Author Topic: Cellar Scribblings  (Read 7221201 times)

Offline Penthesilea

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17110 on: May 09, 2021, 10:31:38 am »
I remember when Oliver started school. He must be at university by now.


Nope, not yet. Still one more year of school for him. There are three different school forms in Germany, and the longest one takes 13 years in our federal state. After that he plans to spend a year in Canada before starting university.

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17111 on: May 09, 2021, 06:17:35 pm »
Nope, not yet. Still one more year of school for him. There are three different school forms in Germany, and the longest one takes 13 years in our federal state. After that he plans to spend a year in Canada before starting university.

Is this for students intended to go on to a university education?

If he's going to be as close as Canada, he should meet some of those strange people called Brokies that his mother hangs out with on the internet. Unless we frighten him. ;D
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline Penthesilea

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17112 on: May 10, 2021, 03:45:57 am »
Is this for students intended to go on to a university education?


Yes. If you want to study you have to make your Abitur, which is the graduation from Gymnasium, the higher school level.

The first four years of elementary school is the same for all children. After that they are divided into a lower, a middle and a higher school. Lower school is 5 more years = 9 years of school altogether, middle school is 6 more years (=10 years) and the higher school is nine more years = 13 years altogether.
After 3.5 years of elementary school, each child gets a recommendation for their further school career. In some federal states it's easy to ignore the rec and put your child into whatever school you think might be appropriate, but in some federal states the rec is more or less binding and difficult to go round.

But children can go one school level up later on, when their grades are really good. Or have a try at the next higher level after graduating the previous level.


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If he's going to be as close as Canada, he should meet some of those strange people called Brokies that his mother hangs out with on the internet. Unless we frighten him. ;D[/font][/size]

 :laugh: Who knows? For now, I just hope pandemic travel restrictions will be history in summer 2022.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17113 on: May 10, 2021, 10:29:32 am »

Yes. If you want to study you have to make your Abitur, which is the graduation from Gymnasium, the higher school level.

The first four years of elementary school is the same for all children. After that they are divided into a lower, a middle and a higher school. Lower school is 5 more years = 9 years of school altogether, middle school is 6 more years (=10 years) and the higher school is nine more years = 13 years altogether.
After 3.5 years of elementary school, each child gets a recommendation for their further school career. In some federal states it's easy to ignore the rec and put your child into whatever school you think might be appropriate, but in some federal states the rec is more or less binding and difficult to go round.

But children can go one school level up later on, when their grades are really good. Or have a try at the next higher level after graduating the previous level.


Not to criticize another country's culture, but doesn't that risk reinforcing inequality or depriving potentially talented kids of a chance to develop? 3.5 years into grade school seems pretty young -- are they like 8 or so at that time? Even if by getting good grades they can change tracks, it seems like even labeling a kid as qualifying for one of the lower levels might induce a sense of failure, making some feel there's no point in trying harder to move up.

Do kids who stay in lower-level schools ever go on to high level careers? Do lower school kids ever run big companies or become scientists or political leaders or whatever?

Mind you, the U.S. education is extremely flawed and unequal -- we just pretend it isn't and make the inequalities less obvious. IF we were to set children on one of three levels of school in their elementary years you can be sure it would be racially and socioeconomically unbalanced. As it is, I often read of some successful Black person being told there was no point in trying to do such and such. School funding is inequitable, wealthy families can afford tutors and college coaches so they get into more elite schools.

So now getting into an elite school *seems* more equal than it used to be. I'm sure overt racism is far less a factor at the admissions level.. And students don't need to be rich to pay expensive tuitions; if they're good enough to get accepted but their parents aren't wealthy they can qualify for financial aid.  But wealth -- via legacy admissions (the student's parents went to that school), learning opportunities in younger years, families that live in higher-income communities with more money to spend for better public schools ... all of those and more contribute to inequality that's still there but less visible.

Which is why I get annoyed whenever I read a profile of a successful middle-aged person that makes a point of mentioning they went to Harvard or whatever -- as if that proves they were destined for greatness at 18.




Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17114 on: May 10, 2021, 11:32:30 am »
Not to criticize another country's culture, but doesn't that risk reinforcing inequality or depriving potentially talented kids of a chance to develop?

My memory may be confused, but I think they do something similar in France.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17115 on: May 10, 2021, 02:22:58 pm »
My memory may be confused, but I think they do something similar in France.

