This article is part of the series “Put down your life’s story in 52 weeks” in which I accepted the challenge of writing down snippets of my own life’s story in 52 weeks.
- Who were your aunts and uncles? Write about any of your aunts or uncles who really stand out in your mind. Give some details about them (names, personalities, events that you remember doing with them, and so on).
- Where did you go to school? Give some details about what was school like for you and some of your memorable experiences.
- What were your favorite subjects in school? Explain why.
- What subjects did you like the least? Explain why.
The German educational system is a’changin’… When I was a kid it was much simpler – and absolutely dependant on moms staying at home.
I deliberately say “educational system” and not “school system”. When I was a kid there wasn’t a guarantee that pre-school kids were able to attend kindergarten. And even if they did, they only spent a few hours there, from 8-12 AM and then – maybe – from 2-4 PM.
My mother was lucky to find a kindergarten for me – and one fine day lil’ girly me quit on her own, by kicking one of the nuns (who were the ones running the kindergarten) into the shin and darting out of the door and homeward all on her own. And that was the end of my kindergarten time. The nun apparently had been very miffed about naughty lil’, non-catholic me. Bad girl, baad baaad girl…
Even when my children were little it wasn’t really easy for women to take up a half-day job. My two oldest went to kindergarten from 7:30 AM to 12 AM. In the afternoon the kindergarten was open from 2 to 4 PM. No chance for a half-day job for me – unless I would’ve had a job right next door…
My older nephew nowadays enters his daycare at 7 AM and leaves at 5 PM, including an internal lunch and nap break. His kindergarten teachers have had at least three years of professional schooling, sometimes even with an additional graduate degree, but at least with ongoing further professional training. And his little brother will attend the same kindergarten when he’s 15 months old.
Next step in the German educational system was the “Grundschule” (elementary school) for classes 1-4. If it was a handicapped child it wouldn’t attend a regular but a special school with special teachers. Often friends were torn apart that way, and handicapped children had to take up a longer way to school. Far away from perfect.
Nowadays handicapped and non-handicapped children can be taught together in regular classes, unless there are serious reasons not to. Much better, I’d say, even though it’s more challenging for all sides, children, parents and teachers..
Very often the Grundschule was a confessional school, in Germany mostly either Catholic or Protestant. My first school was a Protestant Grundschule with a longer way to school for me, 20 minutes during summer, longer during winter of course. When this school building was assigned to a different type of school we children had to attend another Grundschule. That meant at least a 30 minutes walk to school for me during summer…
My parents had to file a request to let me attend the nearest Grundschule, a Catholic school. Took a while until this request was granted and I was able to join my friends on our way to school, 15 minutes only…
I was exempt from their religious education of course but had to stay in the classroom. I usually drew and painted during that time, very often the elderly priest in his black robes who taught the class. After it became too boring for me I started to participate as well though.
A lot of the first educational years were strongly influenced by the Catholic or Protestant church. This influence has decreased since then though there are still a few confessional schools. Most of them are privately run schools that aren’t bound to each and every rule for public schools.
After the Grundschule my parents and teachers had to decide if I had to continue my education on the “Hauptschule” (comparable to a secondary modern school, classes 5-9) or was qualified to attend the “Realschule” (comparable to a secondary technical school, more challenging than the Hauptschule, classes 5-10) or even the Gymnasium (comparable to a high school, the most challenging – and most theoretical – type of school, classes 5-13).
Since my grades were good my parents decided to let me attend the Gymnasium. This actually was a girls’ school, a Mädchengymnasium, luckily without nuns or priests though…
That also meant that two of my school subjects were needleworks and home economics along with cooking. I have to admit the latter subject really wasn’t my thing, and I got rid of it as soon as possible. I would’ve preferred woodworking or something like that but no chance at our Mädchengymnasium.
Nowadays the Hauptschulen and Realschulen slowly close their doors and are replaced by Sekundarschulen. My school day usually ended at 1 PM and I was home 30 minutes later. My children’s school day ended at different times during the week between 1 PM and 5:45 PM, depending on their school subjects. Difficult to plan a day around that…
Very likely my nephews will attend a full-time school, with guaranteed times for them to leave the house and come home in the late afternoon.
There’s apparently a tendency towards comprehensive full-time schools in Germany nowadays. They slowly replace the traditional school types and expand the teaching time from 4 hours a day to full-time. Sometimes German educational politics seem to be meandering about, back and forth, left to right, and back again. But all this is part of the bigger puzzle of history…
Did you experience changes in the school system? What were you used to as child? What can your children or even grandchildren choose from nowadays?