雖然各州的教育體系或有不同，但上述的各種學校是目前德國教育的整理運作模式。不過，我的重點是，這樣的一套教育體系合理嗎?教育不是應該由中央政府統籌管理嗎?我的看法是，國家的(基礎)教育應該趨於一致，而不該由各州自行訂定規則。誠如俗諺所云”人多誤事(Too many cooks spoil the broth)”，過於複雜的教育體系只會衍生出更多的問題，而這也正是目前德國學校體系備受非議之處。所以，現在正是德國人著手將教育體系簡化的重要時刻!
令人慶幸的是，終於有政黨意識到潛藏在教育體系裡的這些黑暗面，開始著手糾正並針對某些核心措施進行改革。例如保守派的基督教民主聯盟(Christian Democratic Union, CDU)已提出一項草案，終結備受爭議的3層級教育體系，以及廢除各州主導教育事務的部門。在長達30頁的草案中指出:”目前我們的學校有太多類型，使得家長、學生和教師都備感困惑。這就是為何我們呼籲減少學校類型，並在各州推行兩軌制(two-way model)的原因。”
德國是否要著手建立一個公平且一致的教育體制，還是要繼續堅守原本天怒人怨的教育路線，那就端看德國人自己的決定。德意志聯邦共和國(Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland)老是大談民主，現在全世界的眼睛都在看，正等著看德國是否會對教育進行徹底的改革。當然，要德國當局採行統一的教育標準，以確保16個州政府在教育措施上不得有任何歧視是需要時間的，而且德國聯邦政府和各州政府也必須在教育政策的執行上彼此地相互合作。
A critical overview of Germany’s much controversial school system
A fair deliverance of quality education is the duty of every responsive and progressive nation, thereby ensuring the process of assimilation through education. Right to education applies to all the citizens and non citizens, it is an inalienable law. However, it seems Germany has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the critics who raise fingers on the credibility and transparency of the alleged system of German schooling. In this topic we would discuss at length the anomalies and the loopholes, existing in the German schooling. Just before I embark upon the critical assessment of Schule politik, I would like to clarify that I have read numerous articles including many Deutsch newspaper editorials, which have openly confronted the present system of schooling which essentially promotes and practices discrimination not just towards children of immigrants but also towards children who don’t come from sound financial backgrounds. Secondly, like I had mentioned in the previous blog I completed my B1 from a language institute where we were also taught about the complex German school system and our teachers were kind enough to make us aware of the follies in it.
It is said, every story has two sides. I am sure, there would be another side to this story which is hidden from us. So we’d explore the facet best known. Let’s begin from the very beginning. How does German schooling differ from others? Well, every country has it’s own methods and style of teaching, hence school policies vary from region to region, but the goal is the same i.e. to impart quality education uniformly. The main difference lies here, which I personally find rather bizarre, the system of education differs from state to state in Germany oder die Bundesländer bestimmen in Deutschland die Schulpolitik. It suggests there are 16 different education systems operating across Germany, since there are 16 states. Is it a unique diversity or a delirious intangible mess?? Indeed, the answer is hard to find.
In contrast to the prevalent school system in most countries, Germany has a complex three tier high school system. Come fourth grade and the streaming of pupils begin. What?At such a young age?? It’s hard to imagine, but this is how the whole schooling structure is built up here. So according to their intelligence, they are filtered out and shown educational tracks that best suit their calibre. This is how schools defend themselves against criticism. The most sane questions that come to mind are, why this insanity or better still idiosyncrasy?? How can a teacher judge a child as young as a fourth grader as being meritorious or not in two hours? Ridiculous! and how absolutely demoralizing!! There are many children who show their real talent at a later age. So if my child for some reason couldn’t perform well in the given slot of time, he/she would be deprived of Gymnasium and thus his/her future career options are brutally narrowed down. There could be infinite reasons for the lack of performance of a child, he/she might be very intelligent in real life, what if he/she got nervous during the screening?? That means he/she has no chance of getting into a good school.
The three tier system involves:
General secondary school or Hauptschule (grades 5 -10)
The intermediate secondary school or Realschule (grades 5-10)
The academic high school or Gymnasium (grades 5-12 or 13)
The children are assessed by their teachers who decide which school best suits a particular student based on their performance.
Gymnasium – it is the most sought after or preferred school ; the dream of every parent for their kids to be be selected for Gymnasium. I am sure, parents have a lot of anxiety when their children reach standard fourth. Like I said before, don’t be fooled by the common words in English and German. Gymnasium has nothing to do with physical education. It is college preparatory high school which is attended by students from grade 5 to 12 or 13. Yes! 13th grade does exist here. Holiness! Only about one third of the students are picked up for Gymnasium, who continue through the final grades. The mandatory requirement for the Gymnasiasten is to take a rather challenging exam known as Abitur in order to secure their diplomas. This diploma paves their way to University. Das Abitur braucht man normalerweise, um einer Universitat in Dutschland ein Studium zu beginnen.
Hauptschule – is primarily a remedial education. Hauptschüler leave school after the ninth standard, mostly such students don’t earn a diploma and thus end up taking menial jobs.
