Last Updated on September 24, 2023
When I sent my child to a German gymnasium, against the advice of an elementary school teacher who, for psychological reasons, recommended the Gemeinschaftsschule, I expected that the gymnasium would be somewhat similar to the gymnasium of my time: a profile subject 8 hours a week (so to speak level A), the rest as part of the standard program (level B). Everything turned out a little differently: there is no level B in German gymnasium, all subjects have level A and your preferences, interests, problems and abilities are of no interest to anyone.
German Gymnasium. Grade 7
Gymnasium in Germany. First year
4th grade. Gymnasium or Realschule?
Secondary schools in Bavaria
Education system in Baden-Württemberg and other Bundesländer
Bilingual children. 1
To begin with, I want to note that there are children who do not care and have from gymnasium Spaß (fun). That is, my assessment may easily not coincide with yours. But I am guided not by a single successful experience, but by the fact that many very smart, non-lazy children with an average mark of a certificate of about 1 cannot study further at universities. From those stories that I heard, only a few pass Uni without problems. Among the typical ones: they quit, go to Ausbildung, change speciality, for years they cannot complete a three-year bachelor’s degree. The deteriorating state of German scientific institutions (a view from physics and chemistry) is a separate issue, but it is related to how they teach in the gymnasium. Some words about it futher.
Profile selection in grade 7
First, the school profile depends on the availability of teachers. If someone in the profile left and there are not enough of them, the profile can be closed.
Secondly, the number of children for one profile may be limited. In such cases, gymnasiums offer to indicate two possible profiles, and you will find out which one you get later.
Thirdly, if this is important to you, make sure that the profile continues into 11th grade. The school does not always do this: it only offers a course in grade 11 if it has appropriately trained teachers.
And finally, be sure to attend an information evening where they talk about profiles. It may turn out to be a little different than what you imagined.
How it looks like in reality
To the already existing stress and chaotic study of the tops of knowledge, we add another four hours a week of unknown value, four more control works per year (or three tests and a project grade). Do not forget that my experience is based on Ba-Wü.
Most fortunate are those who delve into one subject, for which they choose this gymnasium. It is a third language, music, art or sport. Everything is clear here: standard language learning with 4 control works and 8 tests per year, memorizing each letter by heart and school exchange with the country of the language in the 10th grade. Or hours of playing an instrument and additional theory in the case of music.
A third language and/or NWT is almost mandatory for the school. They either come in pairs, or one of them complements some rarer profile like music.
NWT – Natur-Wissenschaft-Technik – is misunderstanding name. It would be more correct to call it Engineering. From “nature”, there are only eternal environmental topics (renewable energy sources). From “science” – only theoretical justifications for projects, mostly physical ones. All the main time is occupied by projects on engineering topics.
That is, they will study mechanics in physics in a month or two, and then they will make a crane on their own. “On their own” include, among other things, completely independent sawing of the necessary parts on an electric saw, thinking through and implementing a load suspension system.
This is accompanied by team work and the correct design of this work with the help of technical means (some two programs – it will be clearer later).
Thus, NWT is not for those who like the natural sciences, but for future engineers who can work with their hands and in a team. And from the experience of the past three years, and especially from the experience of GFS, I can say that one should not hope that they will be taught there. Unless you are very lucky and will have a good teacher. Basically, training takes place according to “learning by doing” system, and parents have to solve problems and teach.
Another profile, relatively new, is IMP – computer science, mathematics, physics. Unlike the previous one, it has a clear division by subject (2 + 1 + 1 lesson per week), and every year the emphasis (2 lessons per week, not one) shifts to the next subject. Projects and groups, however, are also here.
The specific content was presented poorly, so how it will go in reality will be clear from next year, since we have chosen this particular profile on the principle “what is the least disgusting”. It is only clear that this is a more theoretical profile than NWT, and that programming is not as strong and not as much as those who chose the school specifically because of programming would like. As far as I can tell, they have one block language (such as Arduino) and one normal language (some kind of basic program from Microsoft).
After selecting the profiles, the classes are going to be completely rebuilt.
Profiles and development of individual student aptitudes
Of course, there are those who dreamed of learning Italian or Spanish and got the opportunity to realize their dreams. Future engineers are also in chocolate. The rest get stressed and overwhelmed. Suppose I would like to delve not into physics, but into chemistry, botany or zoology, literature, German as a language, history – all this is not offered in Ba-Wü. Will the child be able to do his favorite subject in his free time?
What will we have in 8th grade? 34 study hours per week, 29 control works, 16 tests, 2 projects for NWT or IPM (or 4 works + 8 tests for the language), one GFS and it is not known what else they will come up with separately. This year, for example, there was a video presentation of the book.
