A comparison between the English and the German education system
Anna Berghe von Trips
The aim of every country is that graduated students should be able to acquire knowledge not only about reading, writing and calculating but also about the political present as well as the history of the world. Furthermore they should learn about sciences like physics, biology, chemistry and also about creative subjects such as music and arts. Every country has its own way to achieve this goal .
This essay describes the way of the English and the German education system to reach this goal and focuses on the differences between the primary and secondary stages. The first part will analyze the structure of the German system followed by an explanation of the English system. Afterwards a comparison between the academic year, the organization of the schools by the government and how schools adopt the national curriculum standards will be taken, as well as a normal day at school differs in the two systems. At the end a personal conclusion about the topic will be drawn. In Germany school is compulsory from the age of six, starting with the Grundschule, till the age of 16 when students finish the 9th grade. The general education however starts earlier with Kindergarten which is not mandatory. The parents have to pay for it and can therefore decide wether their child should attend it and if so, for how long before going to primary school. This institution is more about learning social skills rather than academic. After the Kindergarten the compulsory part of the education system starts. At the age of six children attend the elementary school, called Grundschule, consisting of Grade 1 to 4. The taught subjects are all the same in the whole country. For the main subjects besides physical and religious education, the classes have only one teacher.
When finished the fourth grade every student gets a recommendation by the teacher what kind of school-form to attend, depending on their academic performance over the last four years. The decision between one of the four existing, progressing schools - named Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasium and Gesamtschule, each with a different academic level - marks the beginning of secondary education in theGerman system. The writing of the teacher counts as suggestion helping more the parents than the children to make this choice forming the academic way of their child.
The vocational-oriented Hauptschule, consisting of grade 5 to 9, is for students with average abilities. It teaches the same subjects as the Realschule and the Gymnasium but in a slower pace and to a lesser extent. Given that schools in Germany are compulsory for nine years, the student can finish his secondary education with the ninth grade in the Hauptschule, but should enroll to a vocational school combined with an apprenticeship. The Realschule consists of Grade 5 to 10 and leads to a higher vocational school. When the student got good enough grades, there is also the possibility to finish the tenth grade and change to a Gymnasium to get the Abitur. The Gymnasium consists of Grade 5 to 12 or 13, depending on which state you go to school. It leads to the Abitur and prepares the students for university. The education contains a minimum of two languages, classical or modern, mathematics, natural sciences, and general knowledge about history and politics. The last two or three years depending in which state you go to school are the Oberstufe, where students of the Realschule come in if they want to do the Abitur. The Gesamtschule is a comprehensive school and can only be found in some states, but it got more popular over the last years. It replaces the Real- and Hauptschule and teaches the Students on every ability levels through to 10th grade when they finish with the Mittlere Reife, the degree of a Realschule.
The higher education differs for every student depending in which profession they want to work later, however there are several varieties of universities, vocational trainings and apprenticeship which would be to much to explain for the length of this essay. Completing the picture of the comparison between the two education systems, the structure of the English education will be outlined in the next paragraph.
Schooling in England is compulsory between 5 and 16, but most children begin to go to preschool from age two to four, which is the same education stage like Kindergarten in Germany. Afterwards the primary school starts consisting of grade 1 to 6, then the students normally move on to the secondary school, also called middle school. It is a comprehensive school, consisting of grade 6 to 11, and ends with the General Certificate of
Secondary Education, short GCSE. This exam consists of a series of eight to ten subjects which can be chosen, only mathematics and English are obligated. After the student graduated from middle school, the compulsory part of education is over. At this point there is the choice between an academic or vocational track, however most pupils stay at school to get their A-Levels, which are obligated to enter a university. They can be done in a sixth form college or at a comprehensive school that offers them. A less popular possibility than secondary school followed by a sixth form college is grammar school. Focused on a more academical level it is comparable with the Gymnasium in Germany, it consists of grade 7 to 13 and in the end the students take their A-levels. It is also possible to take the GCSE in grammar school and move to sixth form college. When primary and secondary education is complete, there are a lot of possibilities for the students to get trained for their desired profession such as universities or vocational training.
After the summarized overview of the English and German education system, a few differences have emerged: First of all the compulsory education in England starts at the age of four or five, in Germany children start at the age of six. Another main thing which differs is the interference of the government in educational matters. In England the government centrally runs the schools and the local institutions organize the more detailed things, whereas in Germany the education system is run by the states individually. This is the reason why there is no national curriculum standard to be found in Germany. Something else that comes to mind while comparing the two systems is the academic year. In England the scholastic year starts in the end of August or the beginning of September and is divided in three terms: autumn, spring and summer. Each with a half term break and one big holiday in summer which takes six weeks. In Germany it is a little bit more complicated. They also have six weeks of summer break and school also starts in August or September according to the particular state. Throughout the year there are five shorter holidays, normally one or two weeks long. They take place in autumn, over christmas, in February, over easter and Whitsun. Between the holidays there are usually five to eight weeks of school. Subsequent to the differences in the shaping conditions for the schools, peculiarities can also be found in the everyday school-life. One big difference are the clothes: In England it is mandatory to wear uniform, it is even the typical picture for the country that comes to mind when one thinks about English schools. In Germany on the other hand it is rather uncommon to wear a certain uniform.
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- Anna Berghe von Trips (Author), 2015, A comparison between the English and the German education system, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/306154