Realschule – sees the influx of more average students.Realschüler also take an Abschluss or term end exam before they leave school after 10th grade, after which they begin apprenticeships in a number of fields. The brighter ones may also get transferred to Gymnasium to finish their studies.
This is the pattern in which the entire Deutsch school system operates, obviously differing in each Bundesland (State). Now my question is, do you think the system is justifiable? And shouldn’t education be the portfolio to be handled exclusively by the central Government? With each State prescribing its own set of rules in schooling, the uniformity goes missing. My stance is very clear, there has to be uniformity in the system of education and states should not have any interference in it. There goes a saying ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ likewise too many experiments with education system are only creating more ruckus and complexity in the face of pre-existant criticisms regarding the German schooling. It’s high time Germans start simplifying mechanisms.
Also, this article is only and only focussed on the school system which has severe yet workable indiscretions. Nowhere have I raised a finger on Higher or University Education. Infact, the latter is appreciable in many respects and Germany has always been known for the good quality higher education. I find it rather amusing, on one hand their Higher education is so well planned and has won laurels, on the other hand their school system is a complete mess. The system is criticized mainly because it starts streaming or filtering out pupils at a very young age. What if your child is intelligent and suddenly the teacher tells you that he/she is not a Gymnasium material? That too, when they are only in 4th grade. Aren’t you going to be shattered? Things would have been still acceptable if only the performance of the child was the sole criteria for judgement, but it is more than mere performance. If you are an engineer, and your wife; a doctor, rest assured your son despite being less intelligent than other students would continue with 5th grade in a Gymnasium. However, if your daughter is named Sena who is fairly intelligent and has a good score card in elementary school yet she lands up in Mittleschule. Why? She is a Turkish who’s dad is a taxi driver and mom; a housewife. This is where discrimination comes in schooling. When my teacher first told our class about this practice, we were completely taken aback. Upon asking her, “can’t we complain against such a teacher or sue the teacher who practices discrimination?? After all, we have grown up seeing and reading that for a teacher all the students are alike”. To which our language teacher replied – “you can sue the particular teacher or even the school. But you can’t sue the entire system and this is how it functions in Germany”. I couldn’t argue any more. All I can say is, the States are deliberately handicapping the future of so many bright children, who could have out shined others had they been not discriminated on the grounds of their parents’ occupations or their origin. Indeed! inhumane and very alarming.
My argument is straightforward, no matter how much we brush aside Nazism (which was nothing but cynical and extreme discrimination) it is still very much prevalent in our societies and we have failed to completely uproot its effects from our systems. Somewhere or the other, the demons of Nazism are let loose time and again. I am not pin pointing towards any specific country, but all those societies where discrimination exists, in any form, are active grounds for Nazism. The argument doesn’t end here, German schools don’t offer much support to students with learning disabilities. And the situation gets grimmer by the fact that students are held back or have to repeat the same class all over again, if they fail even a single subject in school.
This school system is sentencing many-many brilliant children to a life of utmost frustration, and a future of obscurity. Fourth standard is not an age to judge the true talent of a child, they are way too small. Just imagine, this way German states are darkening their own future. What prospective and powerful workforce these kids can grow up to be, and what immense contribution they could make to Germany amid its fast ageing and declining work force, if only they are led to fair, uniform and encouraging system of education, and not pulled down by the unfair practice of streaming.
But there is some good news, political parties have now identified the fraudulent practices in the education system and are working to rectify them and implementing some hard core changes in the entire system. The conservative Christian Democratic Union for instance, has proposed a draft to put an end to the controversial Germany’s three-tier system and abolition of state’s monopoly in education sector. Their 30 page draft says – “We currently have too many school forms that confuse parents, pupils and teachers alike. That is why we are calling for a reduction in school forms and the implementation of a two-way model in all states”. The CDU’s proposal demands for a merger of the lower two levels into a new school model suggested as ‘Oberschule’ or the upper school. In fact, some federal states have already introduced the new model. Nearly all the major political parties have collectively identified the lowest-level general secondary schools as problematic, mainly out of the fact, that graduates are more likely to be disadvantaged in the competitive job market. More children with migrant backgrounds are placed in these schools than their ethnic German counterparts.
It’s upto Germany to decide, whether to embark upon a fair and uniform system of education or to continue with the same practices which have not only earned the wrath worldwide but also locally. Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland which harps on democracy, has all eyes set on it, waiting for some radical reforms to be introduced in its schooling policies. It’s the need of the hour that Germany adopts federally unified educational standards to assure smooth and uniform functioning in all 16 states without any discrimination. Germany needs a culture of cooperation between federal and state governments for proper implementation of policies. The strict and often biased method of tracking down students in grade 4 builds an inequity in the system. However the proponents and the supporters of the current education policies are very clear and straightforward, ‘hard work is the key to success’. The system is very challenging for German students and it makes them put in their maximum effort. One has to work harder towards the goals in life. Since the system accepts only the creamy layer, so study hard and achieve greater milestones. According to them, the three-tier system grants educational diversity and individualized planning for the students. How policies would be moulded and improvised, only time will tell, but certainly ‘educational pragmatism’ can solve many related problems.