German vs. American High school


Jule Hattig, Staff writer

Yellow school busses, Homecoming, Prom, the lockers in the hallway, football games and cheerleading. It sounds like a high school movie, where you can tell at the beginning how it will end. But to be honest, that is also the answer you get when you ask non-Americans what their idea about American high school is.

I have been in Milford for almost three months and have gotten used to the school system and know how everything works–but that is not how it started. Did I know how complex it is to open a locker? No. I can tell you it was easy the first time I tried,

Hallway in German school (photo courtesy by Celine Eidmann)when the hallway was empty and I didn’t have my swim and school bags with me. This probably tells you that we don’t have lockers in Germany; we instead carry our stuff with us the whole day. Additionally, going from hour to hour, I had to sprint every time because I hadn’t figured out how the schedule works between classes! Why do you need to change classes so often?  I am used to the teachers coming to students in the classroom. We only need to change rooms for classes with special supplies, like art or music classes. That means that we also stay with the same classmates, except for special subjects, like different language classes.

Another difference in America is the proportions and sizes of everything. It is all so big! This can be seen in simple things, like milk containers, which are more than the double size than in Germany , and the same with the physical size of the school–I wasn’t prepared! Here in America, a 30-minute car ride is normal, because everything is more spread out, but in Germany you can often take your bike almost anywhere you need to go, and a 30-minute car ride is long. The shops are also smaller and especially the servings. As the weeks passed, I got used to the daily routine and I enjoy the bigger size of everything, but it still has been overwhelming!

“Hard,” “Boring, because you don’t have Homecoming,” “tracks–different types of schools with a different level of education.” These are the answers I got from American students when I asked them about their ideas of German school. As you can see, the level of enthusiasm is less than encouraging, but they are right; we don’t have strong school spirit. That is probably because here in America, you spend most of your day in school, whereas in Germany, you go home and play your sports, music and other activities independent from school. That means that we don´t attend school football games, watching with friends and hanging out with community. Furthermore, in Germany after elementary school, you have the choice between three types of schools. They are different in the level of education and the duration until your graduation.

I am on a “Gymnasium”–not the place where you do sports, but the school. This is the highest level of the three schools. We also have 13 years before graduation. Four years are the elementary school, six years are the “middle school”, and three years high school. Middle school and high school are often one school, so you don´t need to change schools. Instead of choosing our classes, we have a schedule depending on which grade we’re in. We normally have about 13 classes, but they are spread out over the course of the week.

Schoolyard and Gymnasium (photo courtesy by Celine Eidmann)

For example, we are supposed to take English no later than fifth grade. In seventh grade, we can choose between French, Latin and sometimes Spanish as another language. After eleventh grade you are able to cancel some of these and focus on other classes.  Is school in Germany harder than here? To be honest, yes, because you have more subjects you have to study for accordingly, and students must stay focused, organized, and balance more of a variety of knowledge.

Instead of having tests, or “quizzes,” we have big school tests. For these tests, you need to study a lot, because they are not multiple choice and you are not allowed to use “cheat sheets.” The pressure is  higher and you often have to finish work alone, but as bad as it sounds, you get used to it and then you grow with the tasks.

Besides differences in education,

Schoolyard and part of the school (photo courtesy by Celine Eidmann)

a lot of daily parts of an American teen’s life contrast a German student’s life. This includes school buses–I was really excited to ride in one of the typical  American ones, as back in Germany I take the train and walk; other kids take the bus, but that’s a public bus and there is no extra parking lot for the students, because you’re not allowed to drive alone until you’re 18.

There are many big differences, how the school works and education takes place. American school focuses on the interests the students have and the way they learn is less stressful, which is probably better than learning with stress. The school spirit makes it more fun and gives the students a nice opportunity to feel apart of a school community.

The focus in German school lies more on the information and the studying. However you often have a better relationship with your classmates because you spend more time together in one class and get closer to them.

In general, both schools are schools and both are there for preparing you for your further life, but maybe after reading this article you have a preference-which school would you choose?