What is the name of your child's school? (Please report on one school per survey.)
The English Institute
In what town or city is this school located?
How would you describe this school? (i.e. American, British, International, Local, etc.)
Local private German
What grade levels are represented at this school?
How do most children get to school everyday? (bus, train, walk, etc.)
City bus. My children were able to walk to school.
How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?
The facilities were adequate - but not as good as the schools my children have attended in the US.
What has this school done to help your child transition from the curriculum in your home
country into the curriculum in your new country? Are there programs to prepare your child for repatriation?
The school did nothing to help my children.
There are no programs to prepare for repatriation.
How would you describe the social activities available for parents through this school? Are there parent-teacher organizations?
The are 2 parent representatives per class. The are several parent meetings through the year. There was a school wide talent show evening and a summer fest.
What advice would you give to someone considering enrolling their child in this school?
If your children have spent time in German Grundschule, they may have a chance of suceeding at this school.
German secondary school can be a significant problem if you happen to be American family with children older than 10 living in an area without an English speaking school. My husband accepted a job in Ludwigshafen a year ago. Because we had a 10-year old and a 13-year-old, we moved to Heidelberg, hoping to be able to use the Department of Defense schools. Since there has been a lot of consolidation in the military in the past few years, there was not space for my 10-year-old.
The thought of going to a school with all instruction in German was daunting, because we had not had any exposure to German language. We also wanted to keep our children in the same grade because we only have a 2-3 year assignment. We decided to try a smaller private school, hoping for a little more understanding and accomodation. I must say that the parents and children from the school have been very kind and helpful. My children have many German friends.
However, the teachers and administration were a huge disappointment and major source of stress for our entire first year in Germany. Very few of them spoke any English, so when my children had tests, they couldn’t get any clarification on questions. There was constant nagging that the children weren’t learning German fast enough, in spite of language tutoring of 1-1.5 hours 3-4 times a week for each of them. The principal even suggested that they spend all of their vacations “intensiv Deutsch lernen”. At this school, class participation counted for 20% of your grade, so my children started with base grade of 6 (F) in every class. They ended the first half of the year with 3’s, 4’s and 5’s (C’s, D’s and E’s) in subjects and 6 in German. This was quite disheartening because my 10-year-old was an A-B student in the U.S. and my 13-year-old was an A+ student with a 1078 combined score on the SAT when she was 12.
From our experience, it appears that gymnasium is not about helping anyone realize their potential. It is about weeding people out before university. Teachers are only at school to present material and critique student work, not to help anyone. I must disagree with the European observation that "In general, American schools are not as scholastically rigorous as European schools.". My 13-year-old covered no new or exceptionally difficult material for grade 8, not even in Mathematics. Most expats we have met that are not military are upper level management personnel and their children have had access to some of the better U.S. education systems or private schools. They don’t fall into the “In general” range. My children’s difficulties were primarily the German language and lack of flexibility on the part of the school staff.
I’m not sure if this will be helpful to anyone else, but I feel a little better. We are praying that we get in the Department of Defense school for the next school year, so that everyone will feel happier and less resentful about living in Germany.
P.S. Just a footnote – the ages of children in German secondary school range from 10 to 19. This can be quite a surprise for Americans accustomed to segregating children by age. It can also be intimidating to your 10-year old, because all grades in a school have their breaks at the same time – your 10-year old will be out on the playground with 18 & 19-year olds.