Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Dual System and its Perils

Monday, June 7, 2010

Today’s agenda consisted of a welcome from the International office at the Universität Tübingen from Wolfgang Mekle, the Vice Provost for International Affairs. His comments concentrated on the fact that on a recent trip to the United States, he was approached more than usual with requests to send American students to Germany in excess to those agreed upon. This was hopeful given the declining enrollments at German departments throughout the United States and the decision by a number of American Universities to get rid of German altogether.

After an interlude that included a crash-course in survival German and a short lunch, we met for an introduction to the Baden Württember School System by Jörn Steinmayer of the State Institute for School Development and Education. Most of the discussion revolved around German tracking and the stigma attached to Hochschule (the remedial track) as the “Turkish track”. More on that later.

As mentioned above, the German system is in fact 16 different education systems controlled by the German states. Baden Wüttemberg has an income and population profile very much like Ohio or North Carolina as far as income and population. Essentially, localities might build school buildings, but BW funds the school system and that imposes the same teacher salaries, same standards, and same curriculum. After four years of primary school, students are sent to one of four schools: Sonderschule for special needs; Haupschule that leads to vocational preparation school, Realschule that can lead to either a vocational gymnasium or professional apprenticeship, or the Gymnasium, graduation from which allows student to attend a German university. Questions about tracking and mobility between the tracks once placement is made revealed that there was some mobility both ways in and out of the Gymnasium track during a Orientation step (Stufe). Also striking was the relative lack of private schooling in Germany. Much of this may be ascribed to the fact that religion is established in Germany, and religious instruction occurs in the public schools….except for Islam. This, combined with the stigma attached to the Hauptschule as the Turkish track, in the opinion of Herr Mekle, marginalizes many of the students, at least as a social perception, who are in this track. However, it was pointed out that even in the language of the official BW publication, the functions and aims of the Hauptschule include the description of the Hauptschule as a “place of integration…[for] pupils from different ethnic and social backgrounds.” It does not, however, use such language in describing the Realschule or the Gymnasium.

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