I'm pretty sure they do in Switzerland, also, as I have a friend whose husband grew up in Switzerland and their daughter has duo citizenship. They've considered moving to Switzerland, but that's one reason they haven't.

Maybe -- and I'm just winging it here -- European countries are more likely to do that because they have historically had a more visible class system, and people are willing to acknowledge there's such a thing as class?

Whereas here, we pretend there's no such thing as class, even though in a million ways we practice and amplify class differences. My go-to example (so I've probably mentioned it here, perhaps multiple times) is that when my sons graduated from high school i could scrape together the $450 apiece for ACTs tutoring, raising their scores by about 4 points out of a possible 36, theoretically increasing their college opportunities. Obviously there are some families who couldn't afford the $450, and some families who would have been paying for tutoring throughout the year.

So there are three classes that might equate to the three school levels in Germany. American poor kids have fewer opportunities to get into better colleges, which in turn increase earning power, reinforcing the system.

Wealth is a factor even among students at public high schools, because well-regarded schools generally serve wealthier families and are presumably better regarded by college admissions offices. In high schools, "good" Best" is generally based on standardized testing grades, and the reason wealthier schools are better regarded is that richer kids tend to get better grades, for reasons I'm sure you can imagine. So that, too, just reinforces itself over generations.

But nothing to see here, folks! We're all created equal in this country and any given poor kid has just as much future socioeconomic opportunity as any given rich kid. Which, in theory, is true.

Chrissi, I'm curious, do the German school levels reflect the average income of the families? i mean, I assume they're not designated that way, but someone must pay attention to how the wealth of kids in the three levels compare.

Sorry to write such a tome.  :-X



Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17116 on: May 10, 2021, 02:26:38 pm »
Last week I wrote about a housing development being built in P_, a boring suburb. I mean, it's considered nice enough as suburbs go but there's nothing intrinsically great about it. The houses in the development will sell for $1-$2 million. I was so surprised I actually asked the developer, "No offense, but who pays $2 million to live in P_?" The answer was that part of P_ is located in a wealthy, well-regarded school district.


Offline Penthesilea

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17117 on: May 11, 2021, 05:36:18 am »

Not to criticize another country's culture, but doesn't that risk reinforcing inequality or depriving potentially talented kids of a chance to develop? 3.5 years into grade school seems pretty young -- are they like 8 or so at that time? Even if by getting good grades they can change tracks, it seems like even labeling a kid as qualifying for one of the lower levels might induce a sense of failure, making some feel there's no point in trying harder to move up.



Go ahead an criticize, I'm doing the same with lots of things in the US, too. :laugh:

I'm totally with you on this. 3.5 years into their school career is too early for the decision. I would at least prolong the collective school years to 6 years, before dividing the children.

Historically, there have been two kinds of school: Volksschule and Gymnasium (lowest and highest level). Almost all children went to Volksschule, which was 8 years by then, and started working age 14. Only children of the rich went to the higher level. Middle school was added later, to open up more chances for children.

In my parents generation it was still the norm to go to the lowest school level.
In my generation, it was more diverse. Some children went to lower level, most children went to middle level and only a few went to the highest level. In my memory, it was pretty much fair back then.

Nowadays, the lowest level has become that much of a stigma that children don't have good prospects anymore if they attend this level. The flaws and injustices of the system became so apparent that politics try to abolish lower level schools altogether and instead middle and lower level schools are merged into one. In different federal states there are different approaches and different names for it, but the idea is the same.


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Do kids who stay in lower-level schools ever go on to high level careers? Do lower school kids ever run big companies or become scientists or political leaders or whatever?

Children do switch between school levels, that is not uncommon (both up and down). But kids who stay in lower level school rarely run big companies and they can not become scientists.

By the way, there is another school form in Germany, I only forgot about it: Gesamtschule, which pretty much corresponds to US high school. Every child can go there. Later on, different subjects can be taken on different levels, and your graduation level depends on how long you stay on that school and a certain number of higher level subjects.


Compared to the US school system I still prefer ours.
Even when our system is unfair, I think it is less so than the US system. Funding for schools is totally independent form districts. Higher level schools in poorer neighborhoods are just as good as the ones in wealthier areas. BTW the division between wealthy and poor areas is by far not as huge as in the US. I've seen neighborhoods I can only call slums in the US, but never in Germany.
Universities don't care where you graduated, there are no schools with a better reputation.


