German Secondary Schools

German student Realschule  Hauptschule
Figure 1.--Here we have a German secondary school student. He was 16 years old. The only additional information we have is that the portrait was taken in 1910, althoughh he may beve been from Manheim. He looks to be holding a diploma which he has presumably just been awarded. He probably did not attend a gymnasium. The fact that he seems to be finishing school at about 16 years of age suggests he attended a Realschule or Hauptschule. Click on the image for a fuller discussion of the portrait.

Most German children attended primary school in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Relatively few children attended secondary school until after World War II. This was the common practice throughout Europe. Most students who went on the secodary school were from middle-class and other affluent families. Admission was competitive. Not only were their fees involved, but it mean the child had to be supported for several more years. This proved difficult for many orking-class families. There are two tracks for German secondary students. The parents can choose then around 10 years of age (appropriate learning level achieved) what track to choose.

Gymnasien / Oberschulen

The academically selecive seondary schools called grammar schools in Britain were the gymnasium in Germany. Children choose at around 10 years of age whether they want to go to Gymansium that is usually 9 years and than usually to university. The Gymnasien / Oberschulen of imperial Germany were some of the best, if not the best scondary schools in Europe. One reason that so many affluent British children went to private schools was that the state system was deficient. This was not the cas in Germany. In many cases the German children sent to private schools were children from affluent families that were not very academically capable. The German Gymnasien / Oberschulen, however, educated a fairly small proprtion of German children and e academic selectivity was also class selectivity. Many middle-class children went on gto these schools from primary school, but relarively few working-class children. Despite its Socialist foundations, very little progress was made by the Weimar Republic to widen the class selectivity of German education. Here the NAZIs made more progress. This in part reflected the declining academic standards of the NAZIs who destrusted Germany's educational establishment upn seizing power in 1933. The NAZIs set about rooting out teachers of questionable loyalty. They also began hieing more politically loyal teachers who often had weaker academic credentials. This probably did not have much impact on primary education, it did on the standards in acafemically demanding secondary schools. By the time of the War, Germany had a thoroughly NAZI-fied educational estanlishment. After the War, political trends continued to affect German education. Teachers with a more Socialist outlook began questioning the advisability of demanding academic stanfards. Ironically this trend seems more pronounced in West than east Germany.


An alterative is to go to Realschule that lasts 6 years and usually enter a „Lehre“ or apply for job. Or they have to go to Hauptschule (usually 5 years but sometimes you can make one more year becoming almost equal to Realschule) and apply for a job then. The forms (or AE grades) had Latin names (Sexta, Quinta, Quarta, Untertertia, Obertertia, Untersekunda, Unterprima and Oberprima).


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Created: 11:08 PM 9/23/2006
Last updated: 4:44 AM 4/7/2007