Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Big Decisions at the Grundschule
On the morning of June 8th, part of our group visited the Grundschule Innenstadt which teaches grades 1-4. It is also the launch pad where the choices are made about the future tracking of the children after year four (10 year olds). Although Tuebingen, because it is a brainy university town, has an abnormally high percentage of students going into the Gymnasium track (5-13), the choices are made at this stage by the faculty and administration of the elementary school. We joined the principal while she taught one of her classes, a fourth grade English class that included her character of Winnie the Witch, who decides when the class should switch over to English and back to German. The unit is one tied to the World Cup, which is being held in South Africa this year. The students are grouped by animals (Giraffes etc..) and then carry out an interdisciplinary unit looking at Africa. One interesting note is that they are grouped across grades, with the students engaging in age appropriate summary exercises. For instance, the first graders might sign some african songs and the fourth graders might write short essays. They also play each other at soccer.
In our discussion after the class, the principal noted that the decision where to place the children, whether in the Hauptschule, the Realschule, or the Gymnasium, was made by the student's teachers and the principal. She also noted that it was legally binding (Gesetzlich) and that there was almost no recourse apart from having a specialized examination with the Baden-Wurttemberg school authorities, who sided with the school recommendation 99% of the time.