Another reason I prefer our schools is the common level of education. I think it's higher over here.
One example: when my daughter was on students exchange in the US and visited a high school, she had to write a test along with the American students, on her second day of school. Hers was the second best test of all. On day two, in a language not her own. :o

Each and every teenager who comes back from an exchange reports that high school in the US is a piece of cake, compared to our schools. A US high-school graduation is compared to a middle-school graduation over here.

Another factor for more fairness is the high level of support systems in Germany. In Kindergarten, years from children getting grades, the teachers have a keen eye on the kids and have many, many teacher-parents talks when something seems off about a child. There are lots of support and aid systems, and they're free.






Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17118 on: May 11, 2021, 11:57:37 am »
I'm totally with you on this. 3.5 years into their school career is too early for the decision. I would at least prolong the collective school years to 6 years, before dividing the children.

So at that point would they be about 11? Kids here start kindergarten (thanks, German language!) generally at five, so 3.5 seems shockingly early but 11 still seems like an early age to set children on their life's destiny.

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In my parents generation it was still the norm to go to the lowest school level.
In my generation, it was more diverse. Some children went to lower level, most children went to middle level and only a few went to the highest level. In my memory, it was pretty much fair back then.

The closest thing we have to this are programs for students who are especially good at certain subjects, and programs for kids who need extra help. However, when there are school budget cuts, the programs for higher-performing kids are the first to go, because it's assumed they'll be OK on their own.

But those divisions are not mandated and not necessarily permanent. And there's nothing to stop a kid who, for example, suddenly starts liking reading and becomes good in English to be moved up to an higher-level class.

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Children do switch between school levels, that is not uncommon (both up and down). But kids who stay in lower level school rarely run big companies and they can not become scientists.

Here, theoretically, a kid who was terrible in elementary school and high school could go to college, study really hard and become a scientist. It doesn't happen a lot because there are other obstacles -- including the kid's own abilities -- but if it did happen it wouldn't be especially shocking.

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Compared to the US school system I still prefer ours.
Even when our system is unfair, I think it is less so than the US system. Funding for schools is totally independent form districts. Higher level schools in poorer neighborhoods are just as good as the ones in wealthier areas. BTW the division between wealthy and poor areas is by far not as huge as in the US. I've seen neighborhoods I can only call slums in the US, but never in Germany.

Income inequality is definitely higher here than in at least most European countries. But I have to correct my earlier comments -- I'm not sure how school funding works. I just looked at a chart comparing school districts in Minnesota and there's little correlation between district income and school spending per pupil. In fact, some of the highest per-pupil spending is in low-income districts; I'm guessing it's because they get more state or federal assistance. And the public school districts considered "the best" are all in wealthier areas, but have relatively low per-pupil spending.

So I'm guessing that the quality of a school district is based largely on test scores. And test scores in wealthier areas are generally higher for all kinds of sociological reasons.

I should also add that any Minnesota student can go to any school they want in any district they want, but again that might not be the case in other states.

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Universities don't care where you graduated, there are no schools with a better reputation.

Colleges here probably are more like the low, medium and high models except on a continuum.

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Another reason I prefer our schools is the common level of education. I think it's higher over here.
One example: when my daughter was on students exchange in the US and visited a high school, she had to write a test along with the American students, on her second day of school. Hers was the second best test of all. On day two, in a language not her own. :o

That I can't answer. Here's a list (from a U.S. publication) of best education systems per country. The United States is #1 and Germany is (ahem  :laugh:) #3. But their criteria seem pretty vague and may not correspond to what you've heard from your daughter and others about how challenging schools are.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/best-countries-for-education

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Each and every teenager who comes back from an exchange reports that high school in the US is a piece of cake, compared to our schools. A US high-school graduation is compared to a middle-school graduation over here.

I have no basis for comparison. Do you remember any specific things you've heard teenagers say were easy compared to what they'd get in Germany?

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Another factor for more fairness is the high level of support systems in Germany. In Kindergarten, years from children getting grades, the teachers have a keen eye on the kids and have many, many teacher-parents talks when something seems off about a child. There are lots of support and aid systems, and they're free.

I don't think that's different here. I met with teachers many, many times (way too many in my older son's case due to his behavioral issues). All parents meet with teachers at least twice a year but can meet whenever either parents or teachers want to. Students who are struggling or individually disabled get individualized plans, but to the extent possible students are "mainstreamed" in the same classes. It's all free.


Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #17119 on: May 11, 2021, 11:59:25 am »
Sorry to take over your blog, Chuck! Feel free to jump in at any time I would imagine there are differences in the education system in New Jersey -- and, for Jeff, Pennsylvania.