) and those parts of mathematics that have not yet been learned. Therefore, they try to explain in their own words in a crooked way and it turns out recondite.
After optics, kinematics will go, then magnetism, electricity, dynamics, energy. These are for 7th and 8th grade. Suppose they still have time for kinematics this year, but next year there will already be 4 sections. Approximately 2 months per section, because there are holidays, missing lessons and tests. Question: how well they will study, for example, electricity during this time.
I suspect the purpose is to fit the 8th grade physics course to the NWT profile.
Then again the same sections, but with the snatching out of some other topics, and already in the 10th grade, atomic physics and a little astronomy. At 11-12, grades 9-10 are repeated.
There is not so much text in the textbook, a lot is given on sheets of such quality that my husband, a physicist, understands for half an hour which way they come from.
I understand nothing and for me it is a mystery how it is possible to give in the 7th grade, the first year of studying the subject, such texts that a person with a higher education does not understand them.
The complexity of the texts was mitigated by the fact that simpler questions were put on the control than were studied in the lessons. But time was spent on problems not by age – and there is so little time for physics.
2 lessons per week
Textbook Natura, Klett
With biology, I lost logic in the 5th grade. Now, having looked at all the programs over the years, I can tell you how they imagine it. Not that the logic has appeared, but at least it is clear what to expect. Classes are doubled, teachers themselves choose which topic to give when.
In grades 5-6, flora and fauna.
If you go according to the textbook (the teachers had different order and they did not use the textbook much), then in the 5th grade representatives of animals of different types were selected:
4 in detail and several on the book spread,
and three or four birds.
In the 6th grade, representatives of amphibians, reptiles, insects and other small creatures are studied. They study plants a little (no more than a quarter of a year) and the water world, as well as sorting garbage and waste in detail and treatment facilities.
In grades 7-8, a mixture of general biology with anatomy. How exactly they learn – I do not know, because they are now in the 7th grade on the genitals, and this is the end of the textbook. There were definitely a cell, nutrition and energy, hormones, a circulatory system, a respiratory system and an eye.
Content of the book:
cell, plant cell, cell growth, cell respiration
metabolism and energy
cell transport system
nutrition, calories, food pyramid nutrients,
proteins, fats, amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, water
healthy eating, food quality, weight, eating disorders, ways of eating
blood, lymph, heart, circulatory system, heart disease
bacteria, bacterial infections, antibiotics
viruses immunity, immune reaction, vaccination, unwanted immune reactions
eye, vision, vision protection
puberty, genitals, female cycle
embryo development, pregnancy and childbirth, contraceptives
sexuality and partnership
In grades 9-10 there will already be ecology, genetics, evolution, neurobiology and immunity. In grades 11-12, the same is in depth plus a cell.
The diversity of the animal and plant world – it’s all on your own somehow. I don’t see a human skeleton and muscles, but they studied the skeletons of a bat and a mole in great detail. Digestive and excretory systems, human organs – I do not see. But the heart is analyzed in detail and especially in detail the process of the onset of a heart attack, extremely important information in the 7th grade.
Some kind of constant jumps, mixing either plants into humans, or humans into animals. This would be normal as repetition, but when the preliminary structure of knowledge is not built, chaos results.
Ok, we decided that now, we are not interested in zoology and botany, it is outdated, and botany is completely for freaks. More important is general biology. In a sense, yes, more important. More important are general processes, survival strategies, biological environments, interactions.
But this is the same house that is built in pieces and pressed down with a roof. General biology is a superstructure, to which at least a simplified system of what it builds upon relies. Then it is easier to understand and remember.
I would like to avoid strange repetitions, when they don’t repeat most of knowledge, but they study eye three times.
And, of course, I would like to understand why neurobiology, cell and genetics are chosen for common knowledge, and not for in-depth knowledge for those who are going to this area. There, in fact, a lot is missed in the lower grades, which is more important for the life of non-biologists. It would be possible to repeat from zoology, and somehow systematize botany, and repeat anatomy more logically. The basics of medical knowledge, the behavior of animals, so that the mass media then do not have to explain how to behave with wolves, lynxes and bears, the biological world of Germany – they could gain a lot that is more important to general knowledge.
Since one of the natural science subjects is mandatory in grades 11-12, and biology seems to many easier than physics or chemistry, it is logical to choose biology. So our future political scientist or primary school teachers or journalists are learning by heart cells and genetics as common knowledge.
2 lessons per week
Textbook Dircke, Westermann
Oh, it’s not an subject, it’s a song. “Green, green grass…”, that is, the party. Geography in the German gymnasium undeservedly bears this name. It would be more correct to call this subject Climatology, because they almost do not study anything else.
In fifth grade, they spent a month learning how to draw a climate diagram. In the 6th and 7th grade, it turned out that this sacred knowledge is extremely valuable, because it is constantly used.
Grade 6: climatic zones of Europe, the Alps and the Alpine climate. There was supposed to be another piece either from Southern Europe or from Northern Europe, but it never happened.
