Schooling around the World (Part 3)

In an earlier post, I profiled how France age-graded its schools and showed an array of classroom photos illustrating varied ways that teachers organized their furniture and the diverse students in these schools. In this post, I apply a similar template for public schools in Germany.

How schools are organized in Germany

There are 16 German states in the nation and these states operate the public schools. While there is some variation in organization and operation across the states, schooling is standardized insofar as children being sorted into different tracks by aptitude, interests, and achievement usually by the fifth grade or age 10–see below.

As one description goes:

The German “educational system is basically a three-class system that divides students into three different tracks: (1) Gymnasium for bright students headed for college, (2) Realschule for the next step down, kids headed for average or better white-collar positions, and (3) Hauptschule for the bottom tier, generally aimed at the trades and blue-collar jobs. By the age of 10 most pupils in Germany have been put on one of these three educational tracks [that move students into vocational jobs and higher education]. But it has become easier to switch tracks, and this is now more common in Germany than it used to be.”

Note that the “Gesamtschule” or comprehensive high school, is another track for students. It resulted from a major school reform that swept the German states in the 1960s. In these schools, students have more choices in courses.

Photos of elementary and secondary school classrooms follow:

Secondary school classroom in Germany after returning to school following Covid-19 pandemic

Teacher Francie Keller welcomes class 3 in the Lankow primary school to the first school day after the summer holidays in Schwerin, Germany, 2020

“Teacher Julia Rakow wears a protective face mask as she leads a class in the origins of German poetry at Sophie-Charlotte Gymnasium high school during the coronavirus pandemic on September 03, 2020 in Berlin, Germany (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images).”

Primary school classroom

“Timur Kumlu, left, with his first graders. “We must educate so that they develop a personality with common roots,” he said.Credit…Gordon Welters for The New York Times”

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