Culture Corner

By Evalotta Kubala | Posted: Monday August 11, 2014

What our students think teachers should know about German Students. One German student compares New Zealand and Germany.

Languages are an important part of the German education system and to be able to attend university you have to learn at least two foreign languages.

Every student has to know English, it is one of the 13 compulsory subjects, and is taught from Year 2 or 3 until the student finishes high school. It is not only important for the academic future, but also for all daily situations, such as using the computer or communicating in other countries, whose language you don’t speak. 

Germany, as a country in the centre of Europe and part of the European Union has a lot of influence from other countries. In general, you can say that the better your English skills are, the better are your career chances in certain jobs. Therefore, many students decide to go to other countries to learn their language and get a lot of experience. I am one of them and I will now describe the differences of students’ lives in Germany and New Zealand.

One of the obvious differences between German and New Zealand schools is that Germans don’t have to wear school uniform. But there are more things that are handled in other ways.

Not every student goes to the same type of school in Germany. After four years of Primary School the classes are divided and teachers recommend their students to a particular school based on such things as academic achievement, self-confidence and ability to work independently. They are put into three different kinds of schools: Gymnasium, Realschule and Hauptschule. Only when you go to a Gymnasium can you go to university, which makes it a lot more difficult for students, so that they have to work hard right from the beginning to get there.

I can only describe the education system out of the view of a ‘Gymnasiast’; the other types of schools are slightly different. As I already said above, in Germany most of the subjects are compulsory, which means that everyone has German, English, Maths, Art, Music, PE, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, History, Politics, either Religion or Ethics, and another language, for example French, Spanish or Russian, depending on which school you go to. Therefore, the lessons are a bit shorter (45 minutes) and school days are longer.

Some schools start at 8:15am and finish every day at a different time between 2pm and 5:15pm. Because of the shorter periods, the teachers have a tighter year plan and have not enough time to answer the questions of every student in class, so that some may be behind others if they don’t catch up by themselves. Students have to work often independently. If a student is sick, they have to ask other students to give them the notes they made in class, and do the work they did there as homework.

Teachers explain and write a lot on the blackboard, but they also try to use theory and practice in a balanced way to make learning easier. In the last couple of years the methods of teaching changed drastically and they are now more student-orientated than before.

There are periods of time where students have to work in groups or give presentations – most of this work is made at home for homework, but languages often include little role-plays in class. German students get in general more homework but for a shorter period of time. Homework is not necessarily handed in; it helps students to practice the things they learned in class and is given almost every period.

Teachers in Germany are authoritarian and strict, which is one of the reasons why classes are quiet and disciplined, but sometimes look passive. In one class there are approximately 25 students who have every subject together. You can choose in the beginning of the year where you want to sit and that’ll be your seat for the rest of the year if the teacher doesn’t allow you to move somewhere else.

New Zealand schools are totally different from German schools. The classrooms are colourful and decorated with students’ work so that the atmosphere is more comfortable. The teachers are very welcoming and interested in the students and help them individually if they have problems.

Students here have a lot more freedom in school; they can make the choices about what they want to study by themselves. This leads to making plans for the future earlier and specialising in certain subjects. They have to learn fewer different topics in class, but in depth. The students seem to be a lot more motivated and creative and bring in more ideas by themselves, without having to be asked by a teacher. Therefore, the classes are often noisier than German classes. A problem is that other things can easily distract some students, who are uninterested in school, without teachers noticing it because they have to work with the rest.

  • Evalotte Kubala is a student at Logan Park High School in Dunedin. She comes from Dresden in Germany and has been living in New Zealand for almost a year.