This is broken down into 40 academic weeks. Some lands have a little more, some have a little less. But it breaks down like this:
September – rest, repetition
October – 2 tests, 4 controls
November-December – every week a test or control, and more often two. Finish a project
January – transferred controls, 2 tests. From mid-January until the holidays they do nothing. Teachers have no right to give controls in this period
March – galloped on, an analogue of October with 4 controls and 2 tests
April-May – after Easter, analogue of November-December with 2 controls per week and tests
June – an analogue of January, transferred controls. Finish a project
in July – we play the fool, because they have no right to control anything
Let’s add current homework here: mathematics, languages take at least 4 hours a week each (that is, as of grade 7, 12 hours a week of compulsory homework). Other subjects are added occasionally. “Small” group projects. Music and pool. By my calculations, even in normal non-control weeks, this set takes four afternoons in the week. Half Friday and the weekends are relative free. In control-weeks, there is no free time.
This is our minimum set. Other children also go to Nachhilfe to compensate for the chaos that was described in the first part of my opus, they go to competitions with Verein (sport clubs) And there is also GFS, projects, presentations.
In theory, a child can devote September, February and July to their own interests, a small part of the holidays (the other part will be occupied by GFS, presentations and projects, family trips). In reality, they are already so sick of textbooks that they prefer to do nothing and hang out with friends.
Thus, if the interests of the child coincided with the school deepening, then it smoothly flows into the institute.
There are still those who realized early on what they needed and managed to skip unnecessary items with minimal requirements, focusing on what they needed. This is such an ideal case.
If this poor choice of profiles does not fit the child and he tries to learn all the subjects as required, then we end up with a person without special interests, trained in this “memorize – forget” system.
All this could be compensated if some subjects that obviously do not play such an important role for children were slowed down by teachers and one could get their mark 4 with minimal stress. Everything here depends very much on the teacher, but still, with very rare exceptions, these are the people who, for three absences of the letter r in the word springen, each time take off half a point, as if the ending of the verb, which was the object of control, was written incorrectly.
The most severely evaluated in languages.
Marks in languages are demotivating, because they are based on formal things, and not on real knowledge. With bad spelling, you can get 6 by translating everything absolutely correctly. The daughter of acquaintances wrote the past tense ending id instead of ed in all words and got 6. My child did not consider the capital letter to be an important point in the tests, so he was slapped 4 only for capital letters. He indicated two antonyms in the test (both, by the way, are correct, but one was not listed in the dictionary) – minus a whole point.
In doubtful cases, the presumption of guilt applies: basically they decide in favor of an error.
Questions in tests in other subjects are often open-ended (name the difference, or describe …), but the number of potential points can suggest how many features need to be indicated.
On average, you need to answer at least half correctly to get a 4. This means answering correct more than half, because some of the points will be missed due to inaccuracies, wrong letters and mistakes.
The annual score is derived mechanically:
the arithmetic mean in the pre-declared (at the meeting they give out a sheet) proportion of oral to written: either 1 to 1, or 1 to 2, or the proportion also includes an assessment for practical work
The written arithmetic mean includes the arithmetic mean of all controls, the average of the tests is considered as another control. GFS and other presentations count as another control.
Current marks with a minus or plus are another 0.25 points in the corresponding direction.
A mark of 2-3 is 2.5.
That is, if the controls are on average 5, and the oral mark is 4, this will not save: the average will be 5 (4.5 is rounded up), and this is already a potential problem.
Zucht und Ordnung is “inclusion” in German gymnasium
Zucht und Ordnung (strict upbringing and order) – a feature of the old German school. It didn’t go far.
You know a joke about a girl who came with a jug to buy milk and said: “Mom said milk.” After milk was poured: “And the money, girl?” “Mom said at the bottom.” I see this regularly.
We have problem A, problem B logically follows from it, if nothing is done, and from this the consequences C. Here at school they never see C in advance. They always follow the Ordnung in relation to A, not wanting to foresee C, even if they are told about it in advance.
Therefore, be careful about bureaucratic moments and procedures. They are all made on a checkboxed list and are as impersonal as putting average marks on the arithmetic mean. No one is included in anyone’s position, individual characteristics are not taken into account.
This is especially true for all children who are different in some way. You can’t dream much about Nachteilsausgleich. And what will other children say, how do we explain to them that this child with medical problems has an advantage? (This is sarcasm for those who don’t understand). And the doctor’s opinion doesn’t really matter, the gymnasium knows better.
The German Gymnasium is by no means inclusive, if we mean by inclusion the diversity of the psyche and medical problems of children. Inclusion in a German gymnasium means that special children should become like everyone else.
Why won’t anything change soon
For something to change, a clear signal is needed: from parents, the progressive public, the school itself, politicians, or from objective international tests.
