Tuesday, February 7, 2012

School Daze

Say what you like about the schooling system in the UK, and people will always find something to complain about, but here in Germany I am constantly surprised (and that's not in agood way)...

- a physics 'test', not a formal exam but an oral questioning, the results of which will be the basis for the forthcoming end of half year reports, Ben got 2/10 questions wrong and the teacher has decided this shows a lack of understanding of the subject and will it result in a grade 4 (where 1 is the highest grade). He's not amused. Nor am I.

- a parallel class to Ben's has a French teacher who has been off sick on and off since September. The schooling system here doesn't have a pool of qualified, temporary teachers to draw on, therefore the class has had no formal, consistent French tuition for the first six months of this school year, I wonder what grade will represent that on their reports?

- Ben's class of 13/14 year olds have lessons just in the mornings on 3 days of the week, they're home by lunchtime and on two of these days they don't even have a first lesson. On the days that they have 'fullday' school they get a free lesson in the middle of the day 'to relax' in the specially created 'chillout room' and the teachers aren't allowed to give them any homework.

- positive feedback only seems to occur when you comment on its lack and on the negative impact of purely critical feedback. A friend's son got every question right in a recent maths test and yet rather than praising the child the teacher chose instead to remark that the child needed to do their homework and pay attention in class.

- creative writing doesn't happen here. I discussed this serious lack with (expat) friends who told me that no, I wasn't imagining it and that the German system allows creativity at Uni level and therefore all the repressed passion comes spewing forth then...fine, this hopefully means that the Goethes and Kafkas of the future will eventually emerge, but rather a shame for the kids stuck in German grammar classes copying laboriously how the verb schreiben* conjugates.

- Jas's maths teacher has just left and yesterday she had a stand in (I hope, I hope this teacher isn't going to be the permanent replacement...) the children were packing up at the end of the lesson, Jas was finishing writing a sum down, the girl next to her also. Jas pointed out to the girl that she'd put the decimal point** in the wrong place, teacher saw Jas looking at her friend's work and told Jas that if she paid attnetion in class then she wouldn't be so stupid - I don't think the phrase "politically correct" has any meaning here.

On Friday the children will come home (at lunchtime, obviously) with their half year reports, it will be interesting to see how much positive and constructive criticism there is.

* schreiben - to write. ich schreibe, du schreibst, er schreibt. ich schrieb. ich habe geschrieben.
** technically speaking I should say 'comma', because the Germans for some crazy reason use a point/full stop as the thousand marker and a comma where you or I would put a decimal point...I wont start on the symbols for multiply and divide...needless to say my maths ability has deteriorated since trying to help Jas.

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