The German School System

9 Nov

So now that I’m about two weeks into classes here in Freiburg, I guess it would be a good time to discuss the similarities and differences of the German and American University systems. I’ve found that, so far, the way Germans go about college is quite different from what we’re used to in the US.

The biggest reason for the differences between our systems seems to lie with the attitude that, in Germany, the student has much more responsibility to learn and study on their own.  Instead of meeting for an hour two or three times a week, classes here generally meet for 90 minutes once a week. Naturally, this leaves a great deal of free time throughout the week. Instead of spending three classes to discuss and review a topic, instead the teacher presents the topic, adds some important details, and then leaves you to learn the rest on your own–next week a whole new chapter will be discussed.

Another difference is the prevalence of student-presented lessons here in Germany. In most of my classes, the teacher will only spend 45 minutes to an hour teaching, and the rest of the class is left open for a ‘referat,’ or a student presentation on a relevant topic. Unlike what I’ve experienced before in the States, where we learn about a topic and then make a thesis or presentation, the students here are actually presenting the topic of discussion for the class that day. On one hand, I think that this is a pretty cool idea, because it gives the student more responsibility and really puts them in a position where they need to learn the material ahead of time. On the other hand, if the student makes a ‘bad’ presentation, I can see how a little more confusion could arise among the other students. For example, the presentation in one of my history classes this week did little more than name a few important figures, but did not clarify why the were important or what they did, and class ended before the teacher could really add anything on to the presentation.

At the moment, everything does seem a little overwhelming, since all of my classes are being taught in a language that I only speak at an ‘intermediate’ level, but I’m slowly getting into the swing of things, so I’m sure a lot of my worries and frustrations will disappear as my language skills increase. Perhaps next semester (or later this year) I’ll have to revisit this topic to see how my views/ideas have changed.

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