Signals from parents and the progressive public led to the emergence of common schools (Gemeinschaftsschule) and vocational gymnasiums, but not to gymnasium reform. The marks system, focused on ideal children who do not make mistakes, blots, with perfect handwriting and answer exactly what the teacher said, has not been reformed, left as it was in gymnasiums, and simply canceled in common schools until grade 9.
To further criticism from this side, they simply answer: if you don’t like it, go to a common school, we have a rich choice here.
Signals from poor results in international tests continue to come, but everything is attributed to the stupid and lazy children of today.
If you read the interviews of various politicians who are concerned with the topic of education, then the main idea that can be traced is: “But we think that everything is fine. We used to have it well, let it continue to stand. Children must work.” In most cases, these are people of decent age. They themselves studied under other programs, so they cannot assess the level of the current senseless workload.
They cannot hear criticism from the school, it is practically forbidden. When my son’s elementary school teacher wrote to the ministry to reconsider the decision – and she is a very experienced and knowledgeable teacher – she was slapped with a hefty fine for insubordination.
However, there is no criticism from the gymnasiums, because the teachers have a “survivor’s mistake”: they themselves broke through and think that everything is fine. Actually, the German gymnasium is the best at preparing the teachers of the German gymnasium.
You don’t have to be capable of teaching, to be a gymnasium teacher, you have to memorize all the material for two or three subjects.
As our other primary school teacher, also exceptionally knowledgeable and experienced, says to her conversations with the gymnasium teachers that each child coming from the primary school has a different level, because all classes are different, she receives an answer from the gymnasium teachers: “These are their problems. If they can’t cope, let them go to another school.”
What is the problem with German science
Briefly about the problems of German science – why I strongly advise you to go into production, and not into science. At least this one hundred percent applies to physics and chemistry. I have some sources, that say the same.
Heard that Europe was left without its own rocket? That’s why it stayed without it. And nothing new will made by Germany, because for a lot of money they make rockets worse than ordinary American students.
1. All positions of chiefs, including the positions of heads of departments, are distributed by acquaintance. Real knowledge doesn’t matter.
To bypass the mandatory competition, the position is described as close as possible in terms of formal features to the agreed person. For example, the position description includes the title of his diploma work. If it is necessary for this person to have work experience in an organization, they will arrange a place for him for a couple of months. The real knowledge of this person may not coincide with the position at all. Cement specialist – into space. Optics specialist – into combustion. A girl immediately after receiving a bachelor’s degree – to the heads of a large department in a very large organization, because she is a friend of the director’s daughter.
2. The most important are “soft skills” in relation to higher chef. The boss is always right. The German Ordnung in the workplace involves the sacralization of the opinion of the boss. Disputes, discussions, criticism are not welcome. It is insulting to ask questions at the seminar – they told my husband.
3. Students get a job that does not correspond to the level of a diploma, but to a doctoral work. Graduate students can get work that an entire department has to handle, not just one person. The work stretches over years, during which the graduate student receives a very low salary and must do a lot of unpaid work, except his doctoral work. Since there is no external expertise now, the grade for a such doctoral work will depend on the relationship with the chief.
4. Those who received the position of chief through an acquaintance or because of their “soft skills” do not have authority and win it by repressive methods in relation to those who have more knowledge.
5. When distributing money for projects, all the same personal relationships are important. There is no independent evaluation of the project. A project may have unrealizable goals or an unrealistic budget. For example, the amount of employees’ salaries alone is higher than the estimated costs. However, the money is still given. A year later, it turns out that nothing has been done. The boss who proposed the project gets new money, employees who said from the very beginning that the deadline / or budget / or goals were unrealistic are fired as “failed”.
6. Like all weak specialists, bosses mask the lack of knowledge by building, multiplying management structures and departments.
7. Foreign colleagues are deeply despised, even if they are from Western countries and even if their results are better. “International working” often comes down to talking about nothing with no concrete results. At corporate parties, you can also hear racist statements and insults of certain nationalities (including, for example, the French and Austrians). Unofficially, there are lists of nationalities that are not welcome (this is almost all, with the exception of Western Europe, Australia and America).
8. Any topic, experiment (including successful or actual) can be abandoned or closed, because it is not in the interests of the current boss.
9. Supervisory organizations are part of this system, the same people sit in it.
Thus, either you must have good acquaintances, or in German science you will be exploited for pennies for a long time and you will have to be silent, say that 2 + 2 = 5, assure that the boss is a genius and draw results in Photoshop that cannot be obtained for short deadlines. If you are very lucky, you will still be transferred to a permanent contract, and not fired, but then you will have to do the same: be silent, portray activity and draw results.