Grade 7-8: climatic zones of the world, the Amazon tropics (global problem – deforestation, sustainable use of the rainforest), greenhouse effect, climate change and its consequences, population, migration
In grades 9-10, something other than ecology and climatology is finally revealed (but it still occupies a significant place):
volcanoes and movements of the earth’s crust,
Atlantic, water circulation, ocean floor, how climate change affects the ocean, sea level rise, coastal protection, water pollution
minerals, depletion, renewable sources
economic regions, globalization, US vs. China comparison, climate impact
economic geography of Baden-Württemberg
In grades 11-12: spheres (litho, bio…), greenhouse effect, climate change, fight against climate change, globalization, population growth, water supply, city climate, green city, migration, human rights
So 6th grade was almost a complete waste of time. The same goes in the 7th grade, it could well be combined. And if at first they went through normal geography with relief, a map of currents and other things, and normal biology, then the climate could be given once in the senior classes: all this would be instantly remembered and understood without endless chewing for three and a half classes.
All geography at the German Gymnasium in Baden-Württemberg is on the agenda of the Green Party (climate, globalization, migration). For several years, children have been brainwashed by climate and ecology, and not only by geography. This topic also appears every year in biology, appears in physics, ethics, literature… Not in Latin, sports and music, thank God. At the exit we now have “asphalt terrorists”.
Instead of making a separate subject of ecology for a year or a maximum of a couple of years and giving it an hour instead of advanced Latin, they put it in place of basic knowledge in other subjects that are actually more important in order to somehow cope with climate problems. Instead, we get hysterical people stomping their feet so that the thermometer is immediately turned back, and not people who can do the research and work. Well, why the green party necessarily needs elections from the age of 16 is also obvious.
Music, art, sports
2 hours per week (music in 7th grade – 1 hour)
These subjects depend very much on the teacher: they can be from adequate human to picky pedants. Marks migrate accordingly. So far, the art teachers are the most adequate, the musicians are the most inadequate.
Art tasks are not easy, but you can always get 3 for diligence, even if your work turned out to be a nightmare.
Physical education continues to expect elite athletes, and at once in all sports. This year they practiced parallel bars, handball, vault jumping, high jump, sprint and football again and forever.
The music program is such a latin light. The vast majority will check the box that they received a “decent education” and forget after school forever.
In the 7th grade there is a score, an orchestra, thirds and harmonization. In the 6th grade, there was some kind of horror with the arrangement of the correct signs in notes, pauses and intervals, and everything connected with this.
And so all this was studied only orally in the lessons, and if it was not understood in the lessons, then there was no chance.
1 lesson per week (or 2 lessons per week for six months)
A typical introductory course: a bit about coding, the binary system, Scratch. Write a game on Scratch.
What is GFS
GFS is an invention of Baden-Württemberg. They decided that 27 control and 12 language tests (in 7th grade, there will be more later) and projects (this year the game on Scratch, video presentation of the book, further there will be profile projects) are not enough for children in the 7th grade. No, children still have to make a GFS (Gleichwertige Feststellung von Schülerleistungen – Equivalent assessment of student achievement) in form a presentation on a scientific topic. Other forms are possible, such as a survey-exam or a lesson instead of a teacher, but not in the 7th grade.
It is expected that a 13-year-old child will choose a scientific topic, conduct research and present his thoughts with the correct indication of sources. Scientific work should be independent and on a problematic topic. If a child composes other people’s words, even if he does a lot of work and takes several sources, and the teacher discovers this, then he will put 6 for plagiarism. It is assumed that the student will not only mark direct quotations with links, but also put links where someone else’s thought was taken, even if it is expressed in their own words.
In the 7th grade, topics are offered to choose from the list, and then the child must also formulate the topic himself, also problematic and scientifically.
Great idea: GFS in a foreign language should be written in that language. Yes, yes, Latin too. I don’t know what kind of bamboo they were smoking.
There were “learning lessons” attached to this. On one it was told how to collect material, on the other a successful and unsuccessful presentation was sorted out, on the third it was told about links and plagiarism.
For 4 weeks, my child was supposed to make a presentation on the topic “Causes of the Crusades.” Moreover, the deadline was set so that there were already autumn control. As a result, the week of vacation was completely killed by the active writing of this garbage.
- no one taught how to limit the topic. It is ok, if the topic is small, some kind of “Life of the monastery.” And if it is “Causes of the Crusades”, then “someone” (a euphemism for mom) should explain that there is no need to talk about all the campaigns with dates and battles, there will not be enough time.
- they, of course, made presentation in the 5th grade, but this does not mean that they learned how to make them. This takes a lot of time and needs help.
- no sample design for various types of quotations was given, “someone” must find and explain.
All this “independent” “scientific” work is an absolute profanity, which is reflected in folklore – the people are inventing their own decodings for the abbreviation GFS, the most common of which is “ganze Familie schafft” (all family manage).
There can be no independent scientific thought, of course. The entire text can be enclosed in one big quotes, because it will still be more or less reformulated someone else’s text.
GFS is also criticized by university representatives because writing a GFS does not prepare future students to write research works. If you make nuggets out of grass and call them nuggets, then they will not become meat. Nevertheless, the politicians responds in the style of: “And we think it’s a great idea.”
– choose those topics on which there should definitely be books in the library. Don’t rely on the Internet
– choose limited topics rather than broad ones
– do not copy-paste Internet sources, as it is easier to find it as plagiarism
– when choosing a topic, estimate in what part of the year it will be taken so that there are not, like ours, 4 weeks for preparation
– hurry up to take a good topic, as good teachers and topics are sorted out quickly and the teacher closes the list. Topics must be fixed before the fall vacation.
Next: German Gymnasium school. Profile choice, marks and inclusion
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