Thursday, September 3, 2009

Schuletüte

All of the little ones are going back to school. The yellow school buses and glorified school supplies are American luxuries that don't exist here. Sadly, you can't even purchase crayola markers in Germany.

The school children don't completely miss out... at least when entering first grade. This momentous occasion is marked with a Schuletüte, which is a cone filled with candies and tiny presents to make the transition a bit easier. Stefan tells me one of his co-workers has a son that just entered first grade and he made his own Schuletüte as a final project in Kindergarten.

The school system in Germany is complex. Can you imagine your grades and test scores in the third grade dictating that professions you could have down the road? In Germany the children are tracked towards attending a Hauptschule (9 years of schooling), Realschule (10 years of schooling), or Gymnasium (12 years of schooling - recently changed from 13).

I still remember my mother in law saying she was amazed that President Obama could come from such humble beginnings and eventually go to a prestigious university and become president. The chances of something like that happening in Germany are slim to none.

Attending Gymnasium paves the easiest route to getting into a University, so the pressure is really on from a very early age. As always, the higher the education the more opportunities and options. This system can be really oppressive to foreigners who haven't grown up with German as a first language.

In the United States, which is the system I am most familiar with, the students attend school until the 12th grade. It strikes Stefan as odd that each and every county and school district can differ in when they have holiday breaks and vacations or when school begins, both in dates and times. What is odd to me is that until recently each and every German state used to decide how many years their children would go to school.

Then there is the issue of perpetual students. Those who were fortunate enough to attend a University often stay there for quite some time they are able to do so because going to a University here is incredibly affordable. Not always, but typically (especially in comparison to the US). There was a large outcry when students were asked to pay roughly 500€ / $700 per semester. Unfortunately at my university it cost about that much for every credit hour - and most people took around 18 a semester.

The perpetual student issue creates a very educated population, however we also have a shrinking population. So many people marry much later here than their counterparts in other countries. That's another issue unto itself.

9 comments:

Aisling said...

That really frightens me in a way. I may misunderstand, but my fear would be that a late developer or someone with a condition later diagnosed would miss the opportunity to progress to college. Am I reading it right?

Emily Marie said...

I remember my German neighbors having those! I was so jealous! They also had square-shaped backpacks (in French they call them "cartable"). So neat!

JoernandAllison said...

Oh, I am struggling to learn about the German education system. Wow.
We make Schultütten at our school too at the end of Kindergarten. Then, on the first day of school, there is a ceremony where the kids get their Schultütten.
At first, I thought the practice was unfair because kids get Schultütten at home too, and those are filled with all sorts of goodies depending on parent involvement, and money, of course. But, when I think of kids at home, what they purchase for back to school isn't any different.

Loddelina said...

Aaahhh, first day of school...
Gaston started Kindergarten this week and leaving his Nanny-Tagesmutter he got one of those goodies-cones as a gooddbye/welcome present...

Z said...

So close yet so far... In CZ universities usually accept students according to the results of entrance exams so one doesn't have to cry if a teacher deciding about Abitur marks is unfair and gives worse mark on purpose. (Yes, we have such nice people here.) How is it in the USA? Can everyone study at uni if he/she pays?

Gymnasium changed to 12? Lucky students. We still have 9+4 or 7+6 or 5+8 yrs. Not that it helps much.

Schuletüte is cute :) We had no such thing. Maybe nowadays they already have it but dunno if every school. I wish Schuletüte exists at universities ;)

Emily said...

Aisling...
I'm really not certain what happens with late developers. I know if you attend a Realschule you have to take extra classes to go to a University, but it's still possible. I really don't like the system here, as I find it quite oppressive and ethnocentric.

Emily Marie...
Yes! Those square backpacks still exist. I'm always amazed at how expensive they are, but they do look sweet, especially when they are so enormous on such a tiny person.

Allison...
I can't even imagine how you go through things, since you get to somewhat be a part from the inside. I know the International Schools are a bit different. You're definitely right about the back to school shopping... it's a bit of the same, just packaged differently.

Loddelina...
That's so exciting - and I'm sure slightly sad for you to have him grow up so fast. Hopefully he enjoys Kindergarten a lot to make life easier for everyone.

Z...
It does seem like a lot of power to give teachers instead of through entrance exams. In the US we have placement tests (SAT + ACT), although not every university requires them. We must then get accepted to the university, although if you don't get accepted to one you can always try for a different one. We also have Community Colleges (2 year degrees), which I believe accept virtually anyone.

It's unfortunate that much of the education in the US is based on money, although there still are chances to earn a scholarship based on grades, special talents, or athletics. It seems a bit skewed though... I worked in the admissions office at my University and I know that some of the athletes wouldn't have been accepted if they weren't so good at sports. It's always something - isn't it?

CraftyRachel said...

What a sweet back-to-school tradition!

By the way, I am still loving your blog, even though I don't always find time to type with both hands to comment.

Emily said...

Rachel...
You're sweet. I'm sure you have a lot going on with your new beautiful house and a mobile little guy. I hope you're doing well!

abritta.bjorklund said...

i remember i went with my future fiancé to his graduation from gymnasium (when they still had 13th grade lol) and all the girls were talking about university fees and how they were going up and may be getting too expensive..they meant 800 euros by this (all the Jungs were talking about their approaching military service
I was shocked! I would gladly take that over my 38,000$ a year tuition at georgetown