How would you feel if a class period was only 45 minutes long with more breaks throughout the day? Those are only two differences between the American school system and the school system in Germany.
In Germany there are three different kinds of high schools, which start from the fifth to 10th or 12th grade. The grades you receive decide which kind of high school you go to after the elementary school. In Germany they use a grade system from 1, which is like an A, to 6, which is like an F. So if you had, in your elementary school, very good grades like only 1’s or 2’s, you will go to the highest High School, which is called “Gymnasium.” If you had good grades like 2’s and 3’s, you would go to the normal school, and when you have worse grades than this, you would go to the lowest school. Germany uses this school system because they think it is the easiest way for having for everybody the choice to learn on his own level.
Another big difference between the high schools is the graduation. You graduate from the gymnasium after the twelfth grade and you are able to study, so you can go to an university, which is free in germany. The other two high schools only have ten grades. When you are going to the normal school you can go to a school for your future job after the graduation or you can go, for two years, to a vocational school. After the vocational school you are also able to study. Another possibility of what you can do when your grades are good enough is that you are able to switch after the tenth grade from the normal school to the tenth grade of the gymnasium.
The High Schools in Germany also make differences between the classes. A couple of students, about 25 or more, are in one class, that means they all have the same schedule. They also have one certain classroom where the teachers teach the regular subjects like english or math, so the teachers switch the rooms, and not the students. Each class also has a class teacher, who organizes class trips or helps to solve problems if you have some. Through there you always have the same classmates, each class develops in a very close community.
The reason that the classes are not mixed with other classes, and they do not have sports at school, is that there is not really school spirit. That means there are not days where the whole school dresses up or everybody wears the school colors.
One of the best things of the school systems in Germany are the breaks. There are a lot more breaks than the schools in the USA. Between the second and third periods there is a 20 minute break. Most students eat their breakfast during this break. The next break is between the fourth and fifth periods, and is 15 minutes. A lunch-break only exists when you have a long school day. That means you have eight periods instead of the regular six. If you have a long school day, your lunch-break, of 50 minutes, will be between the sixth and seventh periods. How many long days you have depends on your grade. When you are a senior, junior, or sophomore you have three long days per week. That means you are at home by four o’clock. As a freshman, or a student in the eighth grade, you have two long days every week and if you are in the seventh or sixth grade, you only have one long day.
Josie Haucke is a German foreign exchange student at Holtville High School. The following was her views on the differences she has noticed between her experience with